Last week I had the pleasure of attending the CMA 2008 Digital Marketing Conference -- a two day event down at the Toronto CNE grounds that brought together several hundred marketers from around Canada to kibbutz on the subject of the latest trends and technology in digital marketing.
The diverse panels featured heavy hitters on both the client and agency side, with companies like Google, Nintendo and Rogers Wireless offering up insights alongside representatives from creative agencies like Fuel Industries, w.illi.am and Page Zero. Even David Pogue (well-known tech columnist from the New York Times) was in attendance to close down the show with a hilarious song and dance lampooning the RIAA. Good stuff.
Being a web guy at heart my interest at the show naturally gravitated towards the task of sniffing out and evaluating some of the new technologies popping up as hot topics for discussion around the various roundtables. Here are three (and a half) useful technologies that caught my eye as potentially useful additions to your online toolbox.
Linkscape is the flagship property of Search Engine Optimization specialists SEOMoz and its promise is to deliver the kind of quick and dirty demographic intelligence that makes SEO-savvy agencies drool. Basically, Linkscape can be considered a sort of contemporary technology to products like Radian 6 -- software that uses powerful algorithms to aggregate web data into metrics that make sense to street-level marketers.
What makes Linkscape interesting is its "MOZrank" technology -- a ranking system that paints a picture of where your website of choice stands in relation to its contemporaries and the Internet as a whole. We all know how frustrating it can be to see your sites showing up on page three or four of Google's search results, but with MOZrank you have the ability to break that problem down with some granularity and determine what specific factors are positively impacting a website's visibility on Google for good or ill.
Among the many interesting bits of analysis that Linkscape can provide to marketers are concrete answers to questions like "who is linking to my client's sites?" and "what factors make these sites popular in Google's eyes?" Linkscape's MOZrank technology blends separate and viewable channels of online "Popularity" and "Trust" into an aggregate statistic called "juice." Analyzing this juice allowes you to craft a map of what Google considers to be the big influences (and influencers) on your sites' credibility, to help determine where the important web pressure points for your given industry might be. Linkscape is especially useful for competitive analysis too, as MOZrank technology can quite easily be applied to any website on the Internet -- not just the ones under your direct control. Give it a try. Those interested in getting a real feel for the program info should check out Scott Willoughby's 13 minute Linkscape demo over on Vimeo.
Another useful analysis tool, Quantcast provides "free-of-charge" readership demographic analysis to interested parties. By placing a special tracker on your website, companies 'opt in' to having Quantcast observe their traffic and make broad evaluations on the age, sex, location, etc. of its readership. How this works precisely is of course Quantcast's little secret, but all sorts of interesting information can be gleaned through this process for those willing to make themselves visible. Example: a broad overview immediately shows that tech darling Digg has a 62% male readership, most dominantly of the 18-34 age range and is particularly of interest to Asian readers. A different search shows that only 38% of people acces NBC.com from their place of work, and that 68% of those visitors are flagged as just 'passing by' as opposed to 'addicts' -- obviously relevant information for any website or marketer interested in knowing more about the daily visitor makeup of those sites.
Quantcast's business model is of course spot-welded to the ad business, and the company offers a special ad planning engine for media buyers straight off its basic toolset, as well as displaying available advertising opportunities along with relevant data. Whether your company feels up to being scrutinized by a third party in return for demographic insights is a matter of internal choice, but for unabashed extoverts, Quantcast's offerings could serve as a potential weath of knowledge, and/or a companion tool to something like Google Analytics in your advertising metrics program.
Everybody knows Google -- but not everybody also knows about Google Alerts. Much like Google's other peripheral services (eg. Google Zeitgeist or Google Ad Planner Google Alerts allows you to leverage the ridiculous power of Google's vast network to keep tabs on happenings of interest to you. Here's how it works: A user enters a subject that they want to track into the Google Alert engine and specifies their preference for receiving correspondence (either email or RSS) as well as a timeframe like 'once a day' or 'as it happens'. Google then does the dirty work of combing the Internet and sending regular, relevant links to either your email inbox or to your feed reader of choice. You can even filter your alerts to only receive certain types of postings (blogs, video, etc.)
Google Alerts is totally free to use and up to 1000 active alerts can be maintained at any time, manageable through a simple control panel. A couple of suggestions from Google point out that Alerts might be useful for following "a developing news story" or "keeping current on a competitor or industry." Obviously anybody whose job involves regularly monitoring blogs, RSS feeds, or just keeping current on a particular subject can find a lot to love with Google Alerts even though the service is still technically in Beta development. A FAQ is located here.
Rounding out the technology wrapup is an amusing service called "Spreed", currently making the rounds with the Blackberry® set. In a nutshell, Spreed (that's SPEED and READ) aims to hyper-accelerate the mundane and time consuming task of actually reading your daily news and current events through the use of some scientifically-tested speed reading principles and a nifty Internet application.
Designed primarily for mobile devices like iPhones® and Blackberries®, Spreed plugs into your daily newsfeed and ruthlessly condenses your stories down into rapid-fire "just the facts" style presentations which come at the reader fast and furiously as rapidly changing onscreen text. A story Spreeded (Spread?) in this fashion is pared down to its essential elements and condensed into rapid-fire news blasts whose impact on your busy day can be evaluated by the literal second. Now you can know up front that taking the time to peruse a story like "Palin Camp Tries to Squelch Talk of Infighting" will take precisely 38 precious seconds out of your busy day (or 120 seconds for the non-condensed version.) Check an online demo for a better idea of how Spreed works.
Amusingly, the individual who tipped us off about Spreed also mentioned that it's currently scoring big with students -- who apparently enjoy using its text-condensation abilities to cram their textbooks down into easily digestible 'Cole's Notes' versions on their cellphones rather than going through the archaic routine of... y'know... studying. Whether Spreed will prove useful to your business may depend on exactly how strongly the attention-deprived set holds sway... but those with an open mind (and a serious lack of free time) might find it an interesting way to read your news and meeting notes.