It’s been a while since I last wrote on my blog, and for a good reason. I’ve spent the last few months setting up a technology start-up to bring together outstanding engineering with deep online advertising understanding. Its goal is to take advantage of the gap in businesses between their great advertising ideas and their lack of engineering resources to make them work. Good engineering with advertising understanding is very hard to find. We called it ShiftForward, and you can learn more about it at http://www.shiftforward.eu
Ever wondered how your web site looks like under Epiphany 2.22 running on FreeBSD 7.0? Ok a bit too obscure, how about on FireFox 3.0.3 under the now ubiquitous Ubuntu 8.04 without installing neither of them? Browsershots.org can help.
This free service produces screen shots of any web site URL as it is rendered using a multitude of operating systems and browser combinations, from the common Windows IE7 to the Dillo 0.8 on FreeBSD which only one nerd in a bunker knows about.
It was going to happen sooner or later. After BBC’s Panorama report on the people, sites and advertisers behind some of the worst ‘user-generated’ content on the UK web space it took just a few days for the fire to spread to the marketing director’s desk and for him to call off any ads placed next to questionable content. I can imagine the 7 year old kids (that’s how young on-line media buyers start working these days, according to industry veterans) frantically searching for all the ‘bad’ pages before the journalists or competitors had the chance to find them. They missed the BNP group page on Facebook. So, advertisers pulled out of the entire site. I remember that day, the day I opened several pages on Facebook and I managed to not have a single ad being displayed. I immediately shouted “overreaction”, to which Mr. T. who I was next to me retorted that marketing directors couldn’t care less and all they probably did was pick up the phone and hail “STOP” out loud. That’s how it works in media, reaction reaction reaction.
But I don’t think online media is the same as regular media. A web page is not an outdoor, in the sense that it does not exist per se, it is only ‘created’ when someone visits it. When you say ‘RBS ads were seen on the BNP page on Facebook’ its not like someone happened to walk nearby and saw that ad next to BNP supporting material. What you really mean is ‘someone opened the BNP group page on Facebook and they got an RBS ad at the same time’. The small difference is that someone went to that page, on purpose. We could criticize the BNP itself, or defend it, but that is not the point here, as it seems to be in the general discussion about this topic. The point is RBS was advertising a service, not to benefit the BNP financially (no one gets financial gains from the advertising on Facebook but Facebook themselves, at least for now) but to reach an audience that could be -or not- supportive of that political viewpoint. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. To me it is analogous to putting up an outdoor near a community that support the BNP: would you even think twice about it? Since the ads do not benefit the political group but only Facebook I honestly don’t know what the whole fuss is about. But maybe that’s because I’m a techie…
Zonbu is what I call a YAW2.0C (yet another web 2.0 company).
Take a product (computer), hype it up a bit with new-age marketing bullshit (“low carbon footprint”, “silent”, “under $99″) and sell it not as a product but as a service ($12 a month). There you go, your KDE-based linux mini-box with 4gb flash-drive and a lot of usb connectors. Oh and don’t forget the eye-candy website and a funny name that reminds people of Star Wars characters.
Funny they never mention the lack of monitor, keyboard or mouse, but hey that would be so 1.0…