Signal April 15: 20 Years Ago, We Got Wired

Wired co-founders Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto. (Photo courtesy of Louis Rossetto.)

In this week’s Signal: Wired’s 20th anniversary; what viewers want from branded video; banner ads — creepy interruptions; AOL is automating everything that can be automated; Tumblr disbands Storyboard; OpenCo is headed to NYC with your help; Intel creates the TV service that you’ve always wanted; Google’s Star Trek computer isn’t just a metaphor; and more.

To the links…

How Wired Magazine Changed the Way We Talk About Technology (Adweek) Ted Greenwald gives an exclusive sneak peek at Wired’s 20th anniversary issue. From ‘the beginning of the beginning,’ when Wired co-founder Louis Rossetto (and your humble editor) sensed that the encoding of information in 1s and 0s was going to change everything, to the ‘manifesto’ and investor pitches, to when the magazine found its voice and the world got Wired, it’s all in here. A fantastic read about the dawning of a legacy that’s still going strong.

Blurring Lines Between Video Ads and Content (Digiday) Today’s consumer is more receptive to storytelling than to product pitches. Not only should branded video tell a story that’s shareable, it should also take into account the many devices consumers will view it on. According to YouTube, video viewers are usually ages 35 and under, and this generation has a thirst for authenticity and participation. So when brands try too hard to be clever or cute, it hardly ever works.

And, since we’re on the topic of video …

Google’s Wojcicki: Pepsi Prank with Jeff Gordon is Future of Online Ads (Paid Content) A Pepsi-produced stunt-driving prank in which disguised racing star Jeff Gordon takes a car salesman for a harrowing ride was watched by 33 million on YouTube last month. According to Susan Wojcicki, a senior VP at Google, this shows how online ad-viewing is an increasingly voluntary experience, and how marketers are more dedicated to producing content people want to see.

Banner Ad’s Creators Dismayed By Its Current State (Digiday) Advertisers and agencies lament the lack of creativity typically given banners, which some see as on their way to becoming a purely direct-response tool. Digiday asked those involved in the creation of the first banner ad — an AT&T ad that ran on HotWired (there’s that Wired brand again!)  in October 1994 — for their thoughts on the state of the banner ad nearly two decades later. “Most [banners] aren’t serving value. They’re in the business of interrupting what you’re doing,” said G.M. O’Connell, founder of Modem Media, the agency that created the first banners. “There’s a limited creativity that’s been applied with what you can do with that space and the space itself is very limiting. On cellphones, it’s worse. Today these retargeting ads are creepy to me.” Don’t worry GM, it’s going to get waaaay better. 

AOL Unveils Its Supply-Side Platform (Ad Exchanger) AOL has launched its long-promised supply side platform, Marketplace. According to Allie Kline, AOL Networks’ CMO, Everything we’ve been doing the past few months at AOL Networks is meant to give substance to the hype around programmatic tools for buyers and sellers. We’re more prepared to automate the things that can be automated.” Some believe AOL might be acting too late, but as a greater number of publishers appear ready to forge ahead in programmatic, AOL’s timing may be good enough.

Tumblr Cuts Editorial Team (ATD) David Karp, CEO of Tumblr has announced the disbanding of Storyboard, its four-person editorial team. “The team’s mandate was to tell the stories of Tumblr creators in a truly thoughtful way — focusing on the people, their work, and their stories,” Karp wrote in a post on April 9. All four employees will be “moving on.”

But perhaps there’s more to the story …

String of Executive Departures Leaves a Leadership Vacuum at the Top of Tumblr (BetaBeat) The Storyboard layoffs are hardly the only departures Tumblr has faced over the past six or seven months. Rather, they’re the only ones that CEO David Karp has spoken about publicly. Sources close to the company, who requested anonymity, told Betabeat that a handful of high-level deputies have also quietly ended their tenure at Tumblr, leaving a noticeable absence around Mr. Karp where his leadership team should be. “It’s like the f*cking Argentinian government, people just get disappeared,” said one source. This news, combined with current financial concerns, leave some insiders puzzled at the board’s faith in Mr. Karp (not to mention it’s advertising model).

