Hot Topics in Digital Media – Digital East 2010

I think we all have a tendency to get hyper focused on our individual areas of expertise.   We live most of our business lives working in the trenches of our day to day issues and the “weeds” of our particular niches.   It is important every once in a while to pop your head up and take a look around to see what issues others are dealing with in the more broader industry.   I did that yesterday when I attended Digital East 2010 in Tyson’s Corner Virginia (outside of Washington DC).

Digital East was a first annual digital media event whose goal was to promote forward thinking and thought leadership on topics related to internet technologies.  Organized by TechMedia, a leading media organization that has been organizing conferences, media, and networking forums in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions since 2001, the event was well planned, and well attended.


The first session I attended was on Mobile Apps and Location based services.  Panelists included Jason Fulmines (Director of Mobile Products for Gannett Digital), Matt Myers (CMO & Co-Founder of Shooger), Scott Suhy (Co-Founder & CEO of PointAbout), Ken Yarmosh (O’Reilly Author & Mobile Strategist) and was moderated by Matt Gillis (Senior Vice President of Business Development at Millennial Media).

The main take away from this session was that mobile is here and everyone is working on their business strategies of how to thrive in the new mobile and tablet based world.  They had some good tips and advice for building and marketing mobile apps.

  • HTML 5 is the future, learn it now.
  • Utilize browser detect on your current sites to identify mobile users and promote your mobile apps to them.
  • Understand your corporate goals, market and demographics up front before tackling a mobile project.
  • Understand the fast pace of mobile adoption
  • Do something mobile NOW, start the learning process, get to market, get feedback and look for ROI

The downside to mobile apps: They are disposable, most are not used after 21 days and most are not opened a 2nd time. 99.9 percent of apps won’t make more than $5 thousand dollars.

Usability & Design

The second session I attended was on Usability & Design.  Panelists included Darren Mauro (Director of Product Management for CustomInk), Kelley McDonald (Director of Information Architecture for NavigationArts), Craig Sauerwalt (Director of Online Marketing for Sylvan Learning), Emily Jerome Schroeder (Usability Analyst for AutoTrader), and was moderated by Drew Diskin (Director of Interactive Marketing & Web Strategy for The University of Pennsylvania Health System).

This topic was a big one for the group, standing room only.  The bottom line here was test, test, test.  In this day and age, with all the tools available for usability testing there is no reason why companies shouldn’t be testing and optimizing all the time.  Here are some of the tips and comments:

  • No excuses today for not getting real customer feedback
  • The Redesign is Dead. Sites are not static objects, you have to always be tweaking and testing for optimal performance.
  • Where content is concerned, focus on quality, more isn’t always more, often times in this area less (but good and effective content) is looking better and better.
  • Truly excellent content comes from attention to detail, everyone needs to focus more effort on the quality of their site content.
  • Determine the purpose of a page before designing it.

Online Advertising

The third session was about Online Advertising.  Panelists included Alycia Kampetis Bar-Av (Director of Online Brand Marketing for Hilton Hotels & Resorts), Gregory Dale (COO, comScore), Bryan Gernert (CEO, Resonate Networks), Edward Montes (CEO, Adnetik), and was moderated by Mary Innis (Partner, Barnes & Thornburg LLP).

The session provided a good overview of the changing landscape of online advertising.  Here are a few interesting nuggets:

  • 80 percent of people have never clicked on a banner ad
  • There is a major move towards audience based advertising and a need for better management tools in this area
  • Privacy and data utilization are a hot topic, the FTC says the industry needs to self regulate or be regulated.  The initiative is trying to tackle this.
  • More time needs to be spent on planning, determining what is “success”,  and knowing how you will measure the results before setting up campaigns.

Venture Capital View Point

Unfortunately I missed the Venture Capital session with John Backus (Founder & Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures), Philip Bronner (General Partner, Novak Biddle), Don Rainey (General Partner, Grotech Ventures), Mark Rostick (Director at Intel Capital), moderated by Andrew M. Ray (Partner, Bingham).

