Thursday, February 28, 2008

Amazon has quietly entered the video hosting and monetization game with Your Video Widget.

Your Video Widget allows any registered Amazon Affiliate to upload a video and then select products that can be displayed as the video progresses (demo above). Video content can be anything from a product review through to a holiday video, but there are some restrictions; users can not include a URL in the video, or feature availability, price, or alternative ordering/shipping information for any product in the video itself, on top of the usual porn and piracy restrictions. Users can pick any products they would like to be displayed, with Amazon suggesting only that they work better if they have some context to the video, and that no two products can appear within 10 seconds of each other.

Like all Amazon Affiliate related advertising, the ads served are paid as a percentage of generated sales, and are not offered on a CPC or CPM basis.

Maximum file size is 100mb, length 10 minutes, and accepted formats are avi, flv, mov, mpg, wmv.

Amazon Video Widgets do not come with a central portal where you are able to view videos YouTube style, so this product wont compete in that space. For those looking at new ways of monetizing their videos, be it either because they are unable to sign up to YouTube’s program, or are not getting good results from YouTube, Amazon Video Widgets provide another path to video monetization.

(via Dave Zatz)

Crunch Network: CrunchBoard because it’s time for you to find a new Job2.0

Orkut “Crush” Worm

I’m a little behind the times, catching up on my email, but I thought I’d post this first since it’s probably some of the most interesting stuff. Keyshor just sent me an interesting snippet related to another Orkut worm that I’m affectionately calling “Crush” given the mode of transport, which is the Orkut crush. Here’s Keyshor’s email (cleaned up slightly):

This is the vulnerable scrap

Find out who has crush on u….

wait 4 few minutes after pressing enter

Author–> Coder>:)

Just copy the JavaScript, paste it in your address bar and PRESS ENTER


Trust me, ITS WORKING!!!

The site is down now, but I threw up the JavaScript source in the list of XSS worms so people could check it out. I was able to pull another version that was still alive here. It also appears that it may at least at one point have been a greasemonkey plugin by the headers, which is an interesting way to debug your DHTML malware, I suppose. Anyway, great snippet for those who want to do some more analysis.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cross-submissions via robots.txt on

Posted by Prashanth Koppula, Product Manager

Last spring, the Sitemaps protocol was expanded to include the autodiscovery of Sitemaps using robots.txt to let us and other search engines supporting the protocol know about your Sitemaps. We subsequently also announced support for Sitemap cross-submissions using Google Webmaster Tools, making it possible to submit Sitemaps for multiple hosts on a single dedicated host. So it was only time before we took the next logical step of marrying the two and allowing Sitemap cross-submissions using robots.txt. And today we're doing just that.

We're making it easier for webmasters to place Sitemaps for multiple hosts on a single host and then letting us know by including the location of these Sitemaps in the appropriate robots.txt.

How would this work? Say for example you want to submit a Sitemap for each of the two hosts you own, and For simplicity's sake, you may want to host the Sitemaps on one of the hosts, For example, if you have a Content Management System (CMS), it might be easier for you to change your robots.txt files than to change content in a directory.

You can now exercise the cross-submission support via robots.txt (by letting us know the location of the Sitemaps):

a) The robots.txt for would include:

b) And similarly, the robots.txt for would include:

By indicating in each individual host's robots.txt file where that host's Sitemap lives you are in essence proving that you own the host for which you are specifying the Sitemap. And by choosing to host all of the Sitemaps on a single host, it becomes simpler to manage your Sitemaps.

We are making this announcement today on as a joint effort. To see what our colleagues have to say, you can also check out the blog posts published by Yahoo! and Microsoft.

The real reason Google's clicks are flat

From SEO Black Hat:

Google reduced the clickable area on Adsense text ads ... Before, a user could click anywhere on the ad and be brought to the
destination. After the changes, users have to click on something that looks like a hyperlink.

"The CTR on text ads declined about 60% in the last 2 months with Googles changes, Image ads on the other hand stayed the same."

- January 4th, 2008 Marcus of

4 months later, that little back and forth in the Google Rec Room shaved about $85 Billion (with a B) in market capitalization.

