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More color on Adobe + Omniture

Published by Eric T. Peterson on September 16, 2009 All posts from Eric T. Peterson

Wow, everyone seems to have an opinion about this acquisition. Some people think Microsoft will ride in at the 11th hour and out-bid Adobe because Microsoft and Adobe compete, and because Google has Google Analytics. On this point I am inclined to agree with Joe Davis, CEO of Omniture competitor Coremetrics, who comments that Omniture has been shopping the company around for some time and it is unlikely that Redmond hasn’t already had the opportunity to play (given the significant investment Microsoft has in Omniture.)

Other folks appear to be worried that Adobe will be integrating Omniture into Flash and this raises privacy concerns. While certainly folks have concerns about tracking and the possibility of embedding tracking into Flash Local Shared Objects (LSO) I just have to believe that management at Adobe is smart enough not to risk Flash’s dominance by subjecting the technology to the scrutiny, navel-gazing, and paranoia of the “privacy police.”

Their customers, at least the ones I am talking to, are more or less 2 to 1 against the acquisition at this point citing a variety of concerns (transition, failure to execute on stated product plans, talent flight, Adobe is not adept at services, etc.) Far be it from me to tell anyone’s customers they are wrong when expressing concerns, especially since this is an out-of-sector acquisition and Omniture is now more or less a medium-sized cog in a very big machine. Arguments for include loving Adobe (I love Adobe!), being relieved that Adobe is a big, grown-up company, and hopes that Adobe will focus on fundamentals like customer support, product execution, and global expansion.

Another customer complaint is that Omniture is now losing the (thin, pasty) veneer of third-party objectivity and that some companies may not actually want Adobe to have access to their site’s data.  I think this may be the same boondoggle that Omniture (and others) have used to explain why “the Enterprise wouldn’t use Google Analytics” — except there is more and more (and more) evidence that the Enterprise does use Google Analytics — but it will be interesting to see how the “free-standing” analytics vendors work to make Omniture eat their own words now that they too are part of something larger.

The comment that has me most concerned is one best detailed by Carter Malloy from Stephens, Inc. Research Analyst who I have known for years and who I know to be pretty level headed regarding the sector.  Carter sent me this, which I am simply repeating with his permission:

“I don’t understand the strategic rationale on adobe’s part. Different end market buyers. Very different products. No real cost savings or integration between the two products. OMTR is very capital intensive vs. adobe not much at all. Seems like Adobe is buying growth with hopes for cross sells. I would be surprised to find out that OMTR did not shop the business around before accepting the bid from Adobe – we should find out soon in public filings required by the SEC. Omniture will still have to report 3Q09 earnings in October, but I think the deal will get closed before Q4 in Jan/Feb. I also think Adobe will show Omniture’s revenue performance on an informal basis going forward. It will be <10% of Adobe’s total revs, but I still think they will give analysts at least some idea of what growth looks like.”

This was in response to my comment detailing a thesis that I have heard from several of Carter’s peers: that Omniture was about to blow Q3 earnings and that the result would be a dramatic dip in OMTR share price as investors head for the exit. The rationale is, apparently, that the company has over-promised and under-delivered for too long, both to investors and customers, and the economy has been the “last straw” for many who have opted to look elsewhere for web analytics technology. This, combined with slower-than-hoped adoption of non-core solutions (data warehouse, Test & Target, Search Center, Survey, etc.) resulted in a “company who’s greatest days are behind them” (direct quote, and I begged to attribute but was told “no” due to company policy.)

Don’t get me wrong: This is not my thesis, at least not yet.

While I have seen evidence of larger Omniture customers switching, increasingly to Unica, I have not seen enough evidence of the kind of massive shift away from SiteCatalyst that would warrant a sudden exit. The good news is that Carter’s thesis can easily be tested: Either Omniture will make expectations for Q3 or they won’t. I’m sure this will make for an interesting Q3 call, at least for those investors who are taking a bath on the acquisition price.