It is always good to hear what the VCs are seeing and doing in the marketplace.  Here are some of the tweet highlights from this session:

  • Interesting opportunities in the cloud computing space and small business tools for e-commerce.
  • Biggest 2011 Trends in VC: Consumer-driven health-care, e-commerce driving business strategies & time spent on mobile devices
  • There is more innovation than ever today and the need for venture capital to get in early is greater than ever.
  • The best companies are born in the hardest times

Social Media

The social media panel was very well attended.  Clearly social media was a hot topic.  Many pre-panel tweets were hoping to hear about more than Facebook and Twitter, but of course the social behemoths were hot topics.  On the panel were Shashi Bellamkonda (Director of Social Media for Network Solutions), Jon Carpenter (Director of Marketing for LivingSocial), Alexandra Nicholson (Social Media Strategist for USA Today), Sean Whiteley (VP of Product Marketing for, and was moderated by Stephanie Quay (Director of Business Development for Meebo).

Here are some of the highlights:

  • The opportunity to surprise and delight your customers is very high with social media and should be an important strategy
  • According to Bellamkonda “The best time to enter social media was a year ago, the 2nd best time was yesterday!”
  • A Facebook post is 6 times more valuable than a tweet
  • Look for Facebook optimization to be the next big thing.
  • Facebook Connect is a very powerful platform both for authentication and information sharing
  • Don’t fail big, start small

ESPN Keynote

Over lunch there was an engaging keynote from John Kosner, Senior Vice President and General Manager of ESPN Digital Media.  John sees ongoing market pressure to commoditize content and advertising.  Their challenge is to continue to create premium content and enhance the fan experience.  Their goal is to continuously surprise, excite and engage sports fans.

Kosner says that every time they launch a new service or app he is called into meetings to discuss potential cannibalization of other channels, but each time they improve the experience for the customer they audience always grows!

The most interesting and ingenious idea, in my mind, that Kosner shared was about the metric they use to measure success.  He said back in the day all the sites used to use “hits” as the measurement of site success and then drove ad sales based on these hits or unique visitors.  When AOL and Yahoo jumped into the sports game, their total site visitors were higher and they started attracting more advertising dollars.  ESPN decided that a more accurate analytic measurement would be visits multiplied by time on site.  This figure would more accurately show audience engagement and was a measurement that would allow ESPN to put it’s best foot forward to compete for ad dollars.  It also turned out to be a better measurement overall for content sites.


Another standing room only session was about analytics.  On the panel were Peter Corbett (CEO of iStrategy Labs), Adam Guy (Vice President of Client Services for Compete), Ted McDonald (Web Analytics Manager for CARFAX), Amy Sample (Director of Web Analytics for PBS), and was moderated by Gary Scruggs (Director of Digital Marketing Analytics for iCrossing).

Good analytics specialists are hard to come by and play an interesting role in today’s companies; they are part time quantity jockeys and part time politicians.   I continue to see real world examples where internal politics are killing some of the best opportunities for today’s companies. The analytics professionals are right in the middle, being asked to provide the data to support each internal group’s personal agenda.   The biggest issue they all face appears to be lack of resources.  For an online world where quality measurement, testing  and optimization are critical tools to beating your competition, companies appear to be underfunding the departments that best able to provide the critical information they need. The call for having an analytics professional in the c-suite was loud and clear.

Here are some interesting take-aways:

  • In the new world of social media and Facebook pages, site side analytics are able to show only part of the story.  Use of panel-based analytics and tracking codes make may offer some additional insight.
  • Site Surveys are becoming critical tools for getting real feedback and helping to prioritize internal efforts.
  • Large improvements can be gained by the continuous use of testing tools to better segment and target customers.
  • Attribution seems to be the political mantra of choice for internal teams fighting for budgets.


On the eCommerce panel were: David Horgan (Online Marketing Specialist for Smithsonian Folkways), Gio Hunt (CEO of, David Moldavsky (VP of Web Strategy and Operations for The Graduate Management Admissions Council), and was moderated by Scott Silverman (Co-Founder and VP of Marketing for ifeelgoods).

eCommerce is still growing!  In fact, the average online retailer is growing around 10 percent per year.  In 2010 eCommerce will reach 170 billion.  When you look at the market caps of etailers vs traditional retailers, the power of eCommerce becomes clear.  Amazon has 29B in revenue and a market cap of 73B, while Macy’s has 24B in revenue and their market cap is only $10B.  Gio Hunt from was interesting to hear and is an interesting company to watch.  It was nice to hear how they are utilizing performance marketing to drive revenues and value to their college student audience.

Here are some highlights:

  • Don’t overlook email marketing!
  • Facebook marketing can be great, but you need to approach it differently than other marketing channels.  Success advertising on Facebook takes considerable patience, methodical testing, and the use of different forms of creatives than other display advertising campaigns.
  • Ads with social features for sites that are social enabled could be a big area to watch going forward.