But it wasn't as stupid an idea as it might seem. You see, Adsense works in a Quasi-market place environment. The market will bid up the cost per click once the adjustment for accidental clicks is readjusted. Right now, marketers should be getting a better value per click as a higher percentage of the clicks are "real" or intentional. That will lead to higher bids per click and ultimately should be close to a break even for GOOGs bottom line.

Is the Sky Really Falling?

The problem is that in the interim, GOOG gives almost not Guidance to the stock market. Mutual Fund types are really too thick to grasp exactly what's going on, so they think that this "slowing" in the growth has to do with the potential recession effecting GOOG.

Meanwhile, the real story is that Online Advertising Spending will continue to grow at about 30% per year for at least the next 3 years and GOOG is poised to take a disproportionate amount of that growth even if nothing else they do is even marginally successful.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The U.S. Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on Stupid IP Court Decisions

For those of you who read my blog, you know that I hate software patents. My partner, Jason Mendelson, began fighting me on this back in 2000 when we began working together, but a scant eight years later, he’s joined me in the crusade.  In fact, he’ll be arguing this position on March 4th at the Silicon Flatirons event.  Lawyers (oops, sorry Jason, ex-lawyers) are so quick to change their thinking.

Anyway, from the news of the absurd, Jason pointed out the EU court has determined that the word “Parmesan” is a protected name for cheese made solely in the Italian city of Parma.  Never mind that the past 800 years of cheese production from this city hasn’t cause a stir, but evidently now, it’s big business. 

And before you comment about Champagne / Sparkling Wine trademark decisions, yeah, these are stupid too.

At least the U.S. isn’t alone.

Mar 14, 2008: megadeath and machine head live in concert at palace ground, bangalore

possibly the biggest metal concert ever held in india

Tell your visitors they are being tracked with web beacons & cookies as AdSense terms updated

It's that time again, the update of the AdSense terms & conditions as well as the program policies. Now, everyone has to agree to the new terms and conditions, and then don't forget that when you approved the terms and conditions, you automatically accepted the policies as well. Sorry for the slight delay, I was enroute to SMX, and was about 10 minutes from leaving for the airport when AdSense first blogged that today was the new Terms drop day. Thank you to all those publishers who forwarded copies of the terms & conditions to me, it was much appreciated and gave me something to do on the flight!

First, let's start with the policies.

Product-Specific Policies

The only change here was that they added AdSense for Video, linking to a new policies page here. The HTML coding was done incorrectly so you may not be able to view this change, and will see the updated date of February 2008 linked to the page instead.

Now, onto the changes to the AdSense Terms & Conditions, which are much more tedious!

One notable change is the fact that Google has changed all the terminology in the Terms and Conditions from "sites" to "properties" when referring to where publishers are placing their advertisements. This change was likely made to accommodate those publishers who are placing ads within their own videos. So I won't detail every instance the only change was made to make it from Site(s) to Property(ies) since they are numerous and they were all changed.

While the majority of changes were due to the addition of AdSense for Video, there were some other changes, as detailed below.

1. Program Participation

The first change is a very minor one, the change is made on italics.

Participation in the Program is subject to Google's prior approval and Your continued compliance with the Program Policies...

And the next part is a pretty big change and addition, I have bolded a very significant change:

