Dec 052008

A few days ago I wrote a piece about Sears and their holiday wish lists for United States military personnel and feedback has been poring in ever since. I knew I’d get feedback on the post, but was a bit surprised at the angle several of the responses took. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry is a program Sears is heavily promoting that appears at first glance to be a way for those on the homefront to support soldiers overseas by helping them purchase much needed items for the holidays.  You know, things like kids’ coats, dresses for little girls, boys’ pants, Nintendo Wii’s, booster seats for baby and flat screen televisions.  Yes, you read that right:  Nintendo Wii and flat screen TV both made the top 100 list of items that U.S. servicemen need this Christmas.

So are you starting to see why I might have a problem with this program aside from my general distaste for the government stealing my money in order to oppress innocent people abroad?  I further took Sears to task over the fact that they aren’t putting their own money into the program, and aren’t even helping supply these so-called necessities.  They’re just offering to collect your money, turn it into Sears Gift Cards (which can obviously only be used at Sears), and hand it over to a select group of soldier’s families.  They didn’t even go to the trouble of setting up a charity to do so which means that your so-called donation isn’t even tax-deductible.

Back to the responses…

I expected much more of the “why do you hate the troops” and “you’re a communist idiot” type of feedback than I received.  In fact, a majority of it (by a narrow margin, but still a majority) was positive.  And I’m not just talking about from my anarchist and freedom-loving brethren.  No, even from much more traditional corners. As I wrote yesterday, I can still be a fan of Sears and be wholly against this program.  Just as I can still support the soldiers as people and detest what they’ve chosen to do for a living.  I would like nothing more than to have all of the U.S. military personnel home safe for the holidays.  I think the Iraqis and Afghanis would probably appreciate that as well. Then everyone could have a happy holidays and Sears would have quite a few more customers as well 😉


Dec 012008

Apparently, Sears thinks the government isn’t sending enough of our money to the soldiers and they’re ready to do something about it with their Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry.  Make sure you read that title correctly.  Sears isn’t offering to send the soldiers more money.  No, they’re asking that you send more of your money to soldiers and their families in the form of Sears gift cards.  And they’re making it easy by setting up a web page (linked above) for just that purpose.

At first glance it may seem that Sears will be providing holiday gifts to needy military families.  But nothing on the site actually says this.  All it says is that donations are not tax deductible (which means they aren’t charitable donations of any kind under law) and that the funds will be used to purchase Sears gift cards to distribute to all “registered families”. It then provides a box into which you can enter the dollar amount you’re willing to give to Sears in order for it to be passed on to “registered families”.  I could not find anywhere to register to become one of these families, so have no idea what the criteria is, but there are even more problems with this Heroes At Home program.

There’s also a list of the Top 100 items that “military families told us they really need this holiday season”.  Number 13 is a Nintendo Wii, #16 – an ATV, #24 – Nintendo DS,  #31 – Giant Four Story Dollhouse, #42 – Sony PSP, #68 – Flat Screen TV,  #93 Video Camera, and #100 Automatic Pet Feeder.  Sorry, Sears, but no one (military or not) “really needs” a single one of those items.

Besides, as I always say when confronted with these “Support Our Troops” so-called charitable events: 1) they aren’t my troops, and 2) I’m already supporting them – my taxes are forcibly taken to pay their salaries.  If these families can’t afford to buy the stuff they want for the hoidays they should find themselves another job that pays what they think they deserve.

If Sears wants to supply selected military families with gift cards no one is stopping them, but I find it somewhat sickening that you’re asking others to do what you’re not willing to and profiteering off it in the mean time by forcing the recipients to shop at your stores. That’s not charity, it’s advertising.


Jul 102008

Always on the lookout for new marketing tools and new revenue streams for my various blogs and websites I recently came across a post by Jim at The Net Fool, where he referred to advertising broker Project Wonderful in some interesting terms: “If AdSense and eBay got into a bad car wreck, the result would be Project Wonderful ;) .” I’m still not really sure what that means, exactly, but I sure do like the imagery!

You can check out their site or Jim’s great post for a description of Project Wonderful if you’re not familiar with it. What I’m really looking for is some feedback from publishers and webmasters who have used Project Wonderful to sell advertising space on their sites. What type of revenue are you receiving compared to other advertising brokers? Hidden pitfalls of the system? Any general tips or advice?

May 152008

Since I didn’t sleep last night I was refreshing the SocialSpark marketplace with some regularity this morning as the IZEA staff started releasing opportunities. An excellent opp titled “$15,000 Online Video Contest” appeared that seemed perfect for Philaahzophy, so I clicked over to take it only to find that the slots for today had already been taken in the three minutes it took for me to see the listing.

Curious who was so quick on the draw I clicked over to the profiles of the six bloggers who had looked at the opp before me as clearly they were the ones who got the available slots. After looking at their blog demographics I can’t imagine the advertiser, Pandemic Labs, is going to be happy with the results of their first day’s spending. Here are the requirements for the opp-

Min. Words 100

Language English Only

You must also meet at least one of the following: ITK Installed, Top RealRank, Highest Monthly Pageviews, Highest Monthly Visitors, Most Posts Per Day, Most Props, Most Male Traffic, Most Female Traffic, Most U.S. Traffic

The opportunity is to promote a contest on that is only open to U.S. Residents. Let’s take a look at the segmentation created by the advertiser and how those six blogs measure up-

ITK Installed – since this is a requirement to take any sponsored posts at Social Spark I assume that all six blogs have it installed (as do all of the hundreds (if not thousands) of other blogs in the system)

Top RealRank – The RealRank of the six blogs are as follows: 5,288; 5,304; 1,410; 1,524; 525; 671. Two are in the Top 10%, two in the Top 20% and two are not even in the Top 50%

Highest Monthly Pageviews Every one of these blogs has their Pageviews set to private, so I can’t give you actual numbers here, but considering RealRank depends heavily on pageviews I can’t imagine any more than 2 of these blogs are in the Top 10% of Monthly Pageviews.