My concern is this: If the investment banker thesis is correct, if Omniture was about to report a second quarter of, um, disappointing results, then what does that mean for the larger industry? Is Adobe really evidence that the larger market is taking an interest in digital analytics? Or was the company thrashing about looking for something new to cover for recent declines and this really isn’t about Omniture or web analytics at all?

Again, I don’t know, at least not yet, and I don’t think any of us do. But given the very mixed reviews about the acquisition I think we as an industry should take a step back and consider the larger ramifications. Personally I don’t think web analytics is going ANYWHERE — hell, I’m recruiting at Web Analytics Demystified — but we can all admit we collectively haven’t done the best job explaining what we do and what the data we live and die by means.

This interesting acquisition will certainly get more interesting as the days pass. Congrats again to all involved.

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Categorized under General Web Analytics, Vendors

  • http://www.webanalyticswednesday.cz Jiri Brazda

    Wow, is this getting scary? Adobe certainly is not interested in some parts of the Omniture Suite, esp. those touching on integration with Business Intelligence so guess, they will chop up the suite, keep something that fits their product portfolio and the vision they have for this acquisition and sell the rest. But then, Unica will surely take the lead?

  • http://www.the-omni-man.com Adam Greco

    I too am surprised that Microsoft did not make a play. I think Omniture would have helped them get into the SAAS business in a bigger way. I wonder if Adobe bought Omniture thinking that the combined entity would push MSFT over the edge and force them to buy Adobe?

  • http://www.christopherberry.ca Christopher Berry

    Well said and reasoned, Eric.

    I’m scratching my head on this one.

    It might be because I’m a battle-hardened practitioner so I have a bit of a different point of view about the offering.

    The web analytics vendor that will gain dominance in the end will be the one that goes customer-centric, not product-centric.

  • Tom

    Doesn’t flash + Omniture integration mean that every flash ad can be delivered on the fly depending on who the viewer is and where they were last?

  • http://tompitts.org/ tom

    MS seems like it would be a much better fit. I think SiteCatalyst, Test and Target are bothbest in class tools, but without increasing the install base somehow (probably by reducing price or having a limited free option), every update to GA and Website Optimizer makes it harder to justify the expensive products for all but the most advanced utilizations of web analytics.

  • http://www.webanalytics.cl Andrés Flores

    Maybe Adobe has plans for an extreme makeover on another company they acquired 2 weeks ago…

    http://businesscatalyst.com/what

    Perhaps.. their is more in common to Omniture product offer than the name. From their website, what they do:

    * Build and manage their website
    * Write a blog and build a forum
    * Run an online shop and accept payments
    * Create email marketing campaigns
    * Build a customer database
    * Analyze and improve results

    Transform the software with FLASH/FLEX/AIR technology and add measuring capacities through Omniture and maybe they have an interesting SaaS offer.

    I’m thinking of Lyris product offer after buying hotbanana and clicktracks.

    http://www.hotbanana.com/
    http://www.lyris.com/solutions/lyris-hq/web-analytics/

    cheers,

    Andrés

  • http://www.waomarketing.com/blog Jacques Warren

    Does anybody remember that Josh called his WA competitors “a nuisance” during an analyst call some time ago? They’re was an air of “we’re the frigging best, and can kick any of those loser’s ass”.

    Well…

  • http://www.auns.ca Dan Auns

    I think that most in our space are too busy looking up at this transaction. Have a quick look down from an ADBE stakeholders perspective, and it should make a lot more sense. Adobe is (By in large) a package software company, this move provides a huge step to the (very desirable) SAAS model, and diversifying your revenue streams is +++ from a stakeholders view.

    Moreover, Adobe OWNES all verticals that they compete in – where is the predictable quarter over quarter growth that being a public entity demands going to come from when you own +90% of each market that your products compete in? A quick look at the ADBE ticker provides the answer, you look elsewhere.

