Archive for October, 2007

Timing is Everything

Last night uber agent Scott Boras and uber hitter/free agent Alex Rodriquez (for whom it is both always about the bucks) gave us all a text book case on how NOT to do conduct PR, media relations, fan relations, call it what you will. The message, the medium and timing were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Team Greed set a new low water by proclaiming during the Game Four of the World Series that A-Rod was opting out of his current (and HUGE) contract with the Yankees. So much for Yankee Pride. In our little world of technology marketing for start ups, it was mildly reminiscent of Mike Arrington’s announcement of the TechCrunch 40 conference, which he made at DEMO in February. Some would say smart, strategic or even ballsy, others would characterize it as classless.

Before last night there might have been legitimate 4-5 suitors (Yanks, Sox, Cubs, Angels and Dodgers) for A-Rod given his salary demands. It says here that last night when A-Rod told the Yankees, “thanks but not thanks”, he also could have inadvertently severed any ties with Boston by trying to upstage their second World Series championship in the past three years. Ultimately this could come back to bite Boras and Boorish (A-Rod) but someone (LAD or LAA or the Cubs) will get sucked in by his awesome regular season numbers and pay the King’s ransom for his services.

The Red Sox are a team and an organization that has mastered the art of PR and media relations since John Henry and the new ownership group took over a few years ago. Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino and Theo Epstein should do the exact opposite of Boras and A-Rod. They should simultaneously announce this week that they are NOT negotiating with A-Rod and in fact, have inked their own free agent third baseman and 2008 Series MVP Mike Lowell to a fair and well deserved contact extension.

Livin’ In The Moment

The first (hopefully of many) “BluePoint After Hours” parties was held last night at the BluePoint world head quarters/loft. It was just a really good, old fashioned good time and great way to wind down on a Thursday night, if we must say so ourselves. Actually, many of our guests made a point to share their positive feedback:

“I was going to tell you that this was the best “work” party I’ve been to in a long time, but I think I have to leave out that qualifier – it was the best party I’ve been to in long, long time.”

“Loved the music, the food, and meeting your friends.”

“Thanks for a wonderful party. The band was excellent – too good for me to go up and sing with” 🙂

“What a great event last night at BluePoint! Thank you so much for having us. You guys have the perfect offices for that type of event and it was great to see you guys and meet new people. Look forward to the next one!”

If you were there you were part of it all. If not, here’s what you missed:

Great conversations among new and old friends, acquaintances, clients, businesses partners and “FOBs” – friends of BluePoint. Great live music by local fave John Cate, as well as some impromptu guest musicians like our own Andrew Soucy and good friends Marcy McCreary and Brian Flood rocking the house. How about that rendition of the Standell’s “Dirty Water”? – I think they heard it all the way in Kenmore Square. Great food and drink. Absolutely perfect weather – a little crisp with a Harvest Moon. A thrilling 2-1 game two World Series Sox win over the Rox, complimented nicely by the second best comeback in Boston College football history (bested only by Doug Flutie’s “Miracle in Miami”) as the number two Eagles shocked Virginia Tech in the final two minutes, 14-10, keeping a National Championship bid and Matt Ryan’s Heisman hopes alive.

Does it get any better than this?

Thanks to all who attended and made it a success. And to those who could not make it, you were missed. But hey, in response to customer demand, we’re going to have to do it again.

Back To The Future

 

Item: U.S. venture-capital investment last quarter reached heights it hasn’t seen since the second quarter of 2001.

Item: Last week during separate meetings with a current client and a prospect, both brushed off well intentioned questions about their monetization strategy. For similar reasons, they both pretty quickly admitted that “it was all about the eyeballs” and the advertisers will be lining up in the near future to take advantage of the community built around these two particular Web 2.0 product/service offerings.

Item: once again it is a buyer’s market for qualified job seekers in technology marketing and PR; our own experience and anecdotal information I’ve been gleaning from friends on both coasts is you simply cannot find anyone right now. I think Yogi Berra probably has a rational explanation for this, but it is just not coming to mind right now.

Item: this week’s Red Herring rivals the greater Boston Allston-Brighton phone book in terms of its “heft factor.” Other Web 2.0 and technology-oriented publications are seeing similar off the charts spikes in print advertising.

Okay, I am just trying to see who is paying attention among the sleep deprived New Englanders (thank you Dustin Pedroia, Josh Beckett, Jon Papelbon, et al) among us and who caught that. The first three are definitely true, but the fourth is definitely not and don’t hold your breath waiting for those wondrous days of yesteryear to return.

So, what is going on here in Q4 of 2007 and what does it mean for the rest of this year and into the election year?

Well, we live in a food chain world and we all know it all starts with the dollars. Not surprisingly, the increased levels of investment activity did not come from venture capital’s traditional strongholds in health-care and IT. Instead, the largest percentage increases came from three traditional sectors – B2B, consumer and retail sector, as well as the booming energy sector.

A quick look at the numbers and they’re not quite approaching Manny and Big Papi’s post-season OBP stats, but they are impressive. In Q3, venture investments totaled more than $8 billion, the most since the second quarter of 2001, when $9.5 billion was invested, according to Ernst & Young LLP and Venture One. The $8.07 billion is also an 8 percent increase from the year-ago period, when $7.49 billion was invested.