Search Marketing

The search marketing panel consisted of Heather Dougherty (Research Director for Experian Hitwise), Jordan Glogau (Search Marketing Director for 1-800-Flowers), Benjamin Rudolph (President & CEO, Relevance Advisors), Jiyan Wei (Dir Product Management for PRWeb), and was moderated by Andrew Bates (Manager of Client Services & Social Media Practice Lead for EyeTraffic Media)

I only caught about half of this one because I also wanted to peek my head into the Demo Showcase of new companies.  There were a few good take-aways and comments:

  • Google is the only product that when it doesn’t work we blame ourselves (typing in a new search query)
  • 59 percent of Fortune 1,000 CMOs expect to train search experts in house.
  • Companies need to cover paid and organic search for top keywords.  Think about it like the Yellow Pages, the organic listings are your alphabetical listing, and the paid listings are your ads.
  • PR supports organic search
  • Focus on conversion! It’s easier to double your conversions than it is to double your traffic.
  • Keep an eye on Social in the search results.  Real-time search and Facebook Bing partnerships will change the landscape.

DEMO Showcase

7 different start-up companies had the opportunity to showcase their new businesses in short elevator pitch style presentations.  I caught presentation for ZoomSafer, a smart and timely application that will save lives and help companies reduce their liability exposure by preventing corporate employees from texting and driving.  ZoneSafer’s patented technology suppresses text messages and disables all but the legal hands free calling capabilities of your phone while driving.  Other companies presenting were, ifeelgoods, Peruzer, RankAbove,  Soundtrackr, and Vertical Acuity.  I plan on spending some time to go back and visit their sites to see what they are up to.


The last session of the day that I attended was about online video.  On the panel were Lee Givens (Principal Product Manager for Mobile Applications at AOL), Kurt Merriweather (Director of Digital Media Business Development at Discovery Communications), Jeff Rule (Chief Interactive Strategist at Hanley Wood), and was moderated by Jeff Parsons (Director of Video Operations for the Associated Press).

The online video panel was top notch, even though it was at the end of a very long day.  Understanding that online video is now the 2nd largest online activity and that YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine, it is clear that video is an important topic for any online media company.  Here were some of the key highlights and takeaways:

  • H.264 has won the video web standard
  • 90 seconds to 3 minutes appears to be the sweet spot for videos
  • Keep an eye on mRSS, Video Syndication Sites and Video Meta-Data
  • HTML5 is important, check out for a good resource to learn more
  • 300 percent increase in time spent when video content was added according to Lee

After the sessions, Digital East attendees were invited next door to’s offices for some food, drink and networking.  It was great to see CustomInk’s offices, and it is amazing how big they have grown by offering the ability for people to upload images and get custom t-shirts printed online.  They claim to be the first company to offer online customizable screen printing.  Way to go!

Thanks for a great day of education and networking at Digital East.  If I didn’t meet you but should have, give me a shout!

About Adam Viener

Adam Viener is the Chairman & Founder of imwave, inc, a leading performance search engine marketing agency. Imwave focuses primarily on building and launching effective pay-per-click search engine keyword marketing campaigns for companies paying commissions on sales and leads generated. In 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012 Imwave was recognized as one of the fastest growing privately held companies by Inc. Magazine. Imwave recently announced they had served over 5 Billion ads for their clients!

Adam is also the founder of Yazing, a new site that not only pays you cash back on the things you buy online, but also lets you earn cash rewards recommending the top brands on the internet. Yazing gives you instant access to top commission rates from the leading online brands without having to join each affiliate network or program directly.

Adam, a serial internet entrepreneur, founded one of the first commercial internet service providers (ISPs) in 1993. He has a deep understanding of internet technologies and profitable internet marketing tactics.

Social Media:

Twitter: adamviener

6 Responses to Hot Topics in Digital Media – Digital East 2010

  1. @ericrbrown says:

    Analytics are key to strategy in online and in mobile. Perhaps the biggest challenge is education and then the distillation of data into actionable insights. I missed this event, but appreciate the summary.

  2. […] Hot Topics in Digital Media – Digital East 2010 ( […]

  3. @twtrphntm says:

    Agree with @ericbrown. Analytics are critical and real-time analytics become even more critical. The market needs a real-time version of SAS.

  4. @shashib says:

    Thanks Adam for covering Digital East and for the recap of my panel

  5. @kstickel says:

    Great overview of the event. – Thank you!

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