Online Media Professional
Topics of interest in the online publishing world and related musings
Posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 at 7:16 pm
At last month’s J.D. Power 2009 Automotive Internet Roundtable I moderated a well-received panel on social networking and how it is being used by automotive industry professionals. I was fortunate enough to line up a panel of industry thought leaders and social practitioners in the digital automotive space. They were:
Based on the dozens of questions we received from the audience (responses were posted from the @SocialDealers Twitter profile), it’s evident that this topic is of high interest to dealers, automakers and third-party sites. I’m hoping a followup panel that concentrates on the importance of content strategy when it comes to Social and SEO will be assembled for the 2010 Automotive Internet Roundtable.
Posted on Sunday, January 25th, 2009 at 4:28 pm
I will be moderating the My Car is Talking But What’s it Saying? panel at 2009 SXSW Interactive on Monday, March 16. The panel was organized by Karen Kaushansky, a senior user experience designer for Tellme, which specializes in telephone-based applications.
I am grateful to my colleague Kyle Outlaw, who heads the Razorfish Mobile Affinity Group and is familiar with the work that Karen and her team have done to provide voice technology for Ford’s newest version of Sync, for passing along my name to Karen.
Although this will be the first time I am attending SXSW Interactive, I should see a number of familiar faces in Austin. Among the dozens of Razorfish peeps who will be at SXSW are two frequent contributors to headlightblog.com: Kyle will be moderating Mobile Ubiquitous Banking and the Future of Money on Tuesday, March 17 and Social Media Specialist Jesse Pickard will discuss Why Gen Y Won’t Friend Your Brand.
Posted on Sunday, November 23rd, 2008 at 1:48 am
I had been recruited by Forbes.com to launch its “luxury automotive portal.” As the first, and for a few months the only, employee, I initially had to “borrow” resources from the already quite busy Forbes.com team. Thanking all of the people who pitched in would require me to publish a list of names nearly as lengthy as the FDC masthead. However, there are several Forbes.com colleagues who do deserve to be mentioned individually — Creative Director Jeff Bauer and then Director of Software Development Steve Paelet — who both gave generously of their time during that hectic period.
It’s amazing how much you can get done if you put in four-and-a-half months of 80- to 100-hour workweeks and aren’t afraid to hire people who are smarter than you. Sleep deprivation, and the efforts of a talented and equally dedicated staff, including Art Director Kacy Colson, Editor Matthew de Paula and Software Engineer Lorraine Sawicki, among others, enabled us to launch ForbesAutos.com in late April, a few days ahead of its scheduled May 1, 2005 launch.
The site’s target audience was affluent online consumers in-market for a new car or truck. At the time of the site’s launch, the average luxury consumer spent nearly $47,000 for each new automobile purchased, according to Unity Marketing’s Luxury Report 2005, and Forbes.com had a number of advertisers — including Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Chrysler, Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lexus, Mazda, Nissan, Porsche and Volvo — who wanted to reach this audience. By the time the site launched, Chief Advertising Officer Bill Flatley and his team had already sold all available inventory for the rest of the year. It is no wonder that so many online marketers and publishers assumed the double-digit quarterly growth in online advertising was going to continue into the next decade.
Of course, we all know how that story ended. As eMarketer reported on Friday, “the long-time top ad spending vertical had the steepest year-over-year drop of any of the top 10 industries tracked by TNS Retail Forward during the first half of 2008.”
So, it was with great sadness that I learned the entire staff of ForbesAutos.com, many of whom I had hired, had been let go last Friday.
The site is still up for now — most likely to fulfill display ad commitments through the end of the year — but, of course, no new content has been posted since the staff was dismissed.
Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008 at 8:46 pm
Do you ever wonder who is behind the blogs listed in the ubiquitous blogrolls on sites you visit? This post is the first in a series of interviews I’ll do with the bloggers who populate the right rail of this page. First up is Dave Tainer, the stats geek and Bill James fanboy who publishes the Sabermetrati: Pythagorean Baseball blog. Why is he first? Well, being married to a fellow blogger does have its privileges.
