ICANN’s gTLD application process disrupted

Regular readers will know that I’ve been following with interest the coming addition of many new gTLDs in the next year or so.  It represents the biggest change in internet naming since the world wide web became popular, and it means big changes for how companies market themselves and interact with customers and other interested parties online.  The implications may be far reaching, affecting branding, SEO, landing page optimization, security, and new applications, among other things.

A few weeks ago ICANN announced that it had more than 800 individual applicant organizations registered, and everything appeared from the outside to be on track.

Well, on track everything was not.  On April 12, the last day for applications to be turned in, ICANN took the application system off line because of security vulnerabilities that made it possible for some applicants to see file names and potentially other details of others’ applications.  Original expectations were for a delay of a week or so.

The latest news is very different.  ICANN has announced that it may take until at late as April 27 just to declare when the application system will go back on line.  While it may be that someone is working on categorizing the existing applications, I still have to suspect that the original May target for announcing which applications had been submitted and what they said is no longer valid.  And of course, that means the window for contesting applications and all of the steps in the process that flow out from that are likely to be delayed as well.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently wrote about the Maryland Department of Correction’s highly problematic decision to demand the Facebook passwords of prospective employees.  The latest development is that the Maryland state legislature has passed legislation making it illegal for employers to requiring employees to surrender their social media logins.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Callan by-line in RIS News on Amazon, physical stores, and analytics

My article in RIS News appeared today explaining how Amazon’s entry into bricks-and-mortar retailing might affect awareness and adoption of in-store analytics.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

April is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal

Well, this is it.  According to Symantec, April 2012 is the last month for the VeriSign Secured Seal as we know it.  At some date this month, we’re told, they’ll all be changing over to the new Norton Secured Seal.  This change follows the systematic adoption of the VeriSign check mark by Symantec as a fundamental brand asset, as you can see in the upper left corner of the company’s home page.

Let us now minimize the impact of this change.  The VeriSign Secured Seal is displayed on more than 100,000 web sites in 160 countries and has been viewed upwards of 750 million times a day, for an estimated total number of impressions in excess of 400 billion.  That’s staggering.  Still to this day when I tell people I used to work for VeriSign, they say, “Oh, you mean that little red check mark on the web sites?”

Well, that little red check mark is going away.  Now it will be a little yellow check mark, and it won’t say VeriSign, it will say Norton.  I’ll be very interested to watch this transition, and I’ll keep you updated on what happens.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

839 registered applicants for new gTLDs

As I’ve written about in the past, the world of internet naming is about to go through a massive shift with ICANN’s decision to take open applications for new gTLDs.  We just passed a milestone, which was the March 29 deadline to register as a new gTLD applicant.

ICANN has announced that it now has 839 registered applicants.  That implies that the actual number of applications will be something more than that.  While it’s possible to register as an applicant and not submit an application, it seems like an unlikely scenario.  Based on that my estimation is that there will be more than 1000 applications at the end of the day.

The last day to submit an application is April 12, so I imagine some people are in scramble mode right now.  Last I heard ICANN was planning on announcing the number of applications and publishing the public-facing portion of those applications some time in May, with the date to be determined.  I’ll be watching for that number and those applications, and I’ll let you know what I find out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

An anecdote about the right and wrong ways to evaluate marketing programs

At one stage in my career I was in charge of marketing for several significant business lines at the company I worked for.  These business lines had their own distinct budgets, marketing teams, and sales teams.  This anecdote involves one of these business lines specifically, so from here on out I’ll focus just on that effort.

I had a pretty crafty marcomm manager in that business line, and somewhere along the line she wanted to explore an outsourced contact discovery and meeting generation service.  How it worked was we gave a list of target companies to this firm, which would use a combination of public information, its own proprietary database, and good old fashioned cold calling to penetrate these organizations, find the correct, empowered decision maker, and set up a meeting with the outside sales person.  From there it’s up to the sales rep to make things happen.

We all agreed to trial this program and then go back in a few months and look at the results.  In three months we spent a little over $100,000 to generate maybe one hundred of these meetings in total, spread across a dozen or so outside sales reps.  Two of these meetings led directly to revenue; one brought in a little over $100,000, and the other brought in about $400,000.  That’s half a million dollars in revenue on $100,000 in spend, or a 500% simple marketing ROI.  Any direct marketer will continue working that program year in and year out, and certainly by our standards it was the most effective marketing spend that business had ever seen.

Shortly after this milestone moment the company went through a reorg, and this particular business got split out completely on its own under its own GM.  I stayed with the main business and therefore gave up control of those marketing decisions.  Not long after this reorg, the original, smart marcomm manager who came up with the program in the first place told me that the new GM had killed the program.