    Omniture is significantly large company, making great strides in an entirely new discipline, let alone a new product/service vertical. At the same time, their product strategy and roadmap has been less than perfect, with a lot (my opinion) of room for improvement. The digital create/deploy/test/measure workflows are close enough for arguments sake, some elbow grease and creativity will provide the much needed polish to go to market – with a workflow that can’t be found anywhere else.

    There are synergies here, diversities, as well as some glaring opportunities.

  • nik7k7

    Like so many others, I am still baffled by Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture. I don’t think anyone saw that coming.

    The more I think about it however, the more I am starting to see Adobe’s rationale. Omniture provides something very powerful to a company who provides multimedia products – measuring, insights, ROI. In an economy where return on investment and accountability for every dollar spent is de riguer, perhaps Adobe wants to give its media heavy empire a much needed accountability.

    Several sites have pursued flash, video, and other “cutting-edge” visual technology, often hoping to be bigger and better than their competitors. Perhaps the Omniture acquisition will help justify these decisions and the software’s high costs. The web seems to be moving towards more tech-heavy / engineering websites than graphical – databases, ruby on rails, etc. Maybe the Omniture aquisition is just an attempt to remain competitive in light of this?

  • http://www.papercheck.com Darren Shafae

    I am really perplexed by Adobe’s acquisition of Omniture. I have several friends who have worked for Omniture in the past, and currently work for them today. It is my understanding that Google Analytics had crushed their margins, and the company was failing. Omniture, the Cadillac of analytic software products, was becoming more like a late model SUV. The pricing model was expensive and did not match today’s market place. It does not surprise me that Omniture was sold, but what is surprising is who made the purchase. I do not see a fit between Adobe and Omniture. I am assuming that Omniture services will now be incorporated into Dreamweaver and that their advanced analytics will be available for moderately priced monthly fees.

    However, I am not convinced that small business users and startups rely on Adobe/Macromedia products as much as they did during the dot com boom. More and more, applications are moving to cloud environments, and those applications are built on Ruby on Rails or Django. Analytic applications are not difficult to build using a database, IP address verification/matching, browser detection, and Google Charts, all for under $2,000. In addition, collecting these metrics and coupling them with your own sales numbers, plus removing the not-so-reliable JavaScript tags is not as difficult as Omniture sales representatives would make you believe. In addition, a proprietary analytic application is more reliable and accurate.

    Having said that, collecting the data and actually applying it in a useful way is a different story. Either way, I do not understand Adobe’s decision to purchase Omniture. I thought a better fit would have been Microsoft, especially since they are shutting down their analytics program at the end of the year. Then again, I guess they have access to Indextools.

  • John Bastone

    Eric,

    Nice observations on this deal. Like many in our space, we at SAS have been observing the news of the Omniture acquisition with interest. The integration of those 2 businesses will no doubt bring some benefits to the company, as they should be in a better position to understand the user experience of the Adobe platform.

    But the big question is what value this acquisition affords Adobe and Omniture’s own customers. Many of our customers are moving away from segregated reporting capabilities that center around each communications channel, in favor of an integrated analytic framework that revolves around the customer.

    We’ll continue to be agnostic on the technologies driving the interactive customer experience. Whether the front end is driven by Flash, Java, HTML, or for that matter, a point of sale system, and whether it is accessed via Webpage, Mobile Device or Social Networking site, we believe more businesses are moving to an integrated view of the customer across all customer touch points. If that trend holds, then the benefits of this merger might not extend to marketers that have concerns about what their customers are also doing outside of the rich media applications on their Web sites.

    Regards,

    John Bastone
    SAS Global Product Marketing, Customer Intelligence

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  • http://www.whencanistop.com Alec Cochrane

    I am going to disagree with Dan Auns on this one – from an Adobe shareholder point of view, I’m not convinced this is the best option.

    As I stated on my blog, Adobe have paid $1.8b for a company that has an annual revenue of $400m and an annual loss of $80m. I think Eric has this one right – Omniture have sold out before Q3 results show that revenue isn’t growing and they still need major investment to keep the company going. A lack of refinancing packages because of the economy have meant they’ve had to hawk themselves out based on future revenue and profit predictions.