agree that Google may serve (a) third party and/or Google provided advertisements and/or other content (such third party provided advertisements, Google provided advertisements and other content, collectively, "Ads"), provided, however, that if Google serves non-compensated content, You will have the ability to opt out of receiving such content as part of the Program, (b) related Google queries and/or Ad search box(es) (collectively, “Links†), (c) Google Web and/or Site search results (collectively, "Search Results"), and/or (d) Google referral Ads (“Referral Buttons†), each in connection with the Web site(s), media player(s), video content and/or mobile content that You designate, or such other properties expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail) (such other properties, “Other Properties†), and the Atom, RSS, or other feeds distributed through such Web site(s) , media player(s), video content, mobile content and/or Other Properties (each such Web site, media player, video content, mobile content, Other Property or feed, a "Property"). For the avoidance of doubt, any reference in this Agreement or the Program Policies to an individual “Web page†, “Web site†, “Web site page†or the like that is part of the Property will also mean feeds and media players distributed through such Web site. Multiple accounts held by the same individual or entity are subject to immediate termination unless expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail). In some circumstances expressly authorized in writing by Google (including by electronic mail), You may enroll in the Program and create an account for the sole purpose of receiving payment from Google, and not, for purposes of clarification, for the purpose of displaying Ads, Links, Search Results and/or Referral Buttons on a Property. If, however, You subsequently use your Account to participate in the Program (i.e. for the purpose of displaying Ads, Links, Search Results and/or Referral Buttons on a Property), then such use of the Program will be governed by the terms of this Agreement. You must have and abide by an appropriate privacy policy that clearly discloses that third parties may be placing and reading cookies on your users’ browser, or using web beacons to collect information, in the course of ads being served on your website. Your privacy policy should also include information about user options for cookie management.

WOW. So now all publishers must have a privacy policy simply for showing AdSense ads. I would be willing to bet about 99.99% of all AdSense publishers are currently in violation of this one. And it is a very "big brother is watching" all encompassing one, to boot. I will create an AdSense-friendly privacy policy for publishers to use, if they'd like, since now I will have to make one for my own websites. But WOW.

This section also means that any feeds a publisher distributes on the site, as well as any media etc will be covered under the "Property(ies)" designation in the new terms.

2. Implementation and Operation of Ads, Search Results, and Referrals.

Interestingly, they didn't change the heading of this section to include AdSense for Video, despite it being added as a subsection.

AdSense for Search

Curiously, they removed "Each Web page(s) that contains a Search Box must also contain other content related to Your Site." So this means that publishers can create pages that have nothing other than a search box, which also means many websites currently in violation of this policy are now perfectly legal in the eyes of AdSense.

Also, I have bolded an addition here:

You will send any and all queries (without editing, filtering, truncating, appending terms to or otherwise modifying such queries individually or in the aggregate) to Google

I would guess that some non-compliant publishers were truncating longtail searches to higher paying short tail searches (ie. changing "loans for single moms texas" to "loans"). Likewise, some publishers might have been inserting higher paying keywords into searches done by their users (ie. changing "Texas" to "Texas loans").

They also made a slight wording change from "(without editing, modifying, or filtering such queries individually or in the aggregate)" to "without editing, filtering, truncating, appending terms to or otherwise modifying such queries individually or in the aggregate".

They have also stressed the fact that the Google search results pages hosted by Google can change in appearance at any time, by adding the following bolded part.

and the format, look and feel of those Web pages hosted by Google may be modified by Google from time to time.

AdSense for Content

The following has been removed:

In addition, You agree that while You may display more than one (1) Ad Unit on each Site Web page, You shall not display any Ad Unit on a page that contains Ads associated with another Google AdSense customer (e.g., Your Web hosting company), unless authorized to do so by Google.

Essentially, this means that now if you are a webhost monetizing with AdSense, that your hosting customers will now be able to also place their own AdSense on those pages, without having to seek permission to do so (although granted, most didn't get permission for it anyway).


The following has been removed:

Each Web page(s) that contains a Referral Button must also contain other content related to Your Site.

Well, I can't say this is a good move from a user experience point of view. But it is from a publisher point of view... because now you can publish pages with absolutely no content but a referral ad unit button on the page. I can already see pay per click advertisers jumping on this one to test conversions on it, now that you don't have to have anything else on the page to distract a visitor with.

Another minor change in bold:

End users who click on a Referral Button will be directed to a Web page that may be hosted by Google

The previous version said "will".

