Stuff I Know, 2012 Edition.

As the remaining days of the year slip by, I'm looking back on the hundreds of conversations - both public and private - that have left a mark on how I think about our industry. Some of them come back to me in fragments, while others render themselves fully formed. I thought it fitting to share a no particular order.

Nate Silver was right. The ubiquitous "Five Thirty Eight" blogger from The New York Times was right about a lot more than the election. His ability to look deep into the numbers and find real meaning through relentless questioning and analysis is a model for how we should also start thinking about data. It makes me feel that we're still working with stone tools.

Programmatic is a Powerful Future but a Pallid Present. I'm ready for someone to tell me I'm wrong, but when it comes to programmatic buying and selling we seem to still be watching the undercard bouts; the heavyweights in content, brand advertising and analysis haven't yet come into the ring. No question it's going to get bigger and bigger. But right now it seems like mostly retargeting technology feasting on second tier inventory. I know we're doing a hard sell on what's to come, but let's be honest about what's real so far.

Airlines are a Bad Metaphor. The more I learn, the more I believe that we've been thinking about yield all wrong. We've been looking at the amount of inventory we have available and projecting our revenue forward from that point. Instead, we should be thinking about the amount of revenue we need to generate and optimizing backward. It's not about airplane seats going unfilled; it's about deciding what size plane to fly and whether to go at all. Sane thinking about yield will lead publishers to make better decisions.

Car Companies Make Bad Case Studies. It seems like every case study or proof of concept in our world is about an automotive account. But with their long purchase consideration cycle and high sticker price they're easily compared to....nothing. I propose a three year moratorium during which no ad technology product can talk about car-related case studies.

No CRO Ever Made Goal by Goosing an Extra 20% on Remnant Inventory. Everybody take a deep breath and realize that all these add-on ad tech patches are not the meat and potatoes. At best they are side-dishes. At worst dinner mints.

Buying and Selling Holes in Pages is a Crappy Business. 2012 may be the year that on page display advertising jumped the shark and became fully commoditized. Everything now is going to move in one of two directions: programmatic/automated or premium/deeply integrated. Don't get caught in between those two poles: it's going to be a wasteland.

It's Still Early. Very early. Oh yes it is. Hang on.