Home Depot Personalizes Gift Cards with Video

A gift card may seem like the last act of a desperate gift giver, but Home Depot is determined to change that feeling by adding video to their cards.

When sending a Home Depot e-card, you can now upload a video up to 3 minutes long, or, you can use a webcam to record a message. Then, the recipient uses the code they receive in their email to access the video and voila, it’s now more than just virtual money!

Want to spread the love? With one click, you can send e-gift cards to your friends on Facebook, even if you don’t know their email address.

YouTube Prepares to Offer Skippable Ads

MY DVR is precious to me for many reasons but one is the ability to skip over the commercials while watching my favorite shows. Now, YouTube is going to give their viewers the same choice and it raises some interesting questions.  They call it TrueView, and according to AdAge, it’s going to launch very soon.

TrueView has a number of options connected with it that change depending on whether you’re watching short-form or longer-form videos on YouTube. At the lowest level, viewers will be allowed to skip an ad. For longer material, YouTube is working with the concept of allowing the viewer to choose all ads up front or scattered throughout the program TV style. There’s also talk of offering the viewer a choice of ads which is something Hulu tried a few years ago.

Gnip Gets Its Hands on Twitter’s Firehose

Social media data company, Gnip has announced a partnership with Twitter that will allow them to sell up to 50% of Twitter’s data stream to anyone who can afford the price. And it’s quite a price.

According to ReadWriteWeb, “Gnip will offer 50% of all the messages posted to Twitter for $360,000 per year, or 5% of all messages for $60,000 per year. Gnip refers to these as the Halfhose and the Decahose and they’re also offering a Mentionhose which hones in on all @replies and retweets of a specific name.

The firehose stream can only be used internally, not displayed, so its primary function is to help developers test their social media related products. It’s also a source for companies who make a living by monitoring social media and the web. Those two appear to be Gnip’s target customers, but what about marketers? Surely there’s marketing data to be mined from 50% of Twitter’s entire data stream.

Facebook Tests Play Now, Pay Later Plan

Sometimes you need a virtual magic gem stone right now and you simply don’t have the money to pay for it! What’s a person to do? Same as in real life – charge it!

Facebook is rolling out a play now, pay later plan which will allow people to buy virtual goods on credit then pay off the balance with Paypal or a credit card at a later date. Inside Facebook suggests that this may be a clever way to get people to upload card information which can later be used to facilitate impulse buying. The program could lead to a one-click payment option such as you find on Amazon and that would be a big move for Facebook.

Consumers Expected to Spend 7 Billion on Imaginary Goods

When you talk about buying “virtual goods” it kind of feels like you’re actually getting something for your money. But if you think about it, virtual goods are imaginary. Sure, you get a picture representing what you bought but you don’t really own that cow or that casino or that designer outfit you bought to use in an online game.

According to a new study by In-Stat, consumers don’t care. They’re lined up to spend $7 billion on virtual goods by year’s end and it’s likely that the trend will keep going strong as we roll in to 2011.

Thanks to Facebook and iPhones, online gaming isn’t just for teens anymore. Now people of every age, gender and socio-economic background are spending their free time building virtual farms, battling monsters or training to be a Jedi.

Twitter Analytics: The Beta Test is On

Mashable is reporting that the anticipated Twitter Analytics roll-out has begun. Word is that Twitter has invited a select group of Tweeters, which doesn’t include me, to test the new product. This goes along with previous estimates that the product would be live for all by the end of the year.

Measuring success on Twitter has been a problem for marketers, one they’ve solved with the use of third party programs like HootSuite. But with the hoot going to a pay model for big users, Twitter will have the upper hand with their free version that will likely have more bells and whistles.

US Internet Advertising Hits All Time High

The Interactive Advertising Bureau released new numbers today that show record-breaking growth in online ad sales. Their third quarter 2010 study showed a 17% increase over the same period in 2009 — a full $6.4 billion in ad revenue.

When revenue is up, it’s always a good thing, but these numbers point to a combination of factors which is very encouraging. Number one, the increased spending shows that more companies are realizing the power of the Internet. It’s unlikely that their ad budgets have gone up 17%, so it’s likely that they’re taking ad dollars away from print and moving it over to digital.

The other half of the equation is the consumer. Marketers are going digital because consumers are responding. It’s no longer about technological newbie clicking on a banner at to shoot an arrow at a moving target. Consumers have gotten more tech savvy and so have advertisers.