AdSense for Video

This entire section was added:

AdSense for Video. If you have elected to use AdSense for Video, Your participation is subject to your continued compliance with the AdSense for Video Program policies located at or the URL as Google may provide from time to time. All Ads (including Ads served in response to end user clicks on and queries entered into Links, if any) shall be (1) grouped by Google and displayed with Links (where applicable) to end users of the Property(ies) as Ad Unit(s) or (2) pre-, post- or interstitial roll in connection with third party video content, in each case in standard formats as offered generally by Google from time to time, as may be further described in the applicable policies. You acknowledge and agree that the Ads will be displayed on the Property in a video format approved by Google, and that such Ads: (i) shall only be displayed in connection with the Property(ies) and non-advertisement video content (collectively “Video Media†), all of which is subject to review and approval by Google in its discretion at any time; and (ii) shall only be requested in connection with end user initiated Video Media. In addition, You agree that You may only display one (1) Ad Unit within Your media player at any single time, unless otherwise approved by Google in writing.

General; Serviced Pages; Filtering; Beta Features.

This section was renamed from just "General".

The following was removed:

If You have elected to receive content or Site-based Ads, You further agree not to display on any Serviced Page any non-Google content-targeted advertisement(s). If You have elected to receive Search Results on any Site(s), You agree that Google will be the exclusive provider of Internet search services on such Site(s).

So you are welcone to use another search service on your sites alongside AdSense for Search. Again, a curious decision, and wondered if they removed it as they pretty much already dominate the smaller publishers with their search service.

They also changed the wording on the beta feature offerings, which was previously unnamed as beta features. They removed:

Google may also include in certain services features which are unsupported under Google's then current technical documentation. Such features are provided "as is" and Your use of them shall be undertaken solely at Your own risk.

And replaced it with:

"Some Program features are identified as “Beta†or otherwise unsupported (“Beta Features†). To the fullest extent permitted by law, Beta Features are provided "as is" and at Your option and risk. You shall not disclose to any third party any information from Beta Features, existence of non-public Beta Features or access to Beta Features.

Now, this is a tricky one. This means that if you are given a beta feature to test out, you cannot tell anyone you are testing it, or that it even exists. Makes people like me not want to be in the betas so we can blog about it! Hopefully people will still blab ;) But many of the beta features are easily spottable to the trained eye.

3. Communications Solely with Google

No changes were made to this section.

4. Parties' Responsibilities

No changes were made to this section.

5. Prohibited Uses

The following bolded part was added.

You shall not, and shall not authorize or encourage any third party to: (i) directly or indirectly generate queries, Referral Events, or impressions of or clicks on any Ad, Link, Search Result, or Referral Button (including without limitation by clicking on “play†for any video Ad) through any automated, deceptive, fraudulent or other invalid means, including but not limited to through repeated manual clicks, the use of robots or other automated query tools and/or computer generated search requests, and/or the unauthorized use of other search engine optimization services and/or software;

Not really much of a surprise there, don't encourage video clicks, just like you don't encourage clicks on the regular AdSense ads.

And in the second point of that section, additions are bolded:

edit, modify, filter, truncate or change the order of the information contained in any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button, or remove, obscure or minimize any Ad, Link, Ad Unit, Search Result, or Referral Button in any way without authorization from Google;

Makes you wonder what they are allowing some publishers to test!

And another change under the things publishers cannot do, this time what is in bold was removed from the new terms.

display any Ad(s), Link(s), or Referral Button(s) on any error page, on any registration or "thank you" page (e.g., a page that thanks a user after he/she has registered with the applicable Web site), on any chat page, in any email, or on any Web page or any Web site that contains any pornographic, hate-related, violent, or illegal content;

Is that the sound of publishers adding AdSense to chat pages, emails, 404 pages, registration pages and thank you pages? I think so!

Under point iv, they removed:

(e.g., while Search Results may be indirectly accessed from Your Site(s), they may only be displayed on the appropriate Google-hosted Web page);

This merely brings it in-line with the fact you can now host your own results pages, although the results are still served by Google.

They have also added:

(ix) disseminate malware; (x) create a new account to use the Program after Google has terminated this Agreement with You as a result of your breach of this Agreement; or

Not really surprising, malware=bad and the second is for those publishers who try to sneakily get a new AdSense account after being suspended / terminated.

6. Termination; Cancellation

No changes were made.

7. Confidentiality

No changes were made.

