Monday, March 05, 2007

MSN's Medstory Story

MSN's Medstory Story
source: MediaPost Publications // Search Insider

LAST WEEK, Microsoft announced plans to buy health search engine Medstory. More than just a buy into a great product, that purchase might be Microsoft's secret weapon into winning the search wars.

As a vertical engine, Medstory's search functionality is fantastic. It's a genius at showing health material and weeding out non-health results -- as a search for an ambiguous term like "wine" will show. When I ran that search, the engine was great at avoiding non-health "wine" results (like results for wine stores or wine recipes); non-health listings only seemed to sneak in around results page 90. (On searches around medical personalities, though, Medstory's filtering looked a lot weaker.)

On top of its excellent relevance, Medstory is also spectacularly effective when it comes to granularity. Along with standard specialty searches like audio and video, Medstory allows searchers to drill down for items like drugs, experts, and even genes that relate to a keyword.

But Medstory's true value only begins with what it offers as a health-search engine. It will undoubtedly make a killer app within MSN Health & Fitness, but that's just the start. It also looks like its technology will be copied across all of the vertical content sections within the MSN portal, like MSN Autos, MSN Music, and MSN Money. Currently, those content areas offer only a site search within the content area itself, and access to run a non-specialized search on Visitors to those content sections would gladly welcome -- and use -- a Medstory clone that's geared towards their topic of interest. And that new wave of vertical search traffic would create many more opportunities for highly targeted search advertising.

Medstory, meanwhile, is hardly ignorant of its potential for expanding beyond health alone. As CNet's Carolyn McCarthy points out, "Medstory's Web site hints that health is only the first topic for which it plans to implement its... technology," and that "other 'complex fields' of inquiry may be on the way."

Even vertical search, though, might not be the ultimate goal that's on MSN's mind with Medstory. If there's anything that AdCenter has taught the world, it's that Microsoft is a master at taking the data it already has, and repurposing it into smarter search. A small army of Medstory clones will allow Microsoft to do just that, at a whole new level -- as it will contain a huge inventory of behavioral data on vertically-minded searchers and search queries. MSN can use that data to deliver more relevant organic results, and better ads, within vertically-minded searches on itself.

Indeed, as CNet's Ina Fried reported Tuesday, Microsoft Chief Software Architect Ray Ozzie has made clear his plans to push Medstory out "within Microsoft's broader Live search engine;" and that, in Fried's words, "vertical search pages are just one of the possibilities." Presumably, is another one of those "possibilities."

All of this bodes extremely well for, as MSN pushes to move from search underdog to leader of the pack. More relevant listings -- i.e., better-targeted listings --mean more clicks, as Yahoo's post-Panama clickthrough surge has shown us. And it's not much of a leap from there to saying that more relevant listings generate increased traffic overall, long-term.

And so in buying Medstory, MSN has purchased a great asset within the health market; the next big thing in vertical search overall; and a golden ticket to making more money off of advertising within I'd say that isn't bad for the purchase of a tiny search engine.

Am I 100% right about where Microsoft wants to go with the Medstory purchase? I think I am, but we'll have to wait and see. But I can guarantee that, wherever the planned purchase goes, Medstory is just the beginning of the story.

Mark Simon is vice president of industry relations at Did-it, an agency for search engine marketing and auctioned media management based in New York. You can reach Mark at
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New trend: Matching ads to online video content

New trend: Matching ads to online video content
Source: ePharm5(tm)
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Last week, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) ran an article examining the new trend of start-up companies investing in advanced technology systems that can match advertising to online video content. Using text-based search engines pairing content with relevant ads based on keywords, user demographics, and time of day, the companies hope to capitalize on this targeting opportunity. The market for such ads has enormous potential, but whether the start-ups can realize that before larger companies like Microsoft jump in remains to be seen.
Also in doubt is the best way to scan videos for content, how to display the ads or how to target them to consumers who will be most receptive to them. One of the start-ups, Blinkx, recently tested targeted ads with video from Britain's Independent Television News Ltd., and reported that identifying key words in the text generally didn't produce better results for advertisers than just identifying the type of content and likely demographic traits of viewers. Another company, ScanScout, has already gained some traction with the technology and it is being tested by PureVideo Networks. Brightcove, PodZinger, and YuMe Networks are other start-ups covered in the WSJ article. 
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Costly Red Campaign Reaps Meager $18 Million

