Thursday, July 02, 2020

We have all had to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here is how Annex Business Media adapted to the unexpected disruption to their business model caused by Covid-19. Annex, the largest B2B publisher in Canada with over 64 B2B tittles and produces 35 industry events like conferences, trade shows, webinars and table top events. Well all their events are now cancelled and they had to quickly rethink this source of revenue.



The last market disruption that spurred the virtual event concept was 9/11 when the Virtual Trade Show concept was born. This was a naive attempt to replicate the trade show model online and was definitely a case of over promise from tech vendors. But online meetings started to flourish. companies like “ Go to Meeting” emerged to serve this space and is now a common business tool for sales staff. Webinars emerged as an effective tool to provide awareness for a company’s brand story and lead generation.


Scott Jamieson, COO of Annex Business Media decided to re-invent the company’s events model to a virtual conference. They adopted a 2.5 hour online conference model with a series of speakers. Below is a video from one of the conferences for Talent Canada for their Back to Work Virtual Summit held on May 27. The audience engagement for their virtual events saw good attendance, including USA visitors with one attracting over 300 people. They have done four so far for Talent Canada, Canadian Security, Canadian Manufacturing Online, and Firefighting and right now they are free to attend.



The webinar conference model is a viable tool for lead generation for companies in this digital age as face to face contact the epitome of relationship building to help your business grow is not available. Dennis Kelly, a media expert says the media mix which surrounds us is ever evolving and while platforms change, so do the users. We have an amazing adaptability to change and utilize the new tools to carve out a new reality, that includes an endless stream of measurement tools that monitor every waking, and probably sleeping moment. So it looks like we will all have to adapt the the online conference model, schools are doing this with on-line learning and the rest of the world is following suit.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Ok Lets pick up now to the turn of the new century, we found out that the Y2K scare became a non-incident, but we started to see the side effects of this new information highway as some very disruptive and some down right evil things started to evolve like a virus mutating. 



This stage of the decade the music industry was the first casualty of the internet as music become digital and the adoption of mp3 music players gathered up steam. Sites like Napster that offered a free music sharing service reached 26 million users during its brief existence and was very disruptive for the music industry. People can now get music for free during this time. When Apple introduced the iPod/iTunes in 2001, we started to see a new business model emerge as Apple entered the music distribution business and as we all know how widely successful that became. 


The turn of the century was the start of the decline of the newspaper ad revenue through sites like Craigs List that offered free ads. Sites like also directed a second blow to the newspaper industry for Help wanted ads. Kijiji another FREE ad website was launched in 2005 to further take a bite out newspapers ad pie. You can best describe the newspaper industry during this decade as a deer frozen  while staring at headlights with doom on the horizon.



The Growth of the Ad Tech Sector

Social media became the new buzzword in this decade for personal websites as you can now get one for free from sites like Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter. The Free economy started to gather momentum as everything was free on the internet like video calling through Skype, Google Maps and YouTube for online video streaming.  Search Engines like Google used the free content provided online as part as their business model for their Ad Sense Ad Network  launched in 2003 and the Ad Tech sector was born.


In 2007 the iPhone and Kindle book reader were launched and the Kindle started off a storm of innovation for book publishing as the Kindle reader allowed Amazon to sell digital editions of their books. The iPhone combined all the benefits of a iPod, cell phone and PDA into one device and was labeled a smartphone. The Android smartphone was launched in 2008 and was supported by Samsung and other major hardware vendors to compete against Apple. Android is an open source software and Google helped create it and it is free to use.

During this time mobile networks were 3G that provided good internet download speeds so the internet became mobile now. The launched of the smartphone created an “APP” gold rush as companies released apps for this new digital storefront provided by iTunes and Google Play for software app like games, magazine, newspapers, social media, and e-commerce flooded the market.


Further industry disruptions continued later in the decade, in 2008, with AirBnb (home sharing) and Uber (car sharing) jump started the shared economy model where individuals could share their home/car online for a fee. AirBnb has disrupted the rental housing market and hotel stays in some cities and Uber left a trail of destruction for the taxi industry in each city it started business in. Digital currency was invented in 2008, called Bitcoin and today there is a digital currency gold rush based on this innovation.

Another disruption for the financial markets emerged as companies could now raise seed funding for their products instead of banks through Kickstarter.  In the automotive industry, Telsla an electric car with an onboard computer was launched in 2003 to pave the way to marry computer AI technology for self driving cars that has caused a wave of development in the car industry. The jury is still out to see where this innovation will lead us to everyday use of self driving cars as the safety promises of self driving cars are in serious doubt with accidental deaths.