8. No Guarantee

The following was added:

In addition, for the avoidance of doubt, Google does not guarantee the Program will be operable at all times or during any down time (i) caused by outages to any public Internet backbones, networks or servers, (ii) caused by any failures of Your equipment, systems or local access services, (iii) for previously scheduled maintenance or (iv) relating to events beyond Google’s (or its wholly owned subsidiaries’) control such as strikes, riots, insurrection, fires, floods, explosions, war, governmental action, labor conditions, earthquakes, natural disasters, or interruptions in Internet services to an area where Google (or its wholly owned subsidiaries) or Your servers are located or co-located.

Wow, I think they covered just about everything. I find it interesting they added issues on the publisher's end... wonder if a publisher got cranky with Google when it was their own hosting that was down, and not anything related to Google having problems serving ads.

9. No Warranty

The following in bold was added:


10. Limitations of Liability; Force Majeure.

No changes were made.

11. Payment

The part that said Google will not pay for "Google advertisements for its own products and/or services (excluding payments based on completed Referral Events);" was removed.

The following was added:

From time to time Google may be holding funds, payments and other amounts due to You in connection with the AdSense Program. You acknowledge and agree that Google may, without further notice to You, contribute to a charitable organization selected by Google all funds, payments and other amounts related to the AdSense Program that are held by Google and that are due to you (if any), but which Google is unable to pay or deliver to You because Your account is Inactive (as defined below). “Inactive†means that, based on Google’s records: (a) for a period of two (2) years or more You have not logged into your account or accepted funds, payments or other amounts that Google has attempted to pay or deliver to You, and (b) Google has been unable to reach You, or has not received adequate payment instructions from You, after contacting You at the address shown in Google’s records.

I am guessing they have had issues with publisher deaths when they do not receive details on paying out to the estate, etc.

12. Publicity

No changes were made to this section.

13. Representations and Warranties

The change to this is for the video ads.

In addition, to the extent that Your Site is a media player (1) You represent and warrant that You have a valid license to use and distribute such media player (including all content therein, including without limitation any Ads or Ad Units) for the purposes of this Agreement and the Program; and (2) You shall ensure that any media player(s) that constitute the Site shall comply with the terms and conditions set forth herein. You further represent and warrant that each Property and any material displayed therein: (i) comply with all applicable laws, statutes, ordinances, and regulations; (ii) do not breach and have not breached any duty toward or rights of any person or entity including, without limitation, rights of intellectual property, publicity or privacy, or rights or duties under consumer protection, product liability, tort, or contract theories; and (iii) are not pornographic, hate-related or otherwise violent in content.

Most of this is pretty obvious, but you know at least one publisher will try and upload a celebrity porn tape and put AdSense on it!

14. Your Obligation to Indemnify.

No changes made to this section.

15. Google Rights

Addition in bold:

You acknowledge that Google owns all right, title and interest, including without limitation all Intellectual Property Rights (as defined below), in and to the Program (including Google's ad serving technology, search technology, referral technology, and Brand Features, including implied licenses, and excluding items licensed by Google from third parties

And more minor changes:

You will not remove, obscure, or alter Google's copyright notice, Brand Features, or other proprietary rights notices affixed to or contained within any Google services, software, or documentation (including without limitation the display of Google’s Brand Features with Ads, Links, Search Boxes, Search Results, and/or Referral Buttons, as applicable).

16. Information Rights

17. Miscellaneous

No changes were made.

Whew! That's all folks! Sorry for the delay, I was traveling to SMX and was working on this on the airplane and finishing it up in the hotel. Sorry for any air turbulence typos! What is your take on the changes?


LinkSpank. It sounds kinda naughty, and it could be if you try hard enough to make it so–but really it’s just a site about sharing content that you find interesting. If you find something on LinkSpank that you enjoy, spank it. Yes, that’s both “enjoy” and “spank” used together in the same sentence, in regards to social bookmarking.

Now, spanking isn’t merely voting for a submission, but sharing, too. So you can’t really spank anything without sending it to your friends, via email. There are some other actions available with the spanking option, such as posting it to your wall, attaching another spank, and adding an embedded item (like a video). These other options encourage users to form deeper discussions around the submissions found throughout LinkSpank, but the process could stand to be a little more straight forward.