Costly Red Campaign Reaps Meager $18 Million

Bono & Co. Spend up to $100 Million on Marketing, Incur Watchdogs' Wrath
By Mya Frazier Published: March 05, 2007 COLUMBUS, Ohio (

It's been a year since the first Red T-shirts hit Gap shelves in London, and a parade of celebrity-splashed events has followed: Steven Spielberg smiling down from billboards in San Francisco; Christy Turlington striking a yoga pose in a New Yorker ad; Bono cruising Chicago's Michigan Avenue with Oprah Winfrey, eagerly snapping up Red products; Chris Rock appearing in Motorola TV spots ("Use Red, nobody's dead"); and the Red room at the Grammy Awards. So you'd expect the money raised to be, well, big, right? Maybe $50 million, or even $100 million.

Try again: The tally raised worldwide is $18 million. The disproportionate ratio between the marketing outlay and the money raised is drawing concern among nonprofit watchdogs, cause-marketing experts and even executives in the ad business. It threatens to spur a backlash, not just against the Red campaign -- which ambitiously set out to change the cause-marketing model by allowing partners to profit from charity -- but also for the brands involved.

Enormous outlay
By any measure, the buzz has been extraordinary and the collective marketing outlay by Gap, Apple and Motorola has been enormous, with some estimates as high as $100 million. Gap alone spent $7.8 million of its $58 million outlay on Red during last year's fourth quarter, according to Nielsen Media Research's Nielsen Adviews.

But contributions don't seem to be living up to the hype. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the recipient of money raised by Red, told The Boston Globe in December, "We may be over the $100 million mark by the end of Christmas."

Rajesh Anandan, the Global Fund's head of private-sector partnerships, said Mr. Feachem was misquoted, and defended the efforts by Red to increase the Global Fund's private-sector donations, which totaled just $5 million from 2002 to 2005. (The U.S. Congress just approved a $724 million pledge to the Global Fund, on top of $1.9 billion already given and $650 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.)

Hugely frontloaded
Red has done as much as we could have hoped for in the short time it has been up and running," he said, adding: "The launch cost of this kind of campaign is going to be hugely frontloaded. It's a very costly exercise."

Julie Cordua, VP-marketing at Red and a former Motorola marketing exec and director-buzz marketing at Helio, said the outlay by the program's partners must be understood within the context of the campaign's goal: sustainability. "It's not a charity program of them writing a one-time check. It has to make good business sense for the company so the money will continue to flow to the Global Fund over time." She added that since many of Red's partners haven't closed their books yet on 2006, more funds likely will be added to the $18 million.

But is the rise of philanthropic fashionistas decked out in Red T-shirts and iPods really the best way to save a child dying of AIDS in Africa?

Parody mocks Bono
The campaign's inherent appeal to conspicuous consumption has spurred a parody by a group of San Francisco designers and artists, who take issue with Bono's rallying cry. "Shopping is not a solution. Buy less. Give more," is the message at, which encourages people to give directly to the Global Fund.

The Red campaign proposes consumption as the cure to the world's evils," said Ben Davis, creative director at Word Pictures Ideas, co-creator of the site. "Can't we just focus on the real solution -- giving money?"

Trent Stamp, president of Charity Navigator, which rates the spending practices of 5,000 nonprofits, said he's concerned about the campaign's impact on the next generation. "The Red campaign can be a good start or it can be a colossal waste of money, and it all depends on whether this edgy, innovative campaign inspires young people to be better citizens or just gives them an excuse to feel good about themselves while they buy an overpriced item they don't really need."

Fears of nonprofits
Mark Rosenman, a longtime activist in the nonprofit sector and a public-service professor at the Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, said the disparity between the marketing outlay and the money raised by Red is illustrative of some of the biggest fears of nonprofits in the U.S.

"There is a broadening concern that business is taking on the patina of philanthropy and crowding out philanthropic activity and even substituting for it," he said. "It benefits the for-profit partners much more than the charitable causes."
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JupiterResearch Finds That a Third of Online Users Turn to Social and One-to-One Media for Health Information

JupiterResearch Finds That a Third of Online Users Turn to Social and One-to-One Media for Health Information

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Mar 5, 2007 - JupiterResearch, a leading authority on the impact of the Internet and emerging consumer technologies on business, has found that 34 percent of adult online users (54 million people) in the U.S. said they have connected to others or to the content others created online about health and wellness issues in the past year. Detailed in a new report, "Online Health: Assessing the Risk and Opportunity of Social and One-to-One Media," JupiterResearch refers to these adult users as Health Connectors - a population segment that health marketers and stakeholders must reach as the influence of consumer-created content continues to grow.
"Health Connectors share meaningful concrete information and trust, so they are likely to impact important health decisions such as what drugs to buy, hospitals to use, doctors to see, insurance to buy, etcetera," said Monique Levy, JupiterResearch Senior Analyst and lead author of the report. "This can hurt brands and services, but also benefit them if they leverage word of mouth and social marketing."

