Jim Sterne Interview Transcript

Pt. 1

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Mike:               Hi, and welcome to what is a very different edition of Live on 65. And in fact this is the very first Live Off 65, which means that I am able to leave the 65th floor of the Empire State building. And travel around as I do, meeting all of these very important people in the industry. Today, live from eMetrics in Boston and with me is the legendary, Jim Sterne.

Jim:                  Well, maybe in your mind. Thank you very much, sir.

Mike:               So, Jim, thanks for inviting me to speak, by the way.

Jim:                  Thanks for coming in and educating our audience.

Mike:               And I brought a client with me, as well.

Jim:                  You did, that was awesome.

Mike:               You and I go back awhile, been friends for a very, very long time. And, again, you’re one of the true pioneers in the industry. In the sense that before, while everybody else was doing, um, e-mail and display and a few people were getting into search. You were already thinking, “But how do we measure all of this from a marketing point of view?”

So, just take us back real quick to explain to everybody, eMetrics, what the idea was and how that came about.

Jim:                  I was an internet marketing strategy consultant back in the early 90’s, like everybody was, and I came across a gentleman who did wonderful presentations at conferences, named Matt Cutler. He had a startup called Net Genesis, which was a web analytics company, and I wasn’t sure what that was. But, I was so interested that I would, meet up with him at conferences and learn all about it. And we decided that we needed to find a way to work together. So, we wrote a white paper. We interviewed 25 companies and asked what are you doing with all this digital analytics data. And 25 of them said, “We have no idea. We’re being overwhelmed with data. We don’t know what to do.”

So, the white paper was 5 pages of survey results.

Mike:               I remember it.

Jim:                  And 65 pages of what you could be doing.

Mike:               Yep.

Jim:                  That was in 2000. So, I interviewed another 25 companies who actually were starting to do stuff. And that turned into a book. The book came out in 2002. And 2002 was the first year of the eMetric summit.

Mike:               And the idea for the conference, although, 2 things … One, it was a summit, it wasn’t exactly the conference. That was kind of bringing together the big minds in the industry, yes?

Jim:                  Well, it was a summit, in that, there were a handful of smart people in the industry and I figured if I could bring them together, others would be interested in hearing what they had to say. So, it was in Santa Barbara, 2002, there were 50 people; 30 of them were vendors looking for a marketplace. But, the other 20 were practitioners and consultants who were very excited about the opportunity. If you look at all this data, there must be a pony in there somewhere.

Mike:               And I have to say, that eMetrics in Santa Barbara still ranks as one of my favorite conferences of all time. The food, the booze, the networking, the whole thing, and it was Santa Barbara.

Jim:                  And the dolphins swimming by.

Mike:               Exactly, the whole thing. What were people measuring back then? What were people looking for?

Jim:                  It was log file analysis. So, every time you click and make a request of a website it records the time, your IP address, what file you want, how many bytes got sent out. And that’s all. But, millions of lines of that. So how do we parse that and figure out how many clicks, what was your path through the website. Then we realized there was referrer data. So, where did you come from? And then somebody in 2004, there were page tags, JavaScript page tags. There was a loud argument between two guys in pony tails about which one was better. So we were like just inventing this stuff as we go along. And the vendors were all taking notes like crazy.

Mike:               So I guess the, ultimately, that argument about which one was better is like, they’re both very good. Why don’t we just use…

Jim:                  They’re both necessary.

Mike:               Yeah, yeah…

Jim:                  The JavaScript tells you lots of data about what’s going on. But the log files tell you all about the errors. And you need both.

Mike:               So, in the first … how many years has eMetrics been going on?

Jim:                  2002. So this is year 13. And this is, in Boston, is eMetrics number 64.

Mike:               Wow, around the planet. So, let’s just take the first 5 years. Is there anything that sticks out in the first 5 years as being the big aha moments where you can see we really made a big leap.

Jim:                  In the first 5 years, the big leap was meeting together at all. It was, it was the community forming. It was like, “Oh! There’s other people that do this job.” And, “I have a case study!” And, “I have an example of how else you can think about this.” And, then the advanced and more advanced technologies that came along. It was still very much about click-throughs and page-views. And, eventually we said, “Wait. It’s click-throughs, page-views and revenues. Oh, OK, now we’re on to something.” But only later, so 2005, the digital analytics association was formed out of the audience. They said, “The conference is great, it’s not enough. We need to pull ourselves together to build a professional development association,” and so we did.

Mike:               Of which you were a founder, I do believe.

Jim:                  I am member number 3. Bryan Eisenberg and Andrew Adams, uh, Andrew Edwards.

Mike:               Edwards.

Jim:                  And they called me and said, “Jim, we’re going to do this. And you’re going to be involved, or you’re going to get left behind.”

Mike:               [crosstalk 05:20] What year, we’re going to take a break in a second and come back into the future, but, what year, or what point in time did you begin to feel yourself, that the CMO, that the marketing community was … that you stopped being geeky and actually became essential to the marketing department.

Jim:                  In, it’s … that’s a corporate culture question, and the answer is, in some companies we’re still working on it.

Mike:               I get it. The same thing happens with search, believe me. I’m live here at eMetrics in Boston with Jim Sterne. We’ll be back in 1 second.

 

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