On Convergence And Opportunity

On Tuesday many Americans in the majority of states will go to the polls to select their party's nominee for House and Senate seats, among many other ballot considerations. 

Here in California, former Facebook chief legal honcho Chris Kelly is running to secure the Democratic Party nomination for attorney general.  Meanwhile, former E-Bay CEO Meg Whitman is running for the Republican Party nomination for governor, even as Carly Fiorina, former HP CEO and a sister Republican, is running for the chance to unseat the incumbent Democrat in the Senate race.  They're spending fortunes to win their respective races.

At the same time, Hearst, that company founded by the famous muckracking political king-maker, San Francisco's own William Randolph Hearst, has been busy buying up iCrossing, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company that is all about digital media and search marketing.  A few years ago, another Arizona company, the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, bought its own digital marketing and media company called Aptimus, based in San Francisco.



So what, you might ask, do these things have in common?  Call it the continuing convergence of old and new, of analog and digital.  New money buying political prestige. Old money buying cutting-edge expertise and technologies.

Setting aside the political considerations, I believe we're entering an intriguing moment for firms like iCrossing and Aptimus moving forward.  Both are terrific organizations that have repeatedly shown their clients (if not the world) how to do business on the bleeding edge.

They assembled teams and technologies that enabled them to master the ascendant paradigms that are sure to define what "doing business" means well into the 21st century.  And they're not only doing very creative and award-winning work, they're showing clear ROI for their efforts.

In the MediaPost coverage of the iCrossing deal, Laurie Sullivan points out that Microsoft and Google shed similar subsidiaries because of conflicts with their core publishing concerns.  She also quotes fellow MediaPost columnist Aaron Goldman as worrying that good SEM firms are a dying breed.  All this may be true.

Still, my view is there are plenty of smart, interesting and innovating smaller SEM firms on their way up.  And they'll see acquisitions like that of iCrossing as motivation for replicating its success. Moreover, Apollo Group appears to have done a remarkably great job of integrating Aptimus, which now works exclusively for the education conglomerate.  While not completely analogous to the Hearst / iCrossing acquisition (the Apollo Group is in no way a publisher), Aptimus manages one of the larger search marketing spends globally, and its parent has been reporting one stellar quarter after another since acquiring the firm.

Publishers like the old-timey Hearst have none of the technological advantage of Google or Microsoft and carry a lot of legacy baggage. Moreover, they've maintained in-house teams to build customized advertising experiences on behalf of their advertisers for years.  While iCrossing may find it difficult to service other clients without running into conflict-of-interest issues, it will very likely do remarkable things to help transform Hearst into a more thoroughly 21st century publisher.  It will also deliver real value to Hearst's advertisers.  Which may be all Hearst needs from the acquisition. 

At any rate, it's a great signal to all you striving SEM agencies out there.  Do great work.  Assemble best-of-breed technologies and master them with hard-working, ambitious teams.  Demonstrate the ROI of that work.  Help transform the way business is done, even as change accelerates all around you.  Who knows; you may be the next iCrossing.

Then, you could be the next digital denizen to take your millions and run for office.  I might even vote for you.

1 comment about "On Convergence And Opportunity".
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  1. Chris Watson from, June 7, 2010 at 3:45 p.m.


    Nice tie-in of current events to the Search Insider, the example cases convergence is evident.

    Would like to see you expand on the comment with a follow-up " view is there are plenty of smart, interesting and innovating smaller SEM firms on their way up."

    Who are these smaller SEM firms and their USP or innovations?


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