Sunday, October 28, 2007

Why Microsoft is no Britney to Facebook's Paris

A story by John Naughton in today's Observer about Microsoft's recent investment in Facebook, Microsoft makes Facebook a club you don't want to join, actually made me want to write about my former employer (Microsoft), for the first time in ages.

Firstly, I'm slightly irritated I read the story as I've been so immersed in lovely literature, but the company names appearing together leapt out at me with the loathsome tabloid appeal of a night on the town with Paris Hilton and a knickerless Britney.

I was finally driven to blog about it by the final comment,

"And what does Microsoft gets for its money? Officially, the chance to sell internet ads for Facebook outside the United States. Unofficially, the chance to spit in Google's corporate eye."

Whilst they wouldn't want to miss out on another deal after Yahoo! had a good year of it last year and Google's acquisition of Youtube, the importance of Microsoft getting its hands on the Facebook ad inventory should not be underestimated, or the deal written off as a PR move.

As Ballmer has said, Microsoft are weak in the online ad market - certainly significantly less than 25% I could find as the last estimate of Google's ad share in the US. And I'm pretty sure that globally, Google are even more dominant online. Google's scale and dominance online mean that the kind of ad revenue they can generate for 3rd-party sites already outweighs that which Yahoo! and Microsoft can offer you for similar traffic (as I understand it), so it would have taken a chunk of change to buy into the opportunity.

And if, as it seems, Facebook shapes up to be the social network that captures the imagination of everyone online and especially graduates, white-collar workers and silver surfers, they've got a chunk of really valuable users to target their ads at with an extraordinary amount of behavioural data to get targetting to pinpoint accuracy, and an enormous and growing number of page views.

There's a round-up of reactions here. I think I'm with John Battelle - if this enables Microsoft to play in a new form of advertising with a rapidly growing, globally dominant player - it's a smart move. But then again, maybe that's what Britney's people said about those fatal nights with Paris (the smart move bit, not the rest. although on second thoughts...).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Not Writing But Reading

In my recent blogstipated silence, I have been enduring a long reading of Crash. My breath has been taken away by it many times, let alone for Ballard's vision and daring considering when the book was written - it revolves around characters' intense juxtapositions of sexuality and car crashes, but for a slim novel it takes some reading.

It is forming part of a self-imposed and quite satisfying reading list with On Chesil Beach being the last book I completed - although I positively inhaled McEwan's Booker-nominated novella rather than the wrestle I'm having with Crash. Full of wafts of unease and desire, meals uneaten and oranges peeled, On Chesil Beach is a documentary of a time of stifled sensuous pleasures, the main characters' passion only expressed through music and and the occasional pub fight - the noisy drama of both belying their animal natures contained by their history, time and circumstance. It is a book of fading cotton cardigans.

In contrast, when reading Crash, there are times when the taste of salt blood metal in my mouth is too unbearable for more than a few pages. Some of that is fear of who's reading over my shoulder on the Northern Line, I haven't been as conscious of being identified as a sexual pervert since American Psycho on the Circle Line.

On theme, I'm now teasing myself by casually stroking the soft smooth skin of the hardback cover of Exit Ghost as the next in the list. I can never wait 'til paperback time to buy the latest Roth novel but his age now means the reading of each novel has the tinge of a tender goodbye (see title) that I want to draw out as long as possible.