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December 2011 Archives

The Holiday Season kicked off with very strong indications of growth.  The Akamai Retail Usage Index peaked on Thanksgiving Day (as illustrated in our newly released Holiday Shopping infographic), with retail traffic up 70% year over year, and overall page view volume throughout the Thanksgiving shopping weekend up 33% overall.  Revenue growth for those same periods was also strong - with growth reported in the mid-twenties for Black Friday and CyberMonday.

Historically the week of Green Monday, this year landing on December 12th, through Free Shipping Day on December 16th, drives more online revenue than any other week during the holiday shopping season.  Akamai's retail traffic growth last week was relatively flat, indicating the retail season is waning more quickly this year.  Page view volume was up just 2% over 2010, with both Friday and Saturday trailing behind 2010 in overall page view volume.  ComScore is reporting revenue growth for the same week falling below 15%.  

Innovation in the Face of 380,000 Layoffs

We have all seen the headlines of big layoff announcements in the finance industry.  It seems the headlines are never ending.  Tens of thousands of workers have been cut in 2011, and news articles are now appearing on what to expect in 2012.

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The above chart shows the layoffs for just a few firms.  The total cuts across the industry are astounding.  Banking analyst Dick Bove of Rochdale Securities puts the 2011 total layoffs at 230,000, and over 150,000 in 2012.

As everyone in the industry scrambles to adapt, let's not forget the personal lives affected by these cuts.  A relative of mine was laid off last week from a regional bank here in the U.S.  18 years on the job, working directly with SMB clients in the field on their corporate banking needs.  6 weeks of severance and that is it.  It was completely unexpected, and he is devastated.  It is affecting his family, his marriage, and his well being.  Multiply that by 380,000 and the effects are overwhelming.
The promise of startups, especially venture backed ones, is predicated on fast growth.  Even with that touchstone, relative to prior decades or even prior years, the growth trajectory of today's startups is in the warp speed territory.  According to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, the fastest growing startups are achieving revenue growth and even profitability much faster than leading startups of yester years.  While the companies mentioned in the analysis have continued to advance, and some have even gone public or are about to go public since the review was published in February, some of the noted points are worth highlighting here:

"... Groupon's revenue in 2010 rose more than 22 times to $760 million in its second full year since its daily deals site launched, up from $33 million in 2009. Zynga, the maker of online social games like FarmVille, scored revenue of $850 million in its third full year in 2010, more than triple the year before, and Facebook's revenue rocketed to as high as $2 billion in 2010, its sixth full year.

Their ridiculous revenue growth rates actually rival those of the four largest Internet companies-Google, eBay, Yahoo and Amazon.com-early on. Taking a look at the line graph below, Groupon and Zynga's charted growth is steeper than San Francisco's famous Filbert Street. Over the longer haul, Facebook's sales fall short of the two Internet kings, Google and Amazon, but top those of eBay and Yahoo, in their first six years.

Following the Top Security Influencers

According to the folks at Tripwire, three members of the firms' "Top 25 Influencers in Security You Should Be Following" list are members of Akamai's Security Intelligence Team. Andy Ellis, Josh Corman and Martin McKeay were all noted for bringing interesting, unique, entertaining and sometimes controversial views to the conversations surrounding information security.

The list offers reasons why Tripwire thinks those with an interest in information security should be following - and listening - to our security experts, along with some words of wisdom from each.

Take a look and read Andy's thoughts on security judo, Josh's view on why "best practices" really may not be the best, and Martin's approach to getting back to basics.

And, to join the ongoing information security conversation with Andy, Josh and Martin, don't forget to add them to your Twitter list: @csoandy, @joshcorman and @mckeay. Or you can read their respective blogs at Protecting a Better Internet (Andy), Cognitive Dissidents (Josh) and Network Security Podcast (Martin).

Champions League Makes News Index Soar!

Since launching the Akamai Net Usage Index for News in 2005, sporting events have always proven to be among the stories driving the highest peaks in page views per minute to news Web sites.

Witness today's news coverage of the European Champion League that created a peak of 6,583,294 page views per minute at 9:30 p.m. GMT... making this the 2nd largest news event that Akamai has recorded.

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What match is capturing the headlines?

Three-time European Champion Manchester United was eliminated from the Champions League today when it lost 2-1 at FC Basel.

