Friday, May 25, 2007

GS Internet Conference 2007

I attended the Goldman Sachs Internet Conference in Las Vegas this week. Anthony Noto, the lead research analyst at Goldman, puts together a great conference. He's whip-smart, gets great people to attend and present, and balances it all very nicely.

Over the two days, I saw presentations from Microsoft, Getty Images, Linden Lab, eBay, Tencent, LinkedIn, Viacom, Disney, Amazon, Glu Mobile, IAC, DemandMedia and Shanda. A very diverse and interesting group of public and private companies. The themes I noticed were obviously influenced by the presentations I chose to attend (media heavy, to say the least).

Some of the big themes:
  • Advertising. Display vs. search. How to crack mobile advertising/location? Diverging CPMs for premium vs. junk inventory. In-game ads. The DoubleClick and aQuantive deals where on everybody's mind. 
  • Fragmentation. Big sites losing traffic to more targeted small sites (sites with over 15 million monthly uniques were down 7.5% year-over-year). Usage is flat. Overall visits are down. The proverbial long tail is getting longer. Web 2.0 tools and Google Ad Sense are making it more frictionless for start-ups to get started up. DemandMedia's whole strategy is essentially an arb on internet ad platforms (particularly domains), monetizing fragmentation and pools of enthusiasm in verticals.
  • Access Platforms. As I discussed in my last post, the access platforms are getting stronger and stronger. Email, search, shopping, news, weather and maps are aggregating a larger and larger portion of overall traffic and therefore ads. Value of video search as explanation of Google/YouTube premium -- can't index video same way as HTML.
  • Games & Entertainment. Between Microsoft, Linden, Tencent, Viacom, Disney, DemandMedia, Shanda and Glu, gaming and entertainment was everywhere. High customer engagement is a very sought-after commodity, and games produce high engagement. Also, lure of in-game advertising.
  • Virtual Worlds & Avatar Chat. Everybody had a play. Viacom (Laguna Beach), Disney (Pirates, Fairies, ToonTown), even IAC (Zwingy). And of course, Shanda and Linden. And Tencent's QQ avatar chat.

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