The bulk of the activity on LinkSpank, however, is circling your inbox. Think of your LinkSpank profile as in Inbox of sorts, where you get to send and receive individual recommendations between friends. In the end, you get double your pleasure, because all the items sent to you via spank will also show up in your real inbox–you know, the one that you used when you signed up for LinkSpank in the first place. This can probably get to be too much for most users; it’s kind of like having all your Twitter alerts come to your mobile, and your inbox is full within 25 minutes. To curb any issues you may have with this, LinkSpank, just like Twitter, gives you settings for your actual email alerts.


The biggest downfall with LinkSpank, however, is its hub approach to sharing content. It’s similar to a UPS shipping method, where all the packages are sent to a central hub, and dispersed from there. So you’re collecting items from across the web, saving them in LinkSpank, and emailing them out to friends accordingly. This is somewhat odd, because most web content can be mailed to friends directly, or shared on Facebook, etc.

But I see what LinkSpank is doing, here. The hub acts as a catchall for all the content you’d ever want to share, keeping it organized and accessible to users at any point in the future. I know how frustrating it is to sift through my Gmail looking for that link that Adam sent me last week, but if I could just do a simple search on LinkSpank (if Adam had shared the link with me through LinkSpank), the search process could be cut short. That is, in fact, why LinkSpank operates along the same lines as your inbox.

I’ll continue to try it out to see if its search and organization purposes warrant LinkSpank as a replacement to my social bookmarking tools, like Digg, and my Gmail, but be sure to let me know what you think as well.


Many See AdSense Income Dropping

I have been hearing and reading a lot of reports about decreased income from AdSense. A recent detailed post on the topic was done over at WebMasterWorld.

Barry Schwartz and the SERoundtable crew polled publishers at the beginning of the month and found that 63% have noted a drop in their AdSense income.

Add to that the changes in the T&Cs where sites that don't meet impression and click numbers will be terminated from the AdSense program and you have some serious changes to the AdSense landscape.

Has Google finally gotten to the point where they feel they can cut back their publishers? Have they started to thin the herd by making the pay outs lower? Or have the bigger publishers started to take all of the higher paying ads, leaving the rest of the publishers a much lower paying pool of ads to run?

Other possibilities are Google is pushing their newer ad styles such as video - with drops in text maybe publishers will feel more inclined to run the other options....

Is Google not getting enough people embracing the new ad types?

Have the little publishers served their purpose now that Google has many of the once suspicious large publishers?

Has policing small sites become too much work?

The future direction of AdSense seems to be changing. Where it now plans to go is something they should be sharing with the people who helped get them to where they are today.

I would love some input.... losing AdSense income, tried the newer ad formats, have an opinion? Post comments here.

Michael Samuel on Caja

Michael Samuel on Caja
27 min - Feb 26, 2008

Google Tech Talks
February, 25 2008


Caja is a type of "JavaScript sanitizer" that is being tightly integrated with OpenSocial to reduce the chance of Gadgets performing malicious actions like phishing the users or interfering with other gadgets. MySpace plans to REQUIRE gadgets to be caja-safe before they can run on their platform. For developers, the process of making their gadgets caja-safe can require changing some of their coding techniques, especially in terms of interaction with the DOM. Mike Samuel of the Caja team will describe Caja in more detail, as well as how developers can "cajole" their gadgets to be caja-safe.

Speaker: Michael Samuel

Monday, February 25, 2008

Add Google Talk Badge To Your Blog and Chat with Readers Live

google-talk-websitesLike Meebo Me, Google Talk now allows you to chat with people who may not have signed up for Google Talk or a Google Account.

This is possible through a new Google Talk Chat Badge that bloggers can embed in their web pages to chat live with blog readers and other site visitors.

It really doesn’t matter whether your readers have a Google Talk account or not - they can talk to you through the web page as long as you are signed into your GTalk account. (Also read "Add Live Chat To Your Blog")


Another use of Google Talk - If you run a support website where you provide live support to customers via IM, Google Talk could be a wonderful option for you because its free and definitely very reliable.