Q. What is your site about?
A. The main purpose of Sabermetrati during the baseball season is to provide a daily prediction of what the final standings will look like according to my derivation of Bill James Pythagorean Wins Expectation theorem. Basically, the runs a team scores and gives up correlates directly to the number of wins and losses they should have. I have produced my numbers and written about them for bigshoulderssports.com for the last four years and have an over 75 percent accuracy rate from the midpoint of the season (usually, the all-star game).
Q. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
A. Sabermetrati comes from my cute-ification of the secret society within a secret society of the Masons, the illuminati; the society within a society of baseball stats geeks, or sabermetricians (which comes from Society for American Baseball Research–SABR).
Ed note: Dave also publishes the Illumi-Technorati blog.
Q. I know that you have recently become addicted to checking your blog’s Google Analytics reports and have a good idea of how visitors got to your site. What kind of people do you think are most likely to visit Sabermetrati?
A. Baseball crosses all sorts of gender, age, education, income and pop culture interests. I try to pitch this to an average baseball fan, but one with an interest of the game from a scientific perspective.
Q. When did you start getting into Bill James and why?
A. I first heard about Bill James around 1981, and didn’t buy his Baseball Abstract until 1984 (it had been published in some form or another since 1977). I had read a few of his articles in Baseball Digest previously. I found him interesting from the fact that statistics could be so useful in creating winning baseball. I used much of the knowledge gained from his work to always win in my Strat-O-Matic leagues!
Q. Please explain the new baseball stat you invented this year.
A. What I’m currently calling my “Real World Magic Number” (I don’t like the name–anyone have ideas?) is basically a derivation of a regular Magic Number, but with the incorporation of my predictive baseball standings, which is the main in-season element of my blog. In essence, it lets you determine the number of games that the first place team needs to clinch in reality. It’s almost a version of Bill James’ “Safe Lead” in basketball idea in that the number can change, but the odds of it being wrong are astronomical.
Q. The more you know about the stats of the game, is it more difficult to watch a game for pure enjoyment? Are you calculating standings in your head after each play?
A. My enjoyment of baseball occurs on three levels: Playing it, Watching it and Discussing it. The stats part comes more in the discussion of it. On the other hand, the stats are intrinsically part of the game so I can’t really divorce any of those three aspects from one another. For instance, now I think win probability when the game is in the later innings, though, no I do not calculate it in my head!
Q. How has doing this blog affected your fantasy baseball standings?
A. Because you pick individual players in fantasy baseball, this blog has had no effect to my techniques of selecting like skills to lead in like categories in a more-bang-for-your-buck approach.
Q. What will happen to your blog after the baseball season is over?
A. After the baseball season is over, the blog will turn into a discussion of the Hot Stove League, and the statistical applications involved in value for money of the various free agents. Also, it will be a research time to maybe come up other stats.
Q. Best White Sox team of all time vs. best Cubs team of all time — which one would win and why?
A. The AL Pennant-winning White Sox of 1905 defeated the better-hitting and better-pitching Cubs team in the first Subway World Series. And this was the good Cubs — those of Tinker to Evers to Chance fame. The same Cubs team that won back-to-back World Series in 1907 and 1908 (their last). So we don’t have to go hypothetical! What would be an interesting Series, though, if this year’s Cubs win the World Series, is if they could beat the 2005 Champion White Sox …
Q. If you weren’t updating your baseball blog everyday you would be __________?
A. Reading somebody else’s baseball blog, namely Baseball Prospectus‘, which is the best (though unfortunately no longer free).
Posted on Tuesday, August 26th, 2008 at 10:52 pm
The most recent issue of Headlightblog.com, which is devoted to Search, was published this week. In addition to articles by a number of my Avenue A | Razorfish colleagues who are Search pros,Â there’s an interesting article by Senior Information Architect Kyle Outlaw that covers a number of noteworthy automobile-focused applications based on the GPS capabilities of the iPhone.
One of the applications Kyle profiles is Where, which uses services with location-based data, such as Yelp, to find restaurants, rental cars, hotels, events and where your friends are. The application also helps you, as shown at right, to find the cheapest gas for your location by pulling in data from GasBuddy.com.Â To read more, go to the Search, iPhone and GPS article in the August issue of Headlightblog.com.
Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2008 at 2:15 pm
The 2009 SXSW Interactive Panel Picker is open and accepting votes until August 29. The panel picker lets you browse all programming proposals and give your feedback on which ones you think should make it on to the SXSW Interactive Festival schedule. Votes from the general public account for 30 percent of the decision-making process for any given programming slot.
There are many worthy proposals in a dozen categories, including 26 (!) from my Avenue A | Razorfish colleagues. For selfish reasons, I’m asking that you vote for Kyle Outlaw’s When Your Car is Your Phone panel proposal. The genesis for this proposal was an article that first appeared on headlight.com, which I edit.
Posted on Wednesday, July 30th, 2008 at 8:36 pm
This month’s issue of headlightblog.com, which I edit, is devoted to vehicle telematics. Especially interesting is the lead article by Christopher Stapanek on the 2009 Nissan GT-R, which is the first production vehicle to have a video game designer as part of the new model development team. Kazunori Yamauchi, the Gran Turismo game series producer, and his team at Polyphony Digital were given the responsibility of planning and designing the instrument panel display screens (a closeup of which is shown here, as it appears in a right-hand drive prototype) on the new GT-R.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Gran Turismo series, the racing game is well-known for its realism and more than 50 million units have been sold since the first title in the franchise was launched in December 1997. and is the top seller in its category. The GT-R was featured in a version of Gran Turismo nearly a year before the production model went on sale in the U.S. this month. In an unprecedented move, the production model ’09 GT-R and a special prologue edition of Gran Turismo 5 were unveiled at the same at the 2007 Tokyo auto show.
Also worth checking out in this month’s issue are Andrew Green’s “It’s a talking car!” article, in which he builds a strong case to support his prediction that everyday vehicle telematics will become the authoritative reference point for owners in the future. Ben Bloom is back this again this issue with a thoughtful piece on “Advanced telematics services in an age of portable data” and an accompanying proposal for four open social principles that should be adopted by vehicle telematics providers.
Posted on Sunday, July 6th, 2008 at 9:54 pm
The one thing I miss most about owning a car is the ability to road trip at a whim. Now that I live in New York, it takes a bit more planning. Part of our preparation for this Fourth of July weekend trip was getting a DC power inverter for Dave’s MacBook Pro and a Sprint wireless card. One of the benefits of being connected while driving was the ease with which we were able to bypass fast-food chain restaurants at rest areas and navigate to roadhouses, courtesy of the Sprint Location & Search application and the carrierâ€™s Google partnership, which powers location-enabled searches and maps.
I also wanted to capture some trip notes along the way, especially for the return portion, which we are doing this afternoon/evening, and are stuck in the inevitable back-to-the-city Sunday night traffic. Although as bad as the Manhattan re-entry traffic is, and I write this in hour nine of what should have been a six-hour return trip and still have another 40 miles to go, I can appreciate how much better New York state driving is compared to Illinois.
I still marvel at these thoroughfares in New York and New Jersey called Parkways. They are billboard- and double tractor trailer-free and are much more attractive than the pothole-scarred, perennially under construction I-55, I-90, I-94, I-290 and I-294 expressways and/or tollways that Chicagoans have to traverse on ingress to/egress from the city.
[For a Butler family trip last month from my parentâ€™s home on the northwest side to Kalahari Water Park in Wisconsin Dells, we had the Chicago driverâ€™s trifecta â€“ bad-condition roads, lanes blocked due to road constuction (regardless of how much of the latter you endure, it doesnâ€™t seem to lessen the former) and multiple-mile traffic backups preceding each of the cashboxes placed at 10-mile intervals in Illinois.]
For this July 4th extended-weekend trip we had four days and two cities, Saratoga Springs, N.Y. and Burlington, Vt., which we wanted to visit. Some of the highlights, and lowlights, from this trip:
+ We left the Lower East Side on Wednesday and drove to Saratoga Springs. We spent the night at the lovely Saratoga Arms, which combines the charm of a B&B with the amenities of a hotel, and walked down the street for an impeccable dinner at Chez Sophie. Although we were a few weeks too early for the Saratoga Race Course season, we weren’t there to bet on the horses. We came for the water. The effervescent mineral water at the Lincoln Bath House, to be exact. Seemingly one of the best values among spa treatments is a soak in a mineral bath ($20 for 40 minutes; add $5 if you want an aromatherapy oil added).