Digital marketing became fashionable with the content marketing model being used to distribute messages on social media channels. This was part of the the growth of a new industry -  Ad Tech. The industry’s pitch branded content/advertorial to advertisers because readers like to click on articles and more the clicks on articles the better the search engine rankings and thus more traffic to your website. This spawn concepts like native advertising ad networks and banner ad farms. This industry used advertising as their primary revenue model and sometimes would show 20 ads for one article view on ad farms sites and the content for these articles tended to be sensational like tabloid journalism.  


A side effect of this development was the use of fake stoires (Farticles) to pictch products and the growing use of ad blockers by readers. Ad blockers came on the scene at the end of the decade as ad clutter was overwhelming users. The ad tech sector also spawned a fake profile creation service for social media that has become part of the digital ad ecosystem and has been suspected being used for geo-politics.

Not to be outdone the underground economy also went digital as scams  that used to be by snail mail and phone can now be delivered online. The LoveYouEmail Virus in 2000 infected 50 millions windows computers worldwide. More cyber criminals entered the market with The Code Red Worm, the Goner Virus and Email phishing became a new channel of distribution for the Nigerian Scammers. Ransomware also become a problem as the virus would shut down your computer and you had to pay them a fee to unlock the computer. 


Hardware technology had major leaps with innovations like touch colour screens and  large flat panel tv screens. Processing power of the chip continued as smartphones became just as powerful as a desktop computer. Retailing saw a new consumer habit start to form called show rooming where they would go to a bricks and mortar store to the see product but buy it online from another vendor. The digital gold rush of the first decade of the new century had a lot of winners and losers and new industry giants emerged like Google, Apple, Facebook and Samsung. Next up Part three 2010-2020 - The Future of Digital


Sunday, June 02, 2019

This year I want to go back in time since the beginning of the internet to see where we came from and where we are going, so I decided to write a story on the history of the Internet as our digital spotlight for this year’s COPA awards. This will be a 3 part series based on the decades of 1990-2000, 2001-2010 and 2011 to 2020.  I am most the qualified according to be daughter as I have been there since the beginning and I can give a first hand account. The internet started as a scientific project that was invented in 1983 so the community could collaborate electronically, the World Wide Web was invented in 1989. CompuServe was extensively used during this time and was a online chat service that charged $4.95/hr


The World Wide Web did not really take off until 1995 during the Dotcom boom with the introduction of high speed broadband access to the internet. If you were on the internet at this time  it most likely was through a dial-up modem and only early adopters were playing on the internet at this time. The Linux OS, invented in 1991, an open source software was used to help build the dotcom digital infrastructure (Ie: web and email servers), as it was free to use and it changed the software paradigm (Microsoft’s arch enemy during this time). Two of the early pioneers at the beginning of this decade was (discount hotel service) and E-Trade (securities trading) and both will be major disruptors in their industries.


Netscape one of the first web browsers was invented in 1994 showed that you can give away something free, make no money and still get rich with an IPO. This was the business model that was part of the foundation of the DotCom boom. The other part of the foundation was companies were building web sites and using email so they needed new computer servers for this functions. Webmasters were in high demand.



Concepts like E-commerce emerged in1995 with services like EBay (auctions), (Singles) and Amazon (Books) as the early pioneers and all three are still around today.  Pay Pal was started in 1998 to help facilitate payments for the growth of Ecommerce. AOL and Yahoo provided access to the internet and email accounts and both of these companies have had a roller coaster existence. A free email service called Hotmail was launched in 1995 that is owned by Microsoft. Craig’s List a Free classified ad service was the model that would disrupt the newspaper industry in later years. Google did not come on the scene until 1998 (so you can say they were a little late to the party) with their first search engine that allowed to help find stuff on the internet through a key word search model that they sold 30 word text ads on.


In the latter part of the decade (1999) Napster was a created, a music sharing service that turned the music industry upside down as users could share their music online and others could download at no charge using torrent software. Napster at its peak had 26 million users in 2001, but was run out of business by 2002. Netflix, an ad free video streaming subscription service, which will become the model that turned the TV industry upside down was also launched during this time. The concept of binge watching video online became a new thing to do.  Salesforce a CRM cloud based software service was introduced for the corporate market along with the first smartphone from Blackberry that allowed for mobile email that became so popular it was nicknamed “Crackberry”.


Content was free on the internet (except for the Wall Street Journal) and news aggregators websites or content scrappers was also a model that was created during this era. This was the model that MSN was built on and a lot of others. The big one in the tech community at this time was Slashdot. The story would be if you company was posted on  the resulting traffic to your website would crash the site, thus the term your site was Slashdotted became a badge of honour for tech companies.