    Personally I don’t think I’d be paying 5 times the revenue of a company that hasn’t made profit in a long time, unless I was thinking that the assets would increase in value so that I could sell them on at a profit in the future. Or if Adobe think that having Omniture might make the difference when they sell themselves out to a larger company (eg Microsoft).

    All of which means this move probably won’t be of any benefit to the Omniture customer in the short term. And if Adobe are intending to strip the company to make it profitable for resale, the in might result in poorer customer service. Although the alternative was Omniture not getting refinancing and having to do an even bigger job of that themselves.

  • http://www.redeye.com Mark Patron

    One thing that is missing from the debate so far is Abobe’s lack of a data and database culture, making execution of the “create, deliver, user engages, analyse and optimise” vision a challenge. Omniture may have the neccessary data smarts but Adobe is ten times Omniture’s size so it may be lost. I only wish them well, it is certainly a grand project.

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  • http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com eric

    Jiri: Wow, I would hate to speculate about what Adobe will or won’t do with the Omniture suite at this point. I know some HBX customers who are pretty nervous given that they’re basically on a “dead” platform but who knows what else will happen.

    Funny you mention Unica. I talked to their CEO this week and he seems pretty encouraged by the acquisition, almost strangely so. Apparently they have been getting a lot of traction vs. Omniture in competitive situations lately. I have considered them to be a “sleeping giant” this past year — they are so quiet from a sales and marketing perspective — perhaps with this shakeup the giant will awaken?

    Adam: Interesting thought. Why would Microsoft be “forced” to buy Adobe? Are they really that competitive? Silverlight perhaps, but Adobe’s core applications have always struck me as a great compliment to Windows applications, not competition.

    I do agree, Omniture would have helped MSFT get into SaaS but I suspect their focus on the office suite as an online offering is where the company is making their bet — not with a (relatively) tiny company in a niche market with revenues that are a rounding error for Redmond.

    Oracle on the other hand … ;-)

    Christopher: … at least you didn’t say “the winner will be the one that is easiest to use ;-)”

    Tom: I have to admit, I have no idea what you are talking about. How does Omniture change Flash? We have been measuring Flash for years using Omniture, Google, WebTrends, Core, Unica, etc. All this talk about how the acquisition will make Flash easier to measure … I just don’t see that.

    Measuring Flash has been an implementation issue, a process issue … not a technology issue.

    Tom: Giving Omniture away to the masses would be the worst possible idea in my humble opinion. Have you installed it recently? It is a massive undertaking. Trying to get the same type of critical mass that Google has gained with a tag many multiples more complicated than Google Analytics is unlikely at best.

    I see this as the core risk to Yahoo Web Analytics, although their deployment strategy can mitigate some of that risk. Maybe what you’re saying is that MSFT, had they acquired OMTR, could have used the same strategy?

    Jacques: Ah, the irony. Based on what I’m hearing Josh has a different definition of “nuisance” than the rest of us. Such is life.

    Dan: A step, I agree, but a huge step? My understanding is that Omniture doubles their recurring revenue from 10% to 20% of total revenue but growing that number is dependent on an awful lot of things, don’t you agree?

    Also, if this is a +++ from the stakeholders view, how do you interpret the ** shareholders ** beating the stock is getting?

  • http://www.webanalyticsdemystified.com eric

    Darren: I don’t have access to the same information about Google Analytics “crushing Omniture’s margins” that you do but I have been hearing about some of the losses they have suffered to competition, free and fee-based. That said you can’t win them all and Omniture is still a substantial force in the market, regardless of who owns them.

    Regarding building your own — what a disastrous idea that is! In an era where great free analytics are at your fingertips why would any business waste time trying to solve the long-list of problems the vendors deal with every day? And your statement about “more reliable and accurate” is, at least in my experience, 100% wrong. I have worked over my decade in the industry with dozens of companies that tried to “roll their own” and ** every ** instance was met with mistrust in the data, misuse of the system, and more or less outright failure.