Highest Monthly Visitors Again, each of these blogs refuses to share its monthly visitors, but I can look at their Visitors/day: 6, 5, 50, 63, 160, and 159. Again only two have any chance of being in the Top 10%.

Most Posts Per Day – I haven’t taken the time to browse enough blogs at SocialSpark to determine what qualifies as high or low in this category, but here are the numbers for the relevant blogs: 0.28, 0, 0, 1.2, 1.26 and 0.

Most Props – again I haven’t done the research to determine how many Props is “a lot”, but the 10th most propped blog currently has 40 according to the leaderboard on the homepage. These bloggs have: 1, -1, -1, 4, -1, and 0. Hard to imagine any of those qualify as “Most Props”, especially the three with negatives.

Most Male Traffic and Most Female Traffic – These two requirementswould seem to cancel each other out, so I’m not really sure what SocialSparek or the advertiser was thinking with this type of segmentation. hence, no further comment.

Most U.S. Traffic – This, in my opinion, is the most important segmentation due to the fact that the contest is only open to legal U.S. residents. let’s see how the six blogs measured up: 8.4% (w/ 85.2% Malaysia), 15.3% (w/ 82% Canada), 32.5% (w/ 22.8% Philippines), 46.2% (w/ 29.5% Malaysia), 36.7% (w/ 33.2% Philippines), and 55.2% (w/ 21.3% Philippines). Only one of the blogs has more than 50% U.S. Traffic and the average (if I’m doing the math correctly) is only 32.3% U.S. Traffic – not exactly a majority considering many blogs in the system have 85% or more U.S. traffic.

Several of these bloggers have more than one blog in the system and I have no way of telling which blog will host the opp, but I chose the one with the most U.S. traffic for each blogger. While I won’t be sharing the names of the bloggers or their blogs here I will tell you that the numbers are in the same order for each type of segmentation.

An additional caveat is that I don’t know if all six of these bloggers received the opp. they were, however, the only six to visit it before me and there were no additional slots when I arrived, so even if they haven’t received the go-ahead yet, they will before anyone with a significant amount of U.S. traffic does.

So, I ask again. Do you think this advertiser is going to be happy with their Return On Investment?

Apr 302008

I’m still experimenting with StumbleUpon, trying to figure out how to get any kind of consistent return from this social bookmarking site. When I received a bonus for one of my recent blog posts I decided to try buying some stumbles directly from SU themselves to promote that very post – essentially giving the advertiser a bonus as well. At $0.05 each I figured it would be well worth it and signed up to have 100 Stumblers visit my post today. Besides I was hoping that some of these Stumblers would also thumbs up or review the post, leading even more Stumblers to it.

I did take note of the following disclaimer in the StumbleUpon Advertiser Faq-

My Google Analytics / Urchin stats don’t match. Why the difference?
Analytics packages like Google Analytics, Urchin, Webtrends, etc., use javascript to track traffic. You may see a difference between the traffic reported by these services and the traffic reported by StumbleUpon.

A large portion of our Firefox users have added the NoScript add-on to their browser. This is one of the top-10 most popular extensions for Firefox. This extension blocks any javascript calls that the user doesn’t approve of. Blocking javascript causes Urchin, Google Analytics, Webtrends, etc to not work. These tracking services never see the traffic because NoScipt blocks it.

You may see a larger difference in reported traffic than with other advertising services because StumbleUpon has a much higher proportion of Firefox users — and in particular, a much larger proportion of people who use browser extensions — than a typical audience. In essence, StumbleUpon’s early-adopter user-base is much more privacy and security conscious than the typical internet user, and they block tracking services as a result.

I was actually very much aware of the issues with using a javascript web analytics program prior to reading this disclaimer, but I’ve never seen anything close to this type of discrepancy before-

Wow, 37 reporting as received out of 100 sent. That’s almost $0.14 per visitor or nearly 3 times what I was expecting to pay. 35 of these 37 only remained on my site for 5 seconds, so I assume that some of those missing visitors didn’t even hang around that long. Of the two who actually clicked onto something else one spent 14 seconds and the other 27 seconds. Considering the post I was advertising contains nearly 1,000 words I don’t see how any of these users actually read any sizable portion of the article.

Is it any surprise then that not a single one of the 37-100 people that StumbleUpon charged me to deliver to my site bothered to give a thumbs up, much less a review? The “My Campaigns” page at SU shows that I had a 50% feedback rate (anything over 70% is considered successful by SU), yet the post’s StumbleUpon page still shows only a single review or Thumbs Up and that’s from the person who submitted it to SU hours before I started the advertising campaign.

So, is it worth buying stumbles from StumbleUpon? Right now I’d have to say no, but I’ve still got money in my account, so more experiments will be undertaken in the near future. If you’ve ever purchased a campaign from StumbleUpon and have any tips (or can point me to any online articles) a comment would be very much appreciated.