Jeff Young is Senior Director of Corporate Communications at Akamai
Now that we are full swing into the holidays, and we have passed some of the big shopping days of the year.  What will this mean in terms of more connected devices coming online as gifts during the holiday season?  Many gifts being purchased include connected devices.  When these devices are opened up and connected, we typically see an increase in online activity because many of these devices need to get software updates and patches before they can be used.  

In addition, consumers are purchasing gift cards which can be redeemed through the devices for digital goods such as music, movies, games, books.  This type of shift is requiring many different businesses to further rethink their plans of how to support consumers each year, to ensure that new connected gift or digital goods offers a great experience.  Ensuring a good experience is important, since a poor experience can result in increased support calls and products returns.  It is also not as simple as it used to be. 

Video Therapy: How Can I Get More People to Like Me?

When offering video online, there's a lot to think about. So much goes on before a viewer even has the opportunity to play back your content. You need to produce the content, edit it, test it with an audience and encode it. Then there's the player design, player functionality, multi-device support and apps strategy... Apple, Android, streaming, storage, HTML5...Meltdown.

There are many aspects of successful video delivery. Drawing the audience to your site through social media campaigns and designing a great user experience for playback are just some of the intricacies involved. However, once a viewer gets to your playback experience, whether that be an iPad™ app with video or a themed video portal on your website, you need to understand what factors (and why!) cause a viewer to linger and watch more content.

From a playback experience and content delivery perspective, the key drivers of audience behavior are: content, packaging and quality. Tracking and correlating these three dimensions provides key insights into how your video experience is influencing the audience behavior. Let's look at each dimension in detail:

Content. It is important to catalog your video library using a robust taxonomy, so that you can measure audience behavior across categories. For on demand content, it is important to have at least four levels of categorization. For example, Genre, Sub Genre, Show and Episode can be applied to most episodic content. Knowing the audience's preference for different types of content will help you improve content production and editing processes.

Packaging. Content length and placement are important considerations: long form vs. short form, full episodes vs. clips, and highlight reels vs. full event replays. Overlaying ad density and packaging information can reveal insights into the optimal ad policy for your content. Your ad policy should ideally be acceptable to you in terms of revenue-generation, and acceptable to your audience in terms of user experience. The optimal ad policy can be determined with the added context of content popularity and content length. Having this information at your fingertips can help you drive decisions around how many ads to insert, when and where to insert ads into the content, and how to vary the ad density and placement so that you can maximize revenue generation potential while monitoring the effects on viewer engagement.

Quality. It is very important to understand how quality of service impacts audience behavior.  You should know how long a viewer will wait for video to start, how much re-buffering they will tolerate before navigating away from your site, or if you need to increase the video bitrate in order to increase the amount of time viewers watch your content. With the knowledge of how quality issues affect the behavior of your audience, you can plan appropriate capital outlays for technology and delivery services to focus investments on solutions that will drive viewer engagement, and ultimately revenue.

Akamai Media Analytics uses the advice and feedback from many customers who wanted an easier way to grow their digital media business. Akamai Media Analytics tracks content, packaging, and quality trends, allowing customers to understand their audience and act on that data to influence audience behavior.

Here are some scenarios we heard from customers and how to get actionable insights:

1.     Your ad ops team wants to know if their ad policy is optimized. Can they add more pre-roll ads without driving viewers away? How many?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Knowing your audience allows you to sell ads more effectively, and understand audience motivations to optimize the ad policy without driving viewers away.

2.     You want to increase overall viewing time on your site by 10%. You know that your sports content is popular, but how can you use that to your advantage?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Easily monitor the number of plays and minutes watched per visit, and see how it contributes to the overall amount of video watched. Increasing overall viewing time on your site is really about attracting new viewers, or getting each viewer on your site to watch longer. You can easily monitor the effects of a social media campaign or a newly-installed "related content" sports widget to reach your goals.

3.     You're at a friend's house and proud to show them how easy it is to watch video on your site with their iPhone. They access the page, but the video takes a long time to load and then playback stutters. You're sure this has something to do with your friend's iPhone. I mean, this can't be affecting your entire digital audience, right?

With Akamai Media Analytics: View real-time quality of service reports to troubleshoot quality issues on the spot, or replay performance issues later to investigate and resolve issues.

4.     You have a big product launch coming up, say iAnything 6.0, with a fresh new video experience built for the occasion. Your marketing team wants reassurance that this new version of the player isn't going to ruin the big launch initiative...how do you reassure them?

With Akamai Media Analytics: Monitoring launch success is easy. Use quality of service reports to track audience behavior in real time, and view audience and content trending post-launch to report on the overall success metrics.