While technology is still king, its reign is in peril. IT investments fell 5 percent to $3.8 billion from $4 billion a year earlier. Unfortunately, health-care investments didn’t pick up the slack – rising only 4 percent to $2.47 billion from $2.38 billion in the year-ago period.

Instead, the big growth came from other sectors, like business, consumer and retail — including online consumer-facing companies — which saw investments rise by nearly 70 percent to $902.3 million, up from $533.1 million. Energy-related investments also saw a big increase of 28 percent to $590 million, as VCs continued to ride the clean-tech boom.

We like to think that BluePoint’s client base represents a microcosm of the larger business world. The recent activity among our client and prospect base bears this out. We’ve recently brought on our first solar energy client, American Capital Energy and every day it seems like another “clean tech” or “renewables” company is being funded. In addition, here’s an interesting nugget about three new BluePoint clients from the technology side — ExtendMedia, PermissionTV and Zingdom Communications: all deliver a technology solution, but none are marketing or selling their products or services to IT. They target content providers, producers, aggregators and consumers. Also, we are hearing about more companies out raising capital and getting positive feedback from the VCs as they look to bring new products and services to market. We’re often helping our clients to find new talent in product development, sales and marketing and looking out for own next hire.

We’re just not using any Internet, Web 2.0 or any other technology trade publications as door stops.

They Ain’t Coming Just Because You Built It!

According to a recent survey by eMarketer, 75% of respondents consider their website to be one of the most effective lead generation tactics. When I saw this stat, I cringed. It beholds every incorrect marketing myth out there. “If I build it, they will come” is not an effective marketing technique. Yes, it’s imperative that you have a complete, interactive, engaging and informational website. But, prospects are not just going to magically come to your site and decide to buy your product or service. And if they do magically come to your site, do you even have a way of knowing?

Effective lead generation techniques will reach out to your appropriate targets and, via a relevant and interesting call-to-action, lure them to a special landing page within your website that will then capture their information so you can follow-up with them in a timely manner. Or, partner with a reliable and trusted media source to embark on an effective campaign. For example, we recently did an extremely effective lead-gen campaign for a client of ours in the new media space targeting marketing executives. We partnered with a well known marketing industry association to do a Webcast which was promoted to its membership base. The result? Over 700 leads, the majority which were already pre-qualified due to them being members of the association and, further, because they registered for our Webcast which was covering a particularly niche subject. The cost-per-lead was under $25.

Other effective, measurable ways to get folks to your site include search, email campaigns, direct mail, online surveys, etc. And as with everything, results are most effective when part of an integrated, repeatable campaign. So, please, please, please get rid of that “If I build it, they will come” mentality! Otherwise you’ll be missing out on proven ways to generate qualified leads.

Ballmer’s Pretzel Logic

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has some interesting, puzzling thoughts in today’s “Bits” column by NYT’s Miquel Helft. Ballmer dismisses social networking as a “fad.” This comment comes less than two weeks after the pretty rampant rumor that Microsoft was contemplating taking a 5% stake in Facebook for up to $500 million. Maybe Steve’s trying to drive down the price. After all, Microsoft only has a $23 billion war chest these days.

The Game Changer: The RIAA Owns the Sandbox

In a landmark trial, a Minnesota woman had the guts to stand up against the RIAA, and lost. The NY Times is reporting that she has been slammed with a $222,000 fine (odd number right?) for 24 songs she made available on Kazaa.

Am I frustrated about the outcome of this trial? Of course. Do I think the RIAA is a crock? Absolutely. But what really “grinds my gears” is the definition of stealing that was used. I posted a story on my twitter page yesterday from Ars Technica, that noted Jennifer Pariser, the head of litigation for Sony BMG’s testimony where she defined song stealing as:

“When an individual makes a copy of a song for himself, I suppose we can say he stole a song.” Making “a copy” of a purchased song is just “a nice way of saying ‘steals just one copy’,” she said.

 

The operative phrase in that quote is ‘makes a copy of a song, FOR HIMSELF”. A large amount of my frustration comes from the notion that people are expected to “rent” songs that they pay for. As the content owner, I expect to freely do what I want with my music – the three screen philosophy – I want a cd for the car, burned version for iTunes, and a file on my iPod. I paid for it, its mine, “stealing” from yourself is possibly the most ludicrous philosophy I have ever heard. What Pariser is saying is that the record label owns the album you just purchased; they are just nice enough to let you pay to “borrow” it for a while.

 

What’s worse, the odds seemed stacked against the defendant as the Times article points out – the judge set up the record labels for a slam dunk by saying they –

“…did not have to prove that songs on Ms. Thomas’s computer had actually been transmitted to others online. Rather, the act of making them available could be viewed as infringement.”

I am in no way defending her use of Kazaa, as she was most likely stealing music off of the P2P network, but isn’t it the legal system’s job to prove, not just assume? Its crazy I know….

Because of this trial, and the many settlements that have come before it, the RIAA has essentially become the big guy on the playground who used to shake kids down for lunch money, or a better spot in the 4 Square line. I hope that next time someone stands up to these bullies the RIAA, the fight is fair. The association is just delaying the inevitable anyway… eventually, all music will be free.


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