The Google Talk chat badge on the blog will be automatically disabled if you set your Google Talk status as "Busy". And you chat with more than one person at the same time as each session will open in a separate tab (see screenshot).

Google Talk Chatback Badget | GoogleTalk Blog | Thanks Haochi.

Related: Run Google Talk in Firefox Sidebar

Add Google Talk Badge To Your Blog and Chat with Readers Live - Digital Inspiration

30+ Resources For Enjoying And Learning About Wine


Evidence seems to continue to mount that wine is beneficial to your health, and besides that, it’s just darn enjoyable to sit down with friends and a bottle. Fortunately, the subject of wine is covered well online and quite prominent in the social networking arena. We’ve gathered up 30+ resources to help you learn about wine, talk with other experts and neophytes, and locate that bottle your heart has been desiring.



Microsoft: ROI Measurement is Broken; We'll Fix It

Microsoft today announced the release of a new ROI measurement tool called "engagement mapping." Rather than measure ROI based on the last ad a user clicks, Microsoft's new tool attempts to take into account all the interactions with a company's marketing message and brand that may have lead up to a purchase or other user action.

According to a press release, Microsoft's new engagement mapping tool assigns and measures value "on a real-time basis and takes into account the impact that recency, frequency, size and ad format (such as rich media and video) have on a consumer’s online path to action."

"The 'last ad clicked' is an outdated and flawed approach because it essentially ignores all prior interactions the consumer has with a marketer's message," said Brian McAndrews, senior vice president of the advertiser and publisher solutions unit at Microsoft. "Our Engagement Mapping approach conveys how each ad exposure -- whether display, rich media or search, seen multiple times on multiple sites and across many channels -- influenced an eventual purchase."

McAndrews was formerly the chief executive at aQuantive, an online advertising firm Microsoft acquired last year for $6 billion. Microsoft will unveil the new program today at the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference and it will be available in beta on March 1.

What It Means

This is all part of the continuing shake up in the online ad industry. New web technologies and advertising formats have forced the online ad industry to seek innovative new ways to measure web traffic and audience engagement. For example, last July, one of the web's leading audience measurement firms, Nielsen//NetRatings, announced that it was canning the page view in favor of a 'time spent on page' metric. Compete (a RWW sponsor) has a metric called 'engagement', which measures things like Daily Attention and Average Stay.

Microsoft's engagement mapping tool is a continuation of the evolution we're seeing in online audience measurement techniques. All of these changes have a profound effect on publishers, and generally have a positive effect for small publishers -- those who don't generate a lot of page views, but serve a specific niche and may deliver higher ROI. Better ROI measurement tools can help that type of publisher maximize their ad earnings.

On the flip side, they help advertisers better place ads to bring a higher return on investment. Rather than throwing page views at an advertising campaign, new measurement tools are helping publishers to better pick the best places and methods to advertise.

The Future

This type of engagement mapping tool will become really powerful when it can measure not only ad views that lead to a purchase, but also any other type of online or social interaction. This is probably the end game that Facebook is aiming at with Beacon. Imagine the value advertisers could derive from a tool that looks at how your online activity leads up to a purchase. I.e., did you see a friend talk about the product on a Facebook wall post? Did you read a blogged review? Did you see the product talked about in a YouTube video? Did you look at any ads when all that was happening?

There are already companies starting toward that goal right now -- Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Andiamo!, and Scout Labs come to mind -- but none of them thus far offer a really complete picture of how social interactions lead individuals to purchase (or not) a product or service. Once those puzzle pieces fit together, and consumer concerns over things like privacy are sorted, the online advertising industry will really start to mature. Rather than buying ads based on volume, advertisers will be able to very closely design and target ads to specific consumers -- which means we'll see very relevant advertising. That's all-at-once creepy and exciting.

What do you think? Is Microsoft's new engagement mapping tool a step in the right direction for ROI measurement? Do you agree with our guess at the future? Let us know in the comments.