    Sorry to rant, but I disagree pretty strongly. Web analytics is hard, why make it harder?

    Everyone: Thanks so much for your comments. Whether we agree or disagree it is a nice reminder what a great and tight community we all work in. I don’t get the fawning and hero worship in my blog that some folks do — I get smart, critical thinkers who are concerned about the fate of our industry.

    I prefer that.

    Again, congratulations to the team at Adobe and Omniture and best of luck with the acquisition and integration.

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  • http://www.papercheck.com Darren Shafae

    I respect your opinion, and I can understand your position. I also agree that Omniture is still a substantial force in the market place, but their business model will need to evolve in order for their business to survive. I have used several analytics packages, and I would disagree with your assessment that an in-house analytics deployment is less accurate. I have used $20,000/year and free analytics software packages that reported inaccurate sales numbers. In some instances, the paid analytics packages reported that one keyword contributed $92,233,720,368,547,760.00 in one day. I can send you the screen shots; they are highly entertaining. I believe that is $92 quadrillion; for a frame of reference, the US GDP was $14.26 trillion and the world GDP was $61.07 trillion (according to the cia.gov – http://lb.vg/a9z0Y).

    Obviously, I failed to clarify my thoughts. Analytics packages are a great barometer, but using one is similar to using an iPhone to produce a feature-length movie. At the end of the day, you need to match each sale with a source. You can do that in several ways. We use a combination of our in-house analytics and direct communication with our clients (we use Google Analytics as a barometer). We have the luxury of being a smaller firm, which allows us to follow up with a large percentage of our clients. That feedback is invaluable, and no analytics package can replicate verbal communication.

    Building a complete analytics package would be a dangerous and expensive undertaking. However, if you are after critical data that is proven to increase conversion, I do not believe you can use a free or paid analytics package as the only arrow in your quiver. I have yet to find an analytics package that solves the issue of re-acquired paid search clients. It is an issue I brought up previously with Judah Phillips (http://lb.vg/gb4R2).

    I would agree that Web analytics is hard, and it is not wise to make it harder. I would re-iterate that you cannot blindly trust numbers out of a software application. If you do not understand where these numbers are coming from and you cannot tie them to unique session identification numbers, you have no idea of whether those figures are accurate. We have determined the numbers in our analytics application to be accurate because they match dollar for dollar that which has been processed by our merchant service provider. Again, this is a feature that is not available from any analytics package, free or paid.

    I appreciate your feedback (and rant) and I look forward to your next post!

    Darren Shafae

  • Katie

    “Omniture customers switching, increasingly to Unica” – that links to a website called musiciansfriend that sells instruments. I’m assuming this was not your intention?!

  • http://www.pixelrage.net Mark

    How could it possibly get worse? To anyone who has actually managed an Omniture account, you probably know how they extort money out of you for anything as minuscule as simple phone support with their “minimum 10 consulting hours” you have to purchase for over $2k. Their over-ambitious salesmen promised the world in regard to solutions, and we never saw a single one. Absolutely terrible service, and a horrible experience from day one. At my full time job, we have already decided to let the contract expire, and go back to Google Analytics for the time being.

    Of course, this is just my/our experience!

    I figure that with Adobe (who actually knows how to do business correctly), there’s a chance of Omniture shaping up.

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Whether you have a single toe dipped in the waters of social media analytics or are fully submerged and drowning, you’ve almost certainly grappled with "engagement." This post isn’t going to answer the question "Is engagement ROI?" ...

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It’s not about "Big Data", it’s about the "RIGHT data"
Michele Kiss, Partner

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you have heard (and perhaps grown tired) of the buzzword "big data." But in attempts to chase the "next shiny thing", companies may focus too much on "big data" rather than the "right data."

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Eric T.
Peterson

John
Lovett

Adam
Greco

Brian
Hawkins

Kevin
Willeitner

Michele
Kiss

Josh
West

Tim
Wilson

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(503) 282-2601


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