Adverting models on websites started with banner ads and key words search. Double Click a banner ad delivery service was launched that provided ad analytics that was added to this new digital infrastructure. Google used the “Pay per Click model” to sell ads on their network and the “Pay for Performance “ model on the internet was born and this was the driving force of Google’s business model along with the self-service online ad sales model. Now, the pay per click was sold based on an auction model and sometimes key words were bid up by competitors.


Search Engine Optimization became a serious concern as companies learned how to get traffic to their website through search engine rankings that was based on the number of links to it and the number of clicks by people. Humans, the creative species that they are invented ways to “Game” search engine rankings with link farms that inflated the number of links to a website and the use of Click bots to inflate clicks on a website to improve rankings. The use of click bots was widespread in the music industry to inflate a song's rankings. Google will make adjustments to their algorithium in later years.


Email spam became a major issue in 1996 as email was a cheap way to market your products and unsolicited email invaded your email box. These spam operators would set up spam traps to collect email or hack into a database for this info. This made Hotmail and Yahoo users a target and they have a long history of dealing with hackers. The first cyber attack between two countries was in 1999 and this  was sign of things to come in later years as criminals now have a new target for thier activities. Now, not all dark uses of the internet was created by the dark side,  the USA military actually created the Dark Web and made it public and free to use under the code name “ Onion Project”  in 1995. This Dark Web that will be the foundation for the underground economy was used for covert communications that were untraceable. The theory was the more users the less chance of detection.



Leading up to the year 2000 was the Y2K scare that was a doomsday scenario (all the computers will crash) that will happen when all the computer clocks had to change for the new century and there was a rush to upgrade computer systems for this. Business models emerged during this decade that will disrupt many industries in the future specifically, retail, newspapers, television, cellular phones, business communications, financial, hotel and the underground economy. The Dotcom boom was a period of prosperity and peace for the world  during a Clinton Administration that led the charge for the creation of the “Information Highway” in a world with no borders as the internet was described during this time period. Next up Part two 2001-2010 - Web 2.0




Monday, November 05, 2018

Who is Huawei? I see all their ads on Hockey Night and Canada, so I finally decided to have a look at their smartphone. Huawei (spoken wah wei) is one of the largest telecommunications infrastructure companies in the world providing telecom equipment for the latest wireless networks. It was started in 1987 in Shenzhen, China and has operations in over 21 locations worldwide with 180,000 employees. 


They emerged as a big world player in 2003 when USA firms started FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Doubt) dis-information campaigns and patent lawsuits to restrict their expansion into the USA. The latest salvo is a quote from a Chinese official in a Fortune article that says that President Trump should switch to a Huawei phone for better security. Huawei phones are banned in the USA market. Huawei is the second largest smartphone maker in the world after Samsung and slightly ahead of Apple. In Canada, they offer Android smartphones, Windows laptops/tablets and Android watches for consumers and equipment for the enterprise and telecom markets. 


Their latest smartphone the Huawei P20 Pro is device that offers some key differences that I should highlight. The first thing I noticed was the long battery life as it lasts 2-3 days based on usage, the second was the Leica 3 lens camera with a built in AI software that can adjust to the light and distance settings with an auto-focus capability. This camera shot better pictures than a Nikon SLR camera I use and it comes with a 5x zoom. 



Here is a photo of a deer I took at sunset, I used the zoom and night time setting and it automatically set up a time exposure of a few seconds to take the shot. There is other shot taken at my niece's hockey game, the photo  shows the mesh in focus and was shot through the plexi-glass. In a SLR camera the mesh is blurry. 


The third was the Dolby Atmos sound that was generated from the device coupled along with the Huawei USB-C headphones. These headphones have  a second sound hole in it that created surround sound similar to ear muff headphones, which I found delivered better sound till now. The use of a new USB-C connection in this phone is the start of the next generation of phones without the 3.5mm headphone jack. 

The computer chip for this phone is the Kirin 970 CPU that was engineered by Huawei and offers a design with multiple cores for faster processing and energy efficiency. This high performance processing power enables the AI software to work and also explains why the battery life is so long on this phone versus other brands. The next generation chip the Kirin 980 is expected to improve energy efficiency by another 40% and will have 4 cores to handle the tasks on the smartphone.


