Monday, November 29, 2010

Kontera : The next generation of E-marketing

Trade has always been a key component of the human civilization form its very early days. It started off with the simple barter system and then eventually manifested itself to the multimillion dollar venture it has come to become today. Some would argue that the main objective of a business organization is to maximize the profits for its owners or in the case of a publicly-traded company, its stockholders. Others would say that its principle aim is to cater to the needs and interests of a larger group of stakeholders, including its employees, customers and even the society in a larger sense. In the process of serving these desired groups of interest or the stakeholders the respective trade organizations use make use of the concept of publicizing. More often the organizations use advertising as a mode of publicizing their product or their trademark.

What is advertising and why is it so important in the commercial world?

“Advertising: it’s here, it’s there, it’s everywhere! Everyone is assailed with advertising messages every waking moment. The obvious media- television, radio, newspapers, magazines, billboards and direct mail- are just the tip of the advertising iceberg. Your cereal boxes, milk cartons, clothing, bedding, fashion accessories and even your automobiles are covered in advertising. Into this cauldron of advertising vehicles has been thrown the Internet, grocery carts, the reverse side of cash register tapes, ATM screens, even displays in some public restrooms...”
(Dahl, 2006, p. 8)

Advertising therefore can be interpreted as a form of communication, intended to persuade an audience be it viewers, readers or listeners- to purchase or take some action upon products, ideals or services. A basic advertisement includes the name of a product or service and how that product or service could benefit the consumer, fundamentally with the hope of persuading a target consumer to purchase or to consume the particular brand in question. These marketing messages or advertisements as they are more commonly known, are usually paid for by the sponsors and viewed by the prospective consumers via various media. Given the competition among global organizations for any particular limited market, those who transfer their message clearly and more effectively becomes more successful in selling the respective product. The simple explanation behind this whole process is that humans prefer to choose what they know rather than what they don’t. This has made advertising a indispensable element in establishing successful businesses transactions.

Born with the Internet-boom in the early 90s, ‘online advertising’ toady outsmarts all the other forms of advertising that exist in the world. Most trade organizations yearn for a strong online presence which is achieved by their websites and by advertising their products and services online. One minor setback with this concept is that the products will only be advertised to customers visiting the relevant website. Therefore a new set of online advertising companies have quickly gaining momentum as they supply ‘ad-publishers’ to advertisers. These ad-publishers will publish advertisements given by third party companies who will be paid based on the advertising traffic they direct to the publisher. The most notable third party ad-publisher is Google with its ‘AdSense’ program which allow thousands of blogs and smaller websites to become publishers thus allowing the advertisers a more cost effective advertising budget.

Most online advertising programs use the concept of ‘keywords’ which means that the third party advertising company will look for key words highlighted by the article writer and based on the key word the relevant advertisement will be displayed. For example: if the article has words like ‘college degrees’ or ‘undergraduate courses’ as its key words the advertising company will display advertisements on universities which provide college degrees or similar institutes that conduct undergraduate courses. One drawback of this scenario is that the given key words may not accurately represent the true content of the article as a whole and finally the displayed article might not have a significant relevance to the displayed advertisement. An excellent example would be an article written on Microsoft Windows operating system that has ‘Windows’ as its key word. Unfortunately the ad broker might display advertisements of companies who sell pure simple windows- not the software, but the kind you find in houses- over the Internet. This problem is caused because content identification algorithms focus primarily on the key words rather than on the actual content of the entire article.

“Better targeting of ads using individual interests and individual behaviors will ensure that we do not bore or annoy as many people with each ad,” says Eric Clemons , Professor of Operations and Information Management at Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He further elaborates that this factor was in fact a major catalyst that contributed to the dramatic decline in 2009 advertising revenues. The simple concept behind the story is that online advertising requires a much more dynamic and scalable model which will support both the content viewers and the advertisers rather than annoying them.

It is in circumstances such as this that Kontera proves it true potential. What is Kontera and what does it have to do with online advertising? By definition Kontera Technologies, Inc. is an advertising network which provides in-text advertising and information services. How does it operate? If you are a frequent visitor at various blogs run by independent Bloggers you will come across words which are underlined twice. The underlining ain’t for emphasis - it illustrates that these underlined words are serving a dual purpose as advertisements.When a certain reader moves his/her cursor over one of the underlined words above, a pop-up advertisement appears, partially obscuring the article. In the ad above the word “AdWords” for instance is an online dictionary from which the user can search the meaning of words.

Figure 1: The use of double underlined words as advertisements

What is the difference between Kontera and other in-text ad brokers? Is Kontera different? How so? The answer lies in the technology Kontera is using. With the introduction of the Synapse engine a few months back the Konetera flagship product ‘Contentlink’ is able analyse the overall content of the article. More importantly it is capable of analysing the subject matter and the content of the article allowing it to deliver the most relevant ads to its readers (Figure 2). Therefore the advertisements which the consumers will be viewing will not just be keyword matching advertisements but those that have a relevance to the content that is being read. This enables a better user experience plus more revenue generation for both the publisher and the advertiser. With the Synapse algorithm analyzing everything in the network in real-time, it will be possible to display even more relevant advertisements over the course of time. Moreover, with the strategy of ‘Topical Targeting’ Kontera is able to identify thousands of concepts and expanded phrases that are relevant to the topics of interest of any advertiser’s target audience. With the advancement of this technology the relevance of advertisements will increase immensely, thus ensuring the trust between the advertiser and the consumer.