OPENCO is Coming to NYC, But Only If You Support It: Please Help Us!  (BattelleMedia) John Battelle and Brian Monahan, co-founders of OpenCo, have started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for their OpenCoNY Festival. This “festival of innovation” will celebrate companies that embrace a set of values surrounding the concept of openness: open collaboration, open communication, open community, open company and open doors to you. Attendees will meet these innovators in their native habitat and hear about how they are trying to change the world, and why.  Battelle sees OpenCo as a movement. “The kinds of businesses we curate into the festival are literally changing the world, and this festival lets them open their doors to the public and share their knowledge with the community,” he writes. “We keep at least a third of the tickets free to the public, but we also sell tickets at various levels for those who want to ensure they get access to the companies they really want to see.” The OpenCo platform is coming to four cities this year – starting on May 21 in New York.


35 CEOs, CMOs, VCs and media leaders in two days of unscripted conversation. (Recently added: Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann.) Come to the CM Summit to join the conversation about “Bridging Data and Humanity.” New York City, May 21-22. The only conference this year curated by your faithful correspondent.

Also, if it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s email newsletter or RSS feed on the Signal home page (upper right box).


Intel Cooks Up Future of TV: A Potential Mess for Cable (Ad Age) The TV service you’ve always wanted has been built by Intel, and it’s in the hands of a few secret testers at media companies and agencies. Intel established Intel Media to build an “over-the-top” TV service, joining streaming-video players such as Netflix and Hulu. Its service, however, will be the first to deliver a full array of cable TV channels over the Internet. The company has not announced a name, a price or a release schedule more specific than some time this year, but those who have seen it describe it as a significant advance over any existing cable or satellite platform.

Where No Search Engine Has Gone Before  (Slate) Farhad Manjoo, author and Slate’s technology columnist, has covered Google over the years and long assumed that the company’s Star Trek-like search engine chatter was meant as marketing. He never thought that the tech giant was really trying to build a machine as encyclopedic and humanistic as the all-knowing ship’s computer. But he’s now wondering if that’s exactly what Google is doing. So he went to there to interview some of the people who are working on the search engine. And what he heard floored him. “The Star Trek computer is not just a metaphor that we use to explain to others what we’re building,” Amit Singhal, who heads Google’s search rankings team, told him. “It is the ideal that we’re aiming to build — the ideal version done realistically.”

Sponsored Content’s 5 Biggest Hurdles (Digiday) From the basics of what it is to how it’s measured and how it scales to work for both publishers and advertisers, sponsored content, now commonly known as native advertising, has several hurdles to overcome. Digiday offers some key points (and counterpoints) around definition, scale, measurement, trust and relevance. Regarding the trust factor, Ben Kunz, VP of Strategic Planning at Mediassociates, reminds readers that “native, by its very definition, disguises the source. Anyone else who says otherwise is bullshitting.”

GM Returns To Facebook Ads; Will Super Bowl Be Next? (Forbes) Less than a year after General Motors‘ very public repudiation of the effectiveness of paid advertising on Facebook, the company is testing mobile ads for the Chevy Sonic. GM only came back to the Facebook-advertising fold after several months of wrangling with Facebook executives about ways to improve tracking of advertising results on the site and to boost its effectiveness.

Forget Data Transparency: Options Grow For Letting You Hide Your Data (GIGAom) Increasing concerns about companies’ collection and use of personal Internet user data have given rise to a few solutions, including a personal data locker where users would be able to store their own information and grant companies limited access, rather than abide by companies’ privacy policies. There’s also been talk of compelling companies to disclose the data they keep on consumers, even though it might be hard to understand and use. But, increasingly, others are simply opting out of the data revolution. As more companies dream up more ways to target consumers, and consumers become more weary of being tracked and targeted, better solutions to the privacy problem are likely to be presented in response.

Report: Teen Interest in Social Media Dwindling (TechCrunch) Though teens still consider Facebook their most important social network, Piper Jaffray, a leading investment bank and asset management firm, reports that the numbers are down regarding how many teens see Facebook as the most important social media website. Over the past year, the number of teens who deem Facebook as the most important social media site has dropped from more than 30 percent to just over 20 percent.

Why PC Sales Are In Free Fall (IW: Byte) The latest IDC report has some alarming news for Microsoft and the PC industry. Personal Computer sales are in free fall due to lack of hardware and software innovation. Not only has Microsoft Windows 8 failed to save the PC industry, the hated operating system has actually harmed PC sales.