- Unfortunately, I didn’t learn until after my bath had been poured that the naturally cold, highly carbonated pale green mineral water is mixed with hot tap water to bring the water closer to body temperature. (The chlorinated tap water being added to the mineral water causes a reaction that turns the water a murky brown, as seen in the above photo.) If you want an all mineral water soak, you need to specifically request it at the time you make your reservation. Considering the negative publicity the state-owned facility received after the New York Post reported last March that the mineral water was being diluted, I would have expected the staff to have volunteered this information upfront.
+ On Thursday we took the Essex Junction ferry to cross Lake Champlain from the New York side to Vermont. While getting ready to board the ferry, I spotted a beautiful 2005 Airstream Safari trailer in the queue. The driver, Rich Luhr, was nice enough to give me permission to photograph his 30-foot trailer as well as himself. Rich is the editor and publisher of Airstream Life magazine. He and his wife Eleanor, along with their then five-year-old daughter Emma, set out in an Airstream in October 2005 for what was supposed to be a six-month trip. Almost three years later, they are just now completing this stage of their American journey. They are spending the summer with family in Vermont and in August will begin a 3,000-mile tour from Vermont to Arizona (via N.Y., Ohio, Ind., Mo., Ks., Colo. and Utah) with many stops along the way. By October they plan to end up at their new home in Tucson, Arizona. Read more about the Airstream lifestyle, as well as the Luhr family adventures, on the family’s Tour of America blog. (Rich also told us about Vintage Trailer Jam 2008, which takes place July 11-18 in Saratoga Spa State Park in Saratoga Springs.)
+ We spent Thursday through Sunday in Burlingon, Vt. and were utterly charmed. Much of our time was spent near Waterfront Park and in the four-block Church Street Marketplace area. We had a number of excellent meals, including dinners at American Flatbread and Taste of Burlington, breakfast at Penny Cluse Cafe and coffee and bagels at Muddy Waters.
- As an SPG Gold member, I try to stay in a Starwood hotel whenever possible. In Burlington, my only choice was a Sheraton. If I had to do it over again, I would have passed up the opportunity to earn points — and receive indifferent service — in favor of the waterfront proximity of the Hilton Burlington or Courtyard by Marriott Burlington Harbor.
Burlington reminds me a lot of Portland, Ore. in that both are bike-friendly, have a coffee culture, are green in both sensibility and surroundings, and possess the good manners of a small town along with the cultural activities of larger cities.
Three days is not enough time to explore all that Burlington has to offer. Dave and I hope to make a return trip this fall and plan to bring more recreational equipment, including our bikes, next time.
Posted on Friday, June 27th, 2008 at 9:28 pm
Even as mobile browsing and pageviews among smartphone users have increased substantially in the past year, 89 and 127 percent respectively, according to M:Metrics, the development of mobile automotive sites has not kept pace.
Consumers who are looking to access third-party and automaker sites from their mobile devices have few to choose from and even fewer that offer an optimum experience.
Third-party automotive mobile sites are best for searching inventory
The few sites that are getting it right are those focused on classified listings. In-market automotive consumers looking to find decision-making advice are better served by their laptops. However, once itâ€™s time to search local dealer inventory, their mobile devices can help them pinpoint whatâ€™s available in their area.
Cars.com Mobile, which launched in June 2007, is the best site for consumers who wish to check out local inventory, find a dealer and get maps and directions. The site also makes it easy to quickly find the make you are looking for â€“ the new-car listings screen displays multiple makes side-by-side. [Full disclosure: I am the former Managing Editor of Cars.com, a position I held until December 2004. However, I did not have any involvement with the current iteration of the Cars.com mobile site.]
The one advantage that Vehix Mobile, which launched in October, has over Cars.com is a cleaner interface. Unfortunately, I was unable to compare inventory results between the two sites because of â€œinternal serverâ€ errors I encountered both times I tried to use the Vehix mobile site.
[You can read the rest of my article in the June 2008 issue of headlightblog.com, where it was first published.]