Now, I have mentioned this before but I still find smartphone companies are under investing in the shell design for durability. So lets see if this smartphone can survive the “Oops I dropped it drop test”. The Samsung 8 did not make the cut as it chipped on the corner when dropped on a ceramic tile floor, but the glass did not break. I dropped the Huawei phone on the driveway pavement, the corner did not crack, but the glass did as I had a small fracture. So I went a got a rubber sleeve for it and it has survived unscathed since then.


The accidental touches that I experienced on this phone were different as the user interface is unique to Huawei’s customization of the Android operating system. When I was typing and hitting the space bar, I hit the home button by accident as the space bar is above the home button but too close for my fingers. Another accidental touch was a shortcut to change the keyboard that I kept hitting as it is located on the bottom right of the phone. I don’t know why there is as a shortcut for the keyboard, I don’t change it often. It comes up constantly for me and is now irritates me a bit. Now I am thinking the touch keyboard still is not as good as a regular keyboard.

I also noticed some unique features that I liked in the phone that included a short-cut to shut off my data without going into the settings app, the health app that can chart how many steps I day I walk and the location, distance, time, speed and calorie burn on my bike rides. It is kind a neat to hear a voice speaking English with a Chinese accent as the health app talks to you at different times during the bike ride. The emotions icon in addition to the standard happy faces, it had animated gifs like a happy dance to share that I thought was neat. 


Migrating all my stuff from the Samsung 8 phone was very simple. Since Android is Google based it works with all their apps so my music and photos can be access on either phone. My contacts required a Bluetooth pairing between the two to transfer the contact data.


The phone retails for $1,050 at Koodo which is a little steep for a phone that will last 2-3 years based on the current shell design. My demo cracked in the first week. The cost of the Leica 3 lens camera is a factor in the big ticket price for this phone. So at this price Huawei should provide a rubber sleeve accessory for this steep price so the phone does not break. Next phone on my list is the BB Android smartphone with the pull-out keyboard.



Friday, October 12, 2018

If you been around the digital space long enough you know you will learn something new all the time. It is an endless learning cycle and it keeps your instincts sharp as the digital space is still a can worms as you never know what’s going to happen.




One problem that I have encountered that is growing is what happens if you get a bad Internet reputation and your domain name is labeled as spam. This bad Internet reputation may be the result of you being hacked and your domain was used for hacker activity. I have heard stories of email providers shutting down your account when the filters think it is spam. This has made the use of email sometimes unreliable, as legitimate emails never get to you. Yeah a phone or text follow-up is 100% reliable.


The spam filters today just not look at the email address it also looks at the content for any suspicious URLs in the message and attachments. So if you have a bad internet reputation they will block it. Spam filters will also look at the bounce rates of your emails as part of the criteria they use to determine if your message was spam. So a high bounce rate is a red flag for the latest spam filters. For example the Gmail spam filter labels some emails promotional now, but not spam and if you are blocked on Gmail you have a big problem as your list may contain 10-20% gmail addresses.



What can you do to remedy this problem?


First you have to identify how bad your reputation on the internet. To see if you have a bad internet reputation there are free tools that allows you to test your email with all the various spam filters that are in the digital ecosystem. I tried out Glockapps and it is a good tool and has a free trial option. This allows you to evaluate your reputation before sending so you can make the appropriate adjustments. The solution offers advice on content structure and the use of links and images.


If your domain is being blocked after this test you have a big problem as your domain name has a bad reputation and you will need to get it whitelisted somehow with all the various spam filters. An impossible task as there are just too many spam filters out there..


The remedy is to transfer your website domain to a new server and then repopulate it on the Internet, but if you have old code you will be still vulnerable to hacker attacks. So always have the latest security patches on your website.


This is a big investment of time and money to transfer your domain, but before you do this there is a white hat workaround and it is to use a different domain or to camouflage the URL with another one that redirects to your website for your emails. You can do this until your Internet reputation improves, but this is only a short-term workaround. But some systems now outright ban the use of this practice. Services like that are used by hackers are now being blocked in some ad ecosystems.


While we all support better security on the internet, spam filter technology still gets it wrong sometimes and the deployment of AI is supposedly raises the bar for reliably, in theory. But I live by the rule that we are only 50% right of the time.  It appears the decision making of inclusiveness by security professionals is like the government, by catering to a small segment everybody else suffers the consequences. But there is gotta be a better way to thwart off hacker attacks to your website, unfortunately this is the new normal on the Internet.


I invite you to join me this year on November 14 as I will moderating the State of Digital Seminar as part of the COPAs  this year. It will explore the next generation of ad solutions in the digital space that will touch on the use of geo-demographic targeting online, content sponsorship and an ad wizard for best practices.

About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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