 Health Connectors are highly interactive and trust one another, representing a significant threat and opportunity among health stakeholders. To address these challenges, marketers must reach out to influencers, leverage experts, and sponsor content alongside consumer-created content, among other tactics.
"We continue to see consumer-created content's increasing impact on many markets and the healthcare industry is no exception," said David Schatsky, President of JupiterKagan. "Online users are highly motivated to consume, create and share health content, suggesting there is an efficient viral network among online Health Connectors, so negative or positive consumer-created content can spread quickly."
The complete findings of this report and recommendations for health and wellness marketers are immediately available to JupiterResearch clients online at For details on JupiterResearch's methodology, visit or email to request a detailed methodology statement. For additional information on this report or JupiterResearch's Health research service, visit or contact Kieran Kelly, Senior Vice President of Global Sales and Client Service, at 1-800-481-1212 or
About JupiterResearch
JupiterResearch provides unbiased research, analysis and advice, backed by proprietary data, to help companies profit from the impact of the Internet and emerging consumer technologies on their business. The company helps online businesses make critical decisions about technology selection, spending, staffing, and Web site effectiveness; advises consumer-facing companies with online advertising, marketing, and customer service strategies to understand, attract, convert and retain customers; and guides technology vendors and service providers on market opportunity, positioning, product definition, and pricing. JupiterResearch is headquartered in New York City and has offices throughout the US and Europe. For more information, visit JupiterResearch is a division of JupiterKagan, Inc.
Vic Beck or Pete Arnold, 781-239-1030
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Viral Video: Don't Call It Boob Tube Any More

Viral Video: Don't Call It Boob Tube Any More

by Mark Walsh, Monday, Mar 5, 2007 6:00 AM ET


VIRAL VIDEO ISN'T JUST FOR breast-obsessed young men anymore. That's one conclusion of a new study done by ad tracking firm Competitrack based on reviewing 3,000 viral campaigns by more than 800 advertisers.

The report cites recent viral efforts including Dove's celebrated Campaign For Real Beauty, featuring unconventional models, and Unilever's series of animated mystery "Webisodes" for I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

"What's most amazing to us is to see insurance companies, banks, and makers of dish soap actively getting into viral advertising," said Bob Moss, president of Competitrack.

The company is launching a new viral video tracking service in April that will include daily alerts on breaking campaigns and access to archived video ads for between $5,000 and $10,000 annually.

Moss noted that the viral study included only sponsored ads, not the mash-ups or video spoofs of brands or products that proliferate on YouTube and other sites.

The study divides viral ads into videos, microsites, games, social networks and multi-media categories. It estimates that 60% of viral ads created by advertisers are videos, with many being popular TV commercials uploaded to the Web by viewers.

But Competitrack estimates that hundreds of videos are produced specifically as online virals.

"These tend to be longer, more narrowly targeted, and very often, more outrageous than any commercial you are likely to see on TV." (About 8% carry the label: ("Warning! May not be suitable for office viewing.")

The most creative viral campaigns, Moss said, are usually microsites--small Web sites focused on a specific brand, that invite user-generated videos, blog participation and other types of interaction. They account for about a quarter of viral ads.

The study points to high-profile microsites such as Gillette's, which takes the form of a faux political action site against men with unshaven faces. It says the ad "is also an example of a campaign where the brand or product advertised is either very discreetly revealed or not revealed at all."

Of course, trying to disguise their ads as the work of online hipsters has also backfired for some marketers. That includes Sony's online promotion of its PlayStation Portable game console featuring a blog and online video made to look like the creation of actual fans. The campaign was later exposed by bloggers as a marketing ploy, making Sony the object of ridicule.

Nevertheless, Moss believes that through experimentation, marketers will find the right balance between inventiveness and outright deception to create effective viral campaigns.

"People will seek out viral video because it has some intrinsic value--either it's entertaining or compelling or something consumers identify with," he said.

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