Tech/Media Travels in NYC

IGNITION at New York’s Time-Warner Center

A flurry of client activity kept me from this space last week, and this week looks like much of the same. I did manage to slip away from my office on Friday to attend two conferences: Ketchum’s Respect the Internet and Business Insider’s IGNITION. The first was held on Lafayette Street off Canal, while the second, at the Time Warner Center (pictured). So glad I have Plancast.

For the Ketchum event, the agency’s digital chief Jonathan Kopp and his forward-thinking colleagues pulled together a notable array of speakers by asking the question: “Is marketing ruining the Internet?” The subsequent conversations mostly revolved around “the role companies can (and should or should not) play in shaping online culture.”

Smart theme given that commercial pollution of the Internet may be second only to digital privacy when it comes to compromising the safety, neutrality and utility of the Internet for years to come.

I did sit through two sessions featuring, respectively, Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder, and a panel with Lilit Marcus, editor of, Irin Carmon, blogger for Jezebel (who broke the Duke sexcapades story), and our old friend from Newsweek N’Gai (“en-gay”) Croal, now toggling over at Edge Magazine for the gaming set.

Boing Boing founder/Make Magazine’s Mark Frauenfelder

I did grab some sound with Boing Boing Mark Frauenfelder who took the stage to talk about do-it-yourselfers and his Make magazine. It was fascinating to hear how the DIY community has truly flourished due to the Internet.

What used to be the exclusive domain of the large-circ monthlies PopSci and Pop Mechanics, now has myriad new online resources to empower tinkerers to their collective hearts’ delight. What’s more, the Web can help take their inventions to market. (Think Etsy, and then verticalize from there.) Take a listen to Mark here. (RT 2:30 +/-)

Jezebel’s Irin Carmon,’s Lilit Marcus, Edge’s N’Gai Croal

The next panel with Ms. Marcus, Ms Carmon and Mr. Croal set out to explore “gender, age and race bias in marketing, particularly around the gap between demographic perception and reality when it comes to some of the most important communities on the Web today.”

I was especially enamored with Irin Carmon who talked about the editorial freedom she has at the Gawker-owned Jezebel, at least compared to the mainstream magazines of monolithic publishers Time Inc., Conde Nast etc.

She said these latter publishers “have a lot more [ad] money at stake,” and therefore can’t push the envelope. Of course, Time-Warmer owned probably is an exception to that notion. As for stories and trends, Ms. Carmon pays considerable attention to Facebook. Mr. Croal expressed some surprise that Ms. Carmon was not a gamer, while Ms. Marcus let on that she has gotten to know the online resources for the hearing impaired community given that she grew up with parents who were deaf.

I had to make a quick exit to get uptown to catch the last few sessions of Business Insider’s two-day inaugural IGNITION event. Of course when I arrived, my two buddies, Beet.TV’s Andy Plesser and AOL’s Money & Finance’s mediawatcher Jeff Bercovici, were on their way out. They told me I missed all the good stuff. Oh well. Better late than never.

Kirk McDonald, Tom Phillips, Pete Stein and Jim Spanefeller

I was able to catch some digital advertising poo-bahs reach consensus on the notion that click-throughs, as a means for measuring advertising’s effectiveness, are a relic. On the panel were: Pete Stein, President, Razorfish, Tom Phillips, President & CEO, Media6Degrees and Kirk McDonald, President, Time Inc. Digital. Jim Spanfeller, Founder, Spanfeller Media Group, moderated.

I found Mr. Phillips especially tweetable, i.e., “The move toward programmatic buying of media is inexorable with the advent of better analytics.” I soon realized that I met Mr. Phillips several weeks earlier. We were seated together at a breakfast at Michaels hosted by AlwaysOn’s Tony Perkins.

What a career Phillips has had. I totally forgot that he was publisher of pioneering Spy Magazine alongside co-editors Graydon Carter and Kurt Anderson. We reminisced about Spy’s especially sardonic editorial send-off of my first boss Bobby Zarem who actually loved the piece and merchandised it to all his friends. Before taking the helm at Media6Degrees in 2009, Phillips worked at Google.

Ogilvy’s Carla Hendra

I then sat through DeepFocus’s Ian Schafer’s talk about his agency’s work for Bing on Zynga’s Farmville for which he exclaimed “Acquiring engagement through game play is work!” Ogilvy’s global strategy and innovation chair Carla Hendra followed Schafer with case studies of the WPP-owned agency’s work for IBM and TD Waterhouse. For those seeking how social media offers ROI in the B-to-B and financial services realms, these are excellent examples.

Bo Peabody, David Pakman, Larry Kramer, Drew Lipsher

The next panel, and last for me, featured a group of VCs talking about the next big thing. On the panel were Drew Lipsher, Principal, Greycroft Partners; David Pakman, Partner, Venrock; Bo Peabody, Co-founder and Managing General Partner, Village Ventures. The inimitable Larry Kramer, author, C-Scape; former partner, Polaris Ventures, moderated.

So glad to hear them talk about local ad tech and mobile as the hot areas right now given that two of my firm’s clients happen to be squarely immersed in these spaces.

Conference Photos: Peter Himler, Canon PowerShot SX20 IS