Figure 2: The use of Content in advertising.

A simple example could be denoted as follows. Say, you have blogged about a newly released computer game: James Cameron's Avatar, The Game, Ubisoft etc. Regular ad networks that use keyword lists would provide you with a list of ads referring to computer games by Ubisoft in the same genre of the game and the literal meaning of the title. Kontera, on the other hand, with the use of its Synapse algorithm will analyse everything in the network in real-time and will identify that the game is actually based on the James Cameron movie ‘Avatar’, additionally it will display advertisements relating to the movie, where to buy a blue ray version or a DVD etc. Hence it is crystal clear that Kontera contains a higher level of artificial intelligence that is beyond its other static In-Text advertising market competitors.

Furthermore, Kontera’s synapse engine contains the following innovations:
● Dynamic ‘A/B’ optimization – Kontera Synapse tests different topics and monitors how users interact with each page on Kontera’s network in real-time. The In-Text phrases with which end users interact more, represent users’ interests. In this way intent is determined through “the voice of the users.”

● Phrase Discovery and Exploration – Kontera Synapse automatically identifies and tracks the trending of new phrases, as they appear across the network. Those phrases are cross linked to relevant topics and entities (people, places, etc.).

● Comprehensive brand safety controls – Synapse includes a full suite of brand safety capabilities. Advertisers benefit from Kontera’s knowledge of sensitive topics and keywords within each category. In addition, specific ‘avoid’ lists can be defined for an advertiser or specific campaigns. These controls ensure that advertisers are not proximate to content that is harmful to their brand.

One of the most important concepts implemented is the brand safety controls. This allows the more sensitive topics to be very specific, preventing scenarios like that of the advertisement that can be misinterpreted as referring to an ordinary ‘windows sale,’ while the content of article is in fact specifically referring to the Microsoft Windows XP software. This enables a great brand safety in advertising.

If we forget the technical brilliance of Kontera for a moment, there are a few other things which will always lift Kontera to a level beyond your expectations. One of them is the administrator panel offered for the users. In many cases for the publishers. Kontera supports a variety of content management systems, thus publishers can set up Kontera in their websites which are powered by WordPress Blogger Joomla and Drupal with just a few clicks. In addition Kontera automatically generates the code to be fitted into any custom website. Therefore even a publisher with no technical background can integrate Kontera into his/her website. Figure 3 illustrates the Kontera interface for creating a custom code for the above scenario.

Fingure 3 : Kontera Setup Page

After setting up Kontera the most important thing for a publisher is to view how well he/she is doing in Kontera. To support this Kontera has provided an elegant interface from which the user can view not just the earning but also the click ratios and number of visits. The reports could be generated for a time period but the default is set to a week. The users can compare the traffic variations and the earnings on a daily basis. Plus, detailed reports based on larger time frames and keyword reports can also be generated. A URL report can be generated to identify the pages with the highest traffic rate within a week. With the enabled reporting mechanism the publishers can identify the most frequent keywords and trends in the market. More importantly the publisher can use this information to navigate their websites based on the content and context. This proves that Kontera not only gives the publisher an income but also the data from which he/she can derive certain facts. These facts can be used as tools in upgrading as well as in the process of making decisions. Figure 4 provides a screenshot of a reporting page.

Figure 4: The reporting interface.

Finally at the end of the day, all publishers are concerned about their earnings and more importantly how their earnings can be transferred to them. Some advertising companies have a long arduous process in transferring earnings, I have personally experienced this shortcoming with Google’s AdSence. For South Asian countries like ours Google AdSence uses a cheque payment method and usually I spend about three months getting one cheque settled, that’s really a tear-some process. Contrarily, Kontera offers multiple paying methods for you to choose from (Figure 5). A user can use the traditional cheque payment methods, a wired transfer or a Paypal transfer. In fact enabling a Paypal transfer is really cool, as Paypal is supported by almost all the online auction and shopping websites so basically you can use your earnings instantly rather than waiting for a lengthy and timeconsuming process.

Figure 5: A screenshot of the payment method selection.

So why do I prefer Kontera?

I think all the above factors sum up my answer. Yet there are a few additional elements that increase my loyalty towards Kontera. Well for one, for new publishers Kontera allows a great rate. It can be up to 70% Revenue Share, Signing Bonus for qualified sites with over 25k US page-views/month and you get paid starting at $50! That’s basically more than what we ask for. On the other hand Kontera is extremely user-friendly, anything can be done graphically and it has plug-ins that support all the major content management systems.

Kontera has always kept things simple. If you are a Blogger- some extra money, if you are a publisher- an easy way which won’t chase away the viewers and more importantly when you are a viewer you cam view relevant adds, when you want, as you want. Finally, for me, a relatively small Blogger, what I have learnt is that big or small Kontera has something to offer for ALL.

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