Thursday, September 11, 2008
Spanish, Tennis And The Numerati
By Dave Morgan I'm back. I spent the past three months traveling, learning Spanish (not there yet, but much better), learning a bit about the tennis industry (what a great U.S. Open and Wimbledon this year), reading a lot of books (finally, time to read some fiction) and, most important, relaxing with my family. I am now rested, recharged and ready to jump back in with both feet.
Ever since I got into the online media and advertising world in the early 1990s, I have struggled to explain exactly what it is I do to folks not in our business -- particularly my parents and my in-laws. It's been tough to boil my jobs down to their essence -- whether it was helping to create mass customized online services with newspaper companies or developing targeted ad serving technology, or selling targeted online ads at Real Media. This, of course, led me to resort to generalities like "I work in online advertising" (and then get blamed for pop-ups and spam), or "I'm an Internet entrepreneur" (not a good way to introduce yourself to prospective in-laws worried about their daughters' future financial well-being in mid-2000, in the teeth of the Internet Bubble bursting).
This problem became even worse after I founded and began running TACODA, the behavioral ad company, since the concept and practice of behavioral targeting was even harder to describe to laypersons. Well, my problem is now solved. Steve Baker, the senior editor of Business Week, who two years ago wrote the cover story "Math will Rock Your World," has now published a wonderful book on the subject, "The Numerati."
In the book, which I recommend highly, Steve explains how the recent explosion in computing, communications and digitization is enabling an emerging group of companies and people -- the Numerati -- to use algorithms and computing power and the new digital infrastructure to dramatically change business, media, politics and relationships as we know them.
The book is clear and well-written, making this otherwise complex and overwhelming topic understandable to all. Finally, I have something to give to my parents, my in-laws -- and everyone else I run into - that will help them understand what I have been doing for the past 17 years, and see how my colleagues and I are reshaping the media and ad industries. I suspect the way I feel about this book is similar to how many anthropologists felt when Malcolm Gladwell's "Tipping Point" was published. Thank you, Steve!
To all of you, if you want to understand (or explain) how phenomena like the Internet, Google, automated trading and credit scoring are changing the world, read this book. (Full disclosure: it opens with a discussion of TACODA, which is, of course, one of the reasons that I am sending it to my parents!)
In conclusion, I would be remiss not to call out the importance of today's date, 9/11. For all of us, this is an important day to remember and to pay respects to those we lost and whose lives were changed by that day. We will never forget.
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Dave Morgan, founder of TACODA and Real Media, is Chairman of -- and a partner in -- The Tennis Company, which owns TENNIS.com, and TENNIS and SMASH Magazines.
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