Google’s click performance

Wired has an analysis of what happened to Google’s share price when it became known that the growth in clicks per ad has stopped growing. Google’s stock closed down over 3% on news that the February click through rate grew only 3% in February compared with a year earlier and January didn’t rise at all on a year earlier. But Wired points out that the figures are the result of some changes in Google’s advertising policies.

The Mountain View-based company said in January that the drop in click-through rates is a result of its efforts to boost the usefulness of each click to its advertisers’ sales performance. For instance, the company decreased the space around a word that would result in a click, so more clicks would be intentional.

Some are arguing that Google’s advertising should rise even faster with the changes:

Rob Sanderson, an analyst with American Technology Research, said per-click revenue will rise immediately if advertisers see more value in each click, because they’ll pay more for them at auction.

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Charlie Koones joins paidContent.org

paidContent.org has made some changes to reflect its growing business, including appointing Charlie Koones, until recently publishing director of Variety, to its board. Read the details:

Charlie Koones is joining our board…till recently he was the president and publisher of Variety, and left in January, after spending 17 years within the Variety/Reed Business family. Koones was a primary architect of Variety‚Äôs digital growth. Since its launch nine years ago, Variety.com has enjoyed major gains in advertising and page views. I have known Charlie for a while now, and have admired his multi-platform approach and expertise in building an iconic brand such as Variety. He will help us build out our digital entertainment trade media business. He joins Nathan, Alan Patricof, Larry Kramer and myself on our Board. He is based in Los Angeles.

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Changing perceptions

I was looking back through old blog entries and I realise that I had heard from Tom Coates, the lead on Yahoo’s Fire Eagle project at d.construct last September. At the time he was pretty dismissive of Twitter ("Twitter is a way of accessing error messages on IM".) Last week in San Francisco when I saw him again he was a changed man. "Do any of you use Twitter? You should, it’s awesome." I guess there are second chances in technology!

Yahoo! Brickhouse

The high point of today was a trip to Yahoo’s Brickhouse research facility in the tech quarter of San Francisco. Chad Dickerson – the guy who organizes the famous hack days -gave us the run down. The facility was set up to allow an innovative culture to thrive away from the glare of corporate HQ. The thing you notice is the informal atmosphere – big open free form warehouse space with table tennis tables etc. The startlng thing though is what has been achieved. Yahoo Live was coded here by a team of six. Fire Eagle was also conceived here – again by a team ot six. We met Tom Coates the team lead. This bit of Yahoo at least doesn’t look like a company under threat of takeover by Microsoft. It looks likes nimble, innovative idea generation factory.

How to organise a party with Twitter

Interesting post from Robert Scoble explaining how he and a couple of friends organised a party in under 30 hours using only Twitter. Although the example is social it started me thinking whether there wasn’t a more serious role for Twitter in the context of trade shows or conferences.

Why couldn’t the technology be used to organise ad hoc groups of like-minded people who just want to meet up to talk about things which they are interested in? This could happen the night before, or in and around the event. As facilitator of this extra value, the organiser should reap some real rewards of kudos if nothing else.

Palantir

What does a modern start up look like up close? Pretty similar, it turns out, to those that you might have visited in the late 90s. From the games room to the free food and drink, the bean bags and the lava lamps, to the engineers in their shorts a visit to Palantir in Palo Alto might have been a visit to any start up in the valley before the tech bust of 2000. You find the same hothouse environment, the same passionate commitment to their cause (which some might call arrogance), and the same belief that one day they will all be millionaires.

The difference with Palantir, it seems to me, is in the products. I saw two of the most impressive demos I have ever seen of really well-thought-out products which set out to answer some really difficult and significant real-world problems.

I have no doubt the company will be successful (and I’m not being influenced by the fact that Reed Elsevier Ventures has a stake) because first they have some really, really smart people working there but secondly, and more importantly, the products were developed hand in glove with the customers they were going to serve. I can quite believe Alex Karp, the ceo, when he says the prospective customers are blown away by the products. And it is quite clear there are a lot more areas where Palantir’s data mapping and visualisation skills and scaleability could make a real difference – biotech, for instance, or even CRM. The approach is different, too – open platforms, open APIs and highly configurable by the end-users.

It was really invigorating to visit a company run along meritocratic lines, with little in the way of hierarchy, almost no HR function, and a genuine sense of shared purpose. And at just over 100 people the whole thing seems to function. What it will be like when there are 200, for 500 or 1,000 people remains to be seen. Can the same culture be maintained? I don’t know, but I would love to think so.

By the way, if you are reading this Alex, I forgot to ask – where does the name Palantir come from? 

Stanford

My first visit – a very beautiful campus and an institution which seems to dominate not just the region but the whole technology space. We were there visiting Chuck House, executive director of Stanford’s Media X – a university-meets-industry hothousing experiment designed to get multi-disciplinary solutions to industry problems. “We are focused around where IT intersects with people”, Chuck tells us as he struggles to get the complicated projection equipment to work. He seems genuinely enthused about getting many academic disciplines together to shed light on an innovation problem (anthropologists, psychologists, computer scientists) but also we get a glimpse of the frustrations of trying to align the short time frames of Wall Street-driven companies with the long time horizons of genuine break-through academic research. One collaboration was with IBM defining modern leadership through online gaming.