Why did he do that?  It turns out that he went to the outside sales team and asked them if the program was working.  Two of them thought it was great.  After all, they’d brought in six figure deals on the program.  The other ten hadn’t brought in anything, so they all said it was a zero.  The GM came away and said, “Well, the sales team has spoken, and clearly this program is a dud.”  And so he discontinued the single most effective marketing program in the history of that business.

The moral of this story is that you have to understand what information you’re using to evaluate marketing programs and what that information tells you.  Certainly it’s a good idea to get the sales team’s feedback on what you’re doing, and lots of great knowledge is available that way.  But in this case a different, better perspective was available.  The marketing team had actually traced revenue back to spend and knew factually what the ROI was.  Failure to use that information led to the wrong decision.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On the difference between data and knowledge

I recently wrote this comment in a RetailWire discussion on the use of Big Data in brick-and-mortar retailers (I warned you that this material would start making its way into my blog):

There’s a big difference between data and knowledge. Data are necessary to take store management out of the realm of guesswork and into that of true, fact-based decision making. But data points on their own are highly difficult to work with, especially when we’re talking about the complex, nuanced environments we’re seeking to optimize.

Our customers at RetailNext have achieved great success by using a solution that takes the huge quantity of data available and converts them into views and reports that yield actionable insight. Our solution measures more than 9000 individual data points on the average store visit. Nobody wants to examine 9000 data points per visit. Instead they want to see correlations, comparisons, and models that help them understand the true behavior in the store. They want to see heat maps of traffic and how those maps change over time. They want to see the cyclicality of the day, week, and year and how that compares to staff schedule. They want to see how all of these things correspond to actual sales at the register. And they want to be instantly alerted to certain conditions like when a certain item is near empty on the shelf or too many people are standing in line. That’s how Big Data can be useful, when it’s translated into actionable insights that make shopping better.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Google to open its own Android store online

Google’s opening its own Android store online. There also has been some talk of Google opening a physical store as well. Do these decisions make sense for Google? I think the first does and the second does not.

The challenge with e-readers and tablets is apart from your technophile superusers most people need to get their hands on them to become confident that the experience is good and is worth it. An e-store doesn’t do that. We’ve seen that Amazon is going to experiment with its own bricks and mortar, definitely a direct response to both the Apple store and the Nook store in Barnes and Noble locations. We’ve seen that Microsoft is opening stores that take their lead directly from Apple stores, featuring Windows Mobile devices among other things. While the clear trend has been toward internet-based commerce, in this case we have seen that there is value in physical showrooms. Other industries like automobiles and mattresses experience this factor as well, where there value in buyers being able to interact with the physical product before making a decision. What’s different about Android is that Google already has a physical footprint in a whole lot of wireless carrier locations. Thousands of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint stores are doing exactly that. It’s hard to imagine Google putting enough of a footprint out there to materially affect Android adoption.

Online is another matter. Google has all kinds of advantages with its own store, such as a page rank of 10, better SEO knowledge than anyone else, free house ads in AdWords, 100% uptime, and local versions in dozens of languages and hundreds of countries. It’s hard for even the likes of Apple to compete on an even footing. So I say the online store has lots of potential for Google, but brick and mortar probably doesn’t make sense.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Government agencies demanding Facebook passwords: Here is why government should take a light hand on technology matters

The House of Representatives just killed an ammendment intended to make it illegal for employers to require that prospective employees hand over Facebook passwords before being hired, which apparently (and amazingly) is an actual practice at some government agencies.

Since it gives access to private correspondence, there’s no fundamental difference between requiring an employee to hand over a Facebook password and requiring one for a webmail account like Gmail or Yahoo mail. And of course there’s no fundamental difference between that and requiring employees to turn over the faxes they receive or the contents of their physical mailboxes for the employer’s scrutiny.

I’m not a constitutional law expert, but I believe that the the Maryland Department of Corrections requiring an employee to hand over the contents of a personal mailbox under penalty of losing his livelihood might be a Fourth Ammendment issue. Witness the fact that we’ve had snail mail for centuries and employers are not making this demand on that medium (even the government). The difference is that Facebook is new, and therefore the people who are making these demands fundamentally don’t understand what it is they’re demanding.

This report is just the latest incident in a storied history of the U.S. government doing a bad job when it tries to meddle in technology. The unfortunate but undeniable fact is that since the advent of the personal computer, government policy has been unable to keep up with the progress of technology, leading to a long string of “doesn’t get it” moments, typically involving trying to regulate or control what it cannot. Do we all remember the V-Chip?

When government is wise, it creates an environment that helps private industry and private individuals work out how to use technology best. When it is unwise, it makes ill considered decisions like this one.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tim Callan interview in AMA Marketing News on new gTLDs

And the hits keep coming.  Months ago, before I joined RetailNext, I gave an interview on ICANN’s new gTLD initiative to the American Marketing Association’s journal Marketing News.  It appeared February 29, and I just became aware of that fact.  It’s a long interview (four pages), and it goes into great deal on the new gTLD initiative.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment