More than half of all Google searches now happen on mobile devices

Nick Statt:

Google may be waging an ongoing battle against its competitors to keep smartphone owners using the web, but recent evidence suggests it’s making progress. Google’s Amit Singhal, senior vice president of search, said today Google now sees more than half of its 100 billion monthly searches occurring on mobile devices. Singhal, who’s speaking at Recode’s Code Mobile conference in Half Moon Bay, California, defined mobile as devices with screens smaller than six inches.
 “For the first time, we’re getting more searches on mobile devices than on desktop,” Singhal said. The metric is significant because Google has been facing off against Facebook and Apple in a power grab for internet browsing habits. Google bakes search, which helps generate a majority of its ad revenue, into nearly every Android handset sold around the globe, making it a backbone of the mobile ecosystem. Yet Facebook has increasingly been tailoring its mobile app, which it’s built into its own ad-supported money-making machine, as a one-stop shop for all your web needs. There’s no reason to use Google search if Facebook can surface everything you’re looking for via algorithms.

Manager Tip 9: We sell homes to people, not bots

Several years ago, I created a simple script that compared brokerage home page complexity. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, in the “seo” age, I found that most websites were built for bots, not people. The worst offender, a top 100 RealTrends member, offered home page visitors 774 link and button choices…. The best, thankfully a client :) offered “only” 17….

Fast forward to today, as we approach the end of 2015.

The tech landscape is rapidly changing. Consultants and vendors who bet the farm on “responsive websites” are facing a looming canyon. Google, in the face of app time [3] killing off their advertising business [4], yesterday announced a new, much thinner (and hopefully faster) web scheme: AMP, or “accelerated mobile pages” [2]. This initiative kills javascript, a web tool that is everywhere, everywhere.

What might Virtual Properties recommend?

A. Digital experiences are marketing.

B. Provide a real time, integrated lead to closing experience for your agents, clients, staff and managers, from apps to your website, intranet, social networks, notifications, email and the Agent App.

C. Your website should be simple, elegant and in the words of a friend “scream professionalism”.

D. Your apps should be world class, that is fast, simple and focus on the agent and client digital experience.

E. Your real time cloud CRM should make all of this work AND support your core services such as mortgage, title and insurance. Oh, the consultant tip to “integrate api’s” is a fools errand [1].

Happily, Virtual Properties with our great clients has built a new infrastructure for the new world. Our public and agent apps seamlessly integrate with your broker and agent websites and our cloud back office CRM. From leads to closings, we provide a single entry experience. Your agents need not wait 36 hours to load photos…. due to tech spaghetti (that fools errand). [1]

This would be a great time to understand if your tech platforms (some brokers have 21 systems!) are ready to sell homes to people, not bots over the next few years. The answer might be surprising.

[1] Manager Tip 7: Flow Taxes

[2] Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages

[3] Digital service and app time dominate.

[4] Background links:

  1. Facebook’s Smartphone Advertising Revenue. Note that the vast majority of Facebook activity is in apps.
  2. Facebook plans to go deeper via “instant articles”, launched in their iPhone app later this year. “Instant articles” include Facebook advertising, excluding Google. Apple’s News app is in the mix as well.
  3. Smartphone app use dominates now dominates America’s digital time.
  4. Ad blocker use is growing very quickly. Here’s why.
  5. Bots & click fraud: How much of your audience is fake? It must be noted that seo tactics have rapidly expanded the number of bots scraping websites. Further, the industry has often provided listing data at no cost to aggregators…. Is there a difference?
  6. Google charges for YouTube ads even when viewed by bots.
  7. The number of people who use search engines to discover brands, products and services is down (see the rise of digital assistants). More here.
  8. Facebook’s like buttons will soon track your web browsing to target ads. (Google and many others do this as well).

  9. Wintel PC’s are heading to 10% of the personal computing market.

China’s Nightmarish Citizen Scores Are a Warning For Americans

Jay Stanley:

China is launching a comprehensive “credit score” system, and the more I learn about it, the more nightmarish it seems. China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, “authoritarianism, gamified.” Read this piece for the full flavor—it will make your head spin. If that and the little other reporting I’ve seen is accurate, the basics are this:

RIP JavaScript? Google’s plan to speed up the mobile Web: Burn it down

Owen Williams:

“At its core, the technology restricts the use of JavaScript heavily — as in, it’s completely blocked for third party use. Instead, Google says that developers should use custom elements and Web components to make up for it.”
 They are trying to compete with native performance from Apple and Facebook (“instant articles”)

This privacy activist has just won an enormous victory against U.S. surveillance. Here’s how.

Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman:

The European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, has just ruled that the Safe Harbor, an arrangement between the European Union and the United States allowing for the transfer of personal data, is legally invalid. Few non-specialists have heard of the Safe Harbor. Even so, this ruling is going to send shock waves through both Europe and the United States. Here’s how it happened (we talk about the implications in a separate post).
 The Safe Harbor is the cornerstone of transatlantic e-commerce
 Over the last 15 years, major U.S. e-commerce firms, such as Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, have developed big markets in Europe. They all rely on an arrangement called “Safe Harbor” to export personal data from Europe to the United States. The Safe Harbor was negotiated between Europe and the United States after a previous transatlantic dispute in which Europe threatened to stop transatlantic data flows. Europe has comprehensive legislation guaranteeing the privacy of E.U. citizens and preventing businesses from using their personal information in various potentially harmful ways. The United States does not have comprehensive privacy legislation (although it does protect the data of U.S. citizens against government intrusions, and provides some protections, e.g. for health data).

The Rise of the Outrageously Long Commute


A few years back, David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue Airways, left his company and launched a new airline in Brazil. The airline, Azul, flies 22 million people a year, employs 12,000 people, and is the fastest-growing carrier in the region.
 You’d think running such a large, complex operation would require a move to South America. But Neeleman commutes to Azul’s Sao Paulo headquarters every week from his home in Connecticut, taking the 10-hour redeye on Sunday nights and returning on Thursdays. This way, he says, he doesn’t have to uproot his family of 10 kids.
 “My wife wasn’t so interested in moving,” said Neeleman, who recently bought TAP, Portugal’s national airline and is now commuting there as well. “We had all these kids playing [American] football and lacrosse. They don’t have those sports in Brazil.”

The Cost of Mobile Ads on 50 News Websites


Ad blockers, which Apple first allowed on the iPhone in September, promise to conserve data and make websites load faster. But how much of your mobile data comes from advertising? We measured the mix of advertising and editorial on the mobile home pages of the top 50 news websites – including ours – and found that more than half of all data came from ads and other content filtered by ad blockers. Not all of the news websites were equal.

Reform Advertising

Jeff Jarvis:

Advertising is broken and we in journalism and media must take responsibility for reinventing it — because advertisers and their agencies will not and because our very survival depends upon it.

Q3 2015: Mobile dominates the path to purchase


Smartphones are the key for top quartile retailers: Top quartile is now generating almost 50% of sales from mobile, mainly due to much better optimization of smartphone conversion rates.

Privacy as a sales tool

Matthew Panzarino:

This is the template for all other tech companies when it comes to informing users about their privacy. Not a page of dense jargon, and not a page of cutesy simplified language that doesn’t actually communicate the nuance of the thing. Instead, it’s a true product. A product whose aims are to inform and educate, just as Apple says its other products do.
 Apple has been at the forefront of using privacy as a sales tool, but it won’t be the last. Encrypted phones; messaging apps that secure and delete conversations; nearly every major Internet service we use has been re-tooled in some way in response to what we know about how much everyone else knows. It only makes sense that the moribund privacy policy should get a makeover as well.

Google introduces email match advertising

Google Adwords:

Mobile has changed the game for both consumers and brands. Consumer expectations for immediacy and relevance are higher than ever, and successful brands are those that connect with people in the moments that matter most to them — the I-want-to-know, I-want-to-go, I-want-to-do, and I-want-to-buy moments. Google is a company built on meeting people’s needs in the moment. Through our ads innovations, we’ve brought that ability to businesses large and small.
 On Monday afternoon at Advertising Week’s Times Center Stage, I’ll be announcing two new products, Customer Match and Universal App Campaigns, to help you be there and be relevant in those intent-rich moments that truly matter.

The Social-Network Illusion That Tricks Your Mind

Technology Review:

One of the curious things about social networks is the way that some messages, pictures, or ideas can spread like wildfire while others that seem just as catchy or interesting barely register at all. The content itself cannot be the source of this difference. Instead, there must be some property of the network that changes to allow some ideas to spread but not others.
 Today, we get an insight into why this happens thanks to the work of Kristina Lerman and pals at the University of Southern California. These people have discovered an extraordinary illusion associated with social networks which can play tricks on the mind and explain everything from why some ideas become popular quickly to how risky or antisocial behavior can spread so easily.
 Network scientists have known about the paradoxical nature of social networks for some time. The most famous example is the friendship paradox: on average your friends will have more friends than you do.
 This comes about because the distribution of friends on social networks follows a power law. So while most people will have a small number of friends, a few individuals have huge numbers of friends. And these people skew the average.
 Here’s an analogy. If you measure the height of all your male friends. you’ll find that the average is about 170 centimeters. If you are male, on average, your friends will be about the same height as you are. Indeed, the mathematical notion of “average” is a good way to capture the nature of this data.
 But imagine that one of your friends was much taller than you—say, one kilometer or 10 kilometers tall. This person would dramatically skew the average, which would make your friends taller than you, on average. In this case, the “average” is a poor way to capture this data set.

Reach vs Rich Experiences: Apps vs The Mobile Web

John Koetsier:

The answer is pretty simple: Deepest engagement for the longest period of time happens in apps, so apps matter, and they matter desperately for brands who want to connect to customers. But since, as we’ve seen in our research, apps-per-smartphone users is maxxing out at an average of 50-60, and no-one besides Robert Scoble is going to install an app for each company, service, or site he or she interacts with, your mobile web experience has to be good, and it has to be strong.

Related: 50 seconds vs 50 clicks.

“18-24 demographic is down 20% year over year, with male viewership within that demographic falling by 24%”


As was the case Monday night, some of broadcast’s most reliable franchises were down versus their year-ago numbers. “The Voice” was off 17% with a 3.4 rating while “NCIS” notched its lowest premiere rating with a 3.6 adults 25-to-54 rating. Reversing the trend, ABC’s “Fresh Off the Boat” actually improved two-tenths of a point from its year-ago time slot debut; season-to-date, the family comedy is the only broadcast show to enjoy year-to-year growth.
 All told, cumulative viewership during “Premiere Week”, as it’s called, is down 8% compared to the same period a year-ago. More worrisome for TV networks is that viewership from the highly sought-after 18-24 demographic is down 20% year over year, with male viewership within that demographic falling by 24%.

Google under U.S. antitrust scanner for Android operating system


FTC officials have met with representatives of technology companies who said Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform, while restricting others, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter. (
 Reuters reported in April that some technology companies had complained to the DoJ that the Android mobile operating system is anti-competitive, urging the U.S. antitrust enforcers to investigate allegations that Google unfairly uses its Android system to win online advertising.

How much of your audience is fake?

Ben Elgin, Michael Riley, David Kocieniewski, and Joshua Brustein:

The most startling finding: Only 20 percent of the campaign’s “ad impressions”—ads that appear on a computer or smartphone screen—were even seen by actual people.

“The room basically stopped,” Amram recalls. The team was concerned about their jobs; someone asked, “Can they do that? Is it legal?” But mostly it was disbelief and outrage. “It was like we’d been throwing our money to the mob,” Amram says. “As an advertiser we were paying for eyeballs and thought that we were buying views. But in the digital world, you’re just paying for the ad to be served, and there’s no guarantee who will see it, or whether a human will see it at all.”

Bot Prevalence by Browser Age

Increasingly, digital ad viewers aren’t human. A study done last year in conjunction with the Association of National Advertisers embedded billions of digital ads with code designed to determine who or what was seeing them. Eleven percent of display ads and almost a quarter of video ads were “viewed” by software, not people. According to the ANA study, which was conducted by the security firm White Ops and is titled The Bot Baseline: Fraud In Digital Advertising, fake traffic will cost advertisers $6.3 billion this year.

One ad tracked in the study was a video spot for Chrysler that ran last year on, a site based on the food and travel lifestyle magazine. Only 2 percent of the ad views registered as human, according to a person who was briefed on data provided to the study’s participants. Chrysler, which doesn‘t dispute the data, ceased buying ads on the site once it became aware of the “fraudulent activity,” says Eileen Wunderlich, the automaker’s spokeswoman. White Ops, which left out the names of the advertiser and website in its published study, declined to comment. Executives at Bonnier, the publishing company behind, say they screen every impression and that the White Ops study looked at 5,700 ads, a very small number. They also say there are multiple methods for detecting nonhuman traffic, and that there’s no single standard used by the industry. “We weren’t aware of any problem or complaint. If it had been brought to our attention we would have fixed it,“ says Perri Dorset, a Bonnier spokeswoman.

Fake traffic has become a commodity. There’s malware for generating it and brokers who sell it. Some companies pay for it intentionally, some accidentally, and some prefer not to ask where their traffic comes from. It’s given rise to an industry of countermeasures, which inspire counter-countermeasures. “It’s like a game of whack-a-mole,” says Fernando Arriola, vice president for media and integration at ConAgra Foods. Consumers, meanwhile, to the extent they pay attention to targeted ads at all, hate them: The top paid iPhone app on Apple’s App Store is an ad blocker.

“I can think of nothing that has done more harm to the Internet than ad tech,” says Bob Hoffman, a veteran ad executive, industry critic, and author of the blog the Ad Contrarian. “It interferes with everything we try to do on the Web. It has cheapened and debased advertising and spawned criminal empires.” Most ridiculous of all, he adds, is that advertisers are further away than ever from solving the old which-part-of-my-budget-is-working problem. “Nobody knows the exact number,” Hoffman says, “but probably about 50 percent of what you’re spending online is being stolen from you.”

You really only use three apps on your phone

Dan Frommer:

Time spent in smartphone apps continues to grow, according to comScore’s latest US mobile app report. Americans spent almost 70 hours in smartphone apps, on average, in June (excluding the web browser). Younger users, aged 18- 24, spent more than 90 hours. More apps are also reaching larger audiences: 60 apps had more than 10 million unique visitors in June, up from 44 a year ago, according to comScore.
 But attention is still largely concentrated among a user’s top few apps. The average American spends 50% of their app time in their most-used app, and almost 80% in their top three apps, according to comScore.

Darkode: hackers & bots


It would seem that hackers today can do just about anything they want – from turning on the cellphone in your pocket to holding your life’s work hostage. Cyber criminals today have more sophisticated tools, have learned to work collaboratively around the world and have found innovative ways to remain deep undercover in the internet’s shadows. This episode, we shine a light into those shadows to see the world from the perspectives of both cybercrime victims and perpetrators.

Facebook’s Restrictions on User Data Cast a Long Shadow


few months ago, social psychologist Benjamin Crosier was building an app to look for links between social-media activity and ills like drug addiction.
 Then, he was stopped in his tracks after Facebook Inc. limited outsiders’ access to information about its roughly 1.5 billion users. Dr. Crosier, a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College, is petitioning the company to get some of that data back.
 His experience highlights how Facebook’s restrictions on its user data, which were announced last year and put into effect in May, are rippling through academia, business and presidential politics.
 Dozens of startups that had been using Facebook data have shut down, been acquired or overhauled their businesses. Political consultants are racing to find new ways to tap voters’ social connections ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
 “Facebook giveth and Facebook taketh away,” said Nick Soman, who collected the locations of Facebook users’ friends to enhance his anonymous-chat app, Reveal. He later sold the app to music service Rhapsody International Inc. Mr. Soman said he admires Facebook, but learned a lesson about relying on third parties for a key component of his app.

Google charges for YouTube ads even when viewed by robots

Robert Cookson:

Google has been charging marketers for advertisements it places on YouTube even when the video platform’s fraud-detection systems identify that a “viewer” is a robot rather than a human being.

The findings, revealed in an experiment by European researchers, raise questions about whether Google is doing enough to protect advertisers from deception.

Fake views of ads by “bots” — computer programs that mimic the behaviour of internet users — have become a big problem for marketers as they shift an increasing portion of their advertising budgets online.

In the experiment, the first of its kind, the researchers uploaded videos to YouTube. They then bought ads on the platform, targeting their own videos. And finally, they created some bots and directed them to the videos. These three steps allowed them to monitor how Google’s various systems treated each fake view.

When the researchers sent the bots to visit two particular videos 150 times, YouTube’s public view counter identified only 25 of the views as real. However, AdWords, Google’s service for advertisers, charged the researchers for 91 of the bot visits.

In other words, Google’s core advertising engine charged the researchers for the bot visits even though YouTube was clearly able to identify them as fake.

The number of people who say they use search engines to discover brands, products, and services is down

Lara O’reilly:

The decline is significant: down from 55% to 49% in one year. For younger demographics, the change was even more marked. Bardega said: “For older demographics, the change is less pronounced. But the trend is there in black and white.”
 The caveat here is that this is a survey, not actual search click data. People may say they’re searching less but we don’t know what their actual usage is. But it’s interesting to see that people say they are using search less now than ever before.
 Why is this happening? ZenithOptimedia and GlobalWebIndex proposed three reasons:

Xerox scanners/photocopiers randomly alter numbers in scanned documents

D. Kriesel:

In this article I present in which way scanners / copiers of the Xerox WorkCentre Line randomly alter written numbers in pages that are scanned. This is not an OCR problem (as we switched off OCR on purpose), it is a lot worse – patches of the pixel data are randomly replaced in a very subtle and dangerous way: The scanned images look correct at first glance, even though numbers may actually be incorrect. Without a fuss, this may cause scenarios like:

Facebook’s Like Buttons Will Soon Track Your Web Browsing to Target Ads

Tom Simonite:

Facebook’s ad targeting algorithms are about to get a new firehose of valuable and controversial personal data.
 Starting next month, the millions of Facebook “Like” and “Share” buttons that publishers have added to their pages and mobile apps will start funneling data on people’s Web browsing habits into the company’s ad targeting systems. After the change, the types of sites you visit could be used to tune ads shown to you inside Facebook’s social networking service, its photo-sharing service Instagram, and mobile apps that use Facebook’s ad network.

A Revolution in Digital Assistants

Francesco Muzzi:

Today, Kaplan is a vice president and distinguished scientist at Nuance Communications, which has become probably the biggest player in the voice interface business: It powers Ford’s in-car Sync system, was critical in Siri’s development, and has partnerships across nearly every industry. But Nuance finds itself in a crowded marketplace these days. Nearly every major tech company—from Amazon to Intel to Microsoft to Google—is chasing the sort of conversational user interface that Kaplan and his colleagues at PARC imagined decades ago. Dozens of startups are in the game too. All are scrambling to come out on top in the midst of a powerful shift under way in our relationship with technology. One day soon, these companies believe, you will talk to your gadgets the way you talk to your friends. And your gadgets will talk back. They will be able to hear what you say and figure out what you mean.
 If you’re already steeped in today’s technology, these new tools will extend the reach of your digital life into places and situations where the graphical user interface cannot safely, pleasantly, or politely go. And the increasingly conversational nature of your back-and-forth with your devices will make your relationship to technology even more intimate, more loyal, more personal.

The New Public App, Part 1

Why is Virtual Properties Introducing a New Public App?

1. The largest market, ever.

The world buyers and sellers live in is rapidly changing. Of 5bn adults on earth today, close to 4bn and growing have a mobile phone today, almost all of whom will convert to smartphones over the next few years [1]. The smartphone dwarfs any other technical platform.

2. App time dominates.

Apps now represent 90% of time spent on mobile devices [2]. The mobile web is just 10% – and falling. uber and AirBnB are changing people’s convenience and service expectations.

The number of people who say they use search engines to discover brands, products, and services is down

3. Digital Services Dominate.

Your customers are using digital services more and more each day. Social networks, travel, digital entertainment, healthcare, banking and many other services are now used with a tap or two. 54% of Bank of America’s clients (your potential customers) use their mobile apps [3]. That number grows by 5,000 per day.

Consider today’s buyers and sellers in light of this data:

“Forty percent of buyers found their agent through a referral from a friend or family member and 12 percent used an agent they had used before to buy or sell a home and Two-thirds of recent buyers only interviewed one agent before the found the agent they worked with” [4]

[1] Forget about the Mobile Internet and the Smartphone is the New Sun by Ben Evans.

[2] Seven Years Into The Mobile Revolution: Content is King by Flurry Insights.

[4] Bank of America Adds Fingerprint Login to Mobile App and 2015 Trends in Mobility.

[4] National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers 2014 [PDF].

Google Bets on Insurance Startup Oscar Health

Douglas MacMillan:

Insurance startup Oscar Health Insurance Corp. has a powerful new ally in its costly battle to win customers from entrenched insurance giants like UnitedHealth Group Inc. and Anthem Inc.
 Google Capital, the Internet company’s growth-equity fund, has invested $32.5 million in Oscar, the startup said in an interview. The deal values two-year-old Oscar at $1.75 billion, up from a valuation of $1.5 billion when it last took funding in April, said a person familiar with the transaction.
 Oscar has amassed a considerable war chest of more than $350 million in its bid to use data and technology to make the insurance business work more like an Internet service. More than 40,000 patients have signed up in New York and New Jersey, Oscar’s first and only markets so far, and the company plans to open its service to users in California and Texa

The internet after ad blocking

Casey Johnston

Gawker has one of my favorite shamelessly aggressive pop-up ads on the internet. On any piece that seems to be getting a modicum of traffic, a silent, autoplaying video loads about ten seconds after the article does (preceded by thirty or so tracking scripts). There is a tiny link to dismiss the ad in the corner; if your cursor aim is not true, and you try to click, it will open you a second tab for whatever product it’s hawking. The videos last only a few seconds, which I used to spend being angry and impatient, but now I find it’s enough time for me to reflect on what I’m paying, and what I’m getting in return, and how long these transactions are really going to last. The ad can be skipped in 5, 4, 3, (take aim) 2, 1, and the link leaps out from under my mouse as I click. Another favorite: The other day, I took a break from reading an article on this website to check out some towels. I browsed the options, assessed the prices, and decided they weren’t right for me. I went back to the article I was reading. There, on the right side of the page rail, was an ad for the towels I was just looking at, from the same store. I didn’t even have to refresh the page.
 Display ads on websites have only grown more aggressive in the last two years, taking up ever-expanding amounts of space, bandwidth, and attention. Interstitials that load as a separate page—or pop-ups, which load over the content and require a click to dismiss—are more popular than ever, especially on mobile; video ads that play automatically, too often with audio, have creeped onto more and more pages, which are themselves so engorged by the number and weight of ads that they take forever to load. And, to fill ad space on their sites, most publishers use third-party networks that often place tracking cookies on each user’s device in order to sop up information that can be used to serve new, more personalized ads, or to collect information that could be aggregated, repackaged, and sold to other marketing agencies.

Medium’s Evan Williams To Publishers: Your Website Is Toast

Robert Hof:

Websites are in about the same place as dinosaurs were at the tail end of the Cretaceous Period 65 million years ago. Which is to say, about to go extinct.
 So says Evan Williams, a confounder of Twitter and Blogger and now CEO of Medium, the publishing platform he started a few years ago. So he knows a little something about the recent rapid evolution of online media.

Like Instagram for doctors, Figure 1 app now has 500,000 users

Sean Silcoff:

Early this summer, a resident at Kentwood Manor Nursing Home in rural Louisiana had a leg wound that wouldn’t heal. The staff and specialists in the region were flummoxed, so nursing head Karey Thigpen turned to a social network created by Toronto startup Figure 1 Inc.
 After rifling through anonymous images of afflicted patients posted by medical professionals “we found one that looked like our patient,” she said. Not only did she discover the wound was a rare condition known as Raynaud’s Phenomenon with Martorell’s Ulcer, she also learned how to treat it from the doctor who uploaded the image. “It provided insight we didn’t have and what other specialists hadn’t been able to give us,” Ms. Thigpen said. Three months later, the patient is healed.

Starbucks accelerates Mobile Order & Pay rollout as success escalates

Chantal Tode:

Starbucks is accelerating the rollout of Mobile Order & Pay in response to strong results, with the service now expected to be available at all company-owned stores by the end of September as well as on Android phones for the first time.
 The coffee house chain’s chief financial officer Scott Maw made the announcement late last week during a presentation at the Goldman Sachs Global Retailing Conference. The service, which enables customers to place an order before arriving at store, is driving efficiencies and enabling each store to complete more transactions.

Manager Tip 8: Why?

The real estate process has many players, from agents, tax collectors, appraiser, bankers, inspectors, insurance, landscapers, builders and brokers.

Yet, our mutual goal is happy homeowners.

And, so it was, several weeks ago, that Nancy and I walked a few blocks to a great party. Madison’s Nakoma neighborhood recently celebrated – in style – its 100th anniversary.

Long time friends and clients – The Stark Company developed Nakoma.

Kudos all around.

Nakoma @100 Madison, WI USA 22 August 2015 Panorama

Nakoma @100 Madison, WI USA 22 August 2015

It was a wonderful evening, full of friends, music, kids and an obvious 2015 addition – food carts!

All Websites Look The Same

Dave Ellis:

When was the last time you saw a website that didn’t have a huge image fitting to the screen with some giant text overlaid on it?
 Scroll down a little and you’ll be greeted with either another full width panel, this time a solid colour with centred text sat in it, or a bank of 3 columns with icons sat above them. Websites are all blending into one.
 But why?
 I guess the first question is why, why has one style swept across the web design world and been implemented across so many websites? I’ve thought and thought about this and never really come up with a single answer. Initially I looked at the huge theme market that exists where creators sell their themes to any number of customers. The theme market is massive, and as a result creators mimic the best selling work in an effort to make more money. You’re not going to make a lot of money in the theme market by going out on a limb and creating something incredibly unique and personalised. Generic wins out every time.

Why We Hate Cheap Things

book of life:

We don’t think we hate cheap things – but we frequently behave as if we rather do. Consider the pineapple. Columbus was the first European to be delighted by the physical grandeur and vibrant sweetness of the pineapple – which is a native of South America but had reached the Caribbean by the time he arrived there.
 The first meeting between Europeans and pineapples took place in November 1493, in a Carib village on the island of Guadaloupe. Columbus’s crew spotted the fruit next to a pot of stewing human limbs. The outside reminded them of a pine cone, the interior pulp of an apple. But pineapples proved extremely difficult to transport and very costly to cultivate. For a long time only royalty could actually afford to eat them: Russia’s Catherine the Great was a huge fan as was Charles II of England. A single fruit in the 17th century sold for today’s equivalent of GBP 5000. The pineapple was such a status symbol that, if they could get hold of one, people would keep it for display until it fell apart. In the mid-eighteenth century, at the height of the pineapple craze, whole aristocratic evenings were structured around the ritual display of these fruits. Poems were written in their honour. Savouring a tiny sliver could be the high point of a year.

Death of cash’ predicted within a decade

James Pickford.

The Best Tax Move To Shelter Property

Robert Milburn:

Investors in highly-appreciated multifamily homes or commercial office buildings can cash out without incurring a hefty tax bill. A 1031 Exchange is an IRS-sanctioned rule that allows investors to sell a property and buy another “like” property without incurring capital gains taxes. There are a few wrinkles, of course, but when coupled with smart tax and estate planning moves, it can be a remarkably effective way to transfer wealth.

Here’s how it works. Suppose an investor bought a multifamily home 40 years ago for $1 million. For tax purposes, the home’s value was depreciated over time so that today’s cost basis is zero. Now, if the property’s value had skyrocketed to $5 million, then at the time of the sale, the owner would be forced to pay $1.2 million in taxes (at the top federal capital gains rate of 23.8%). By using a 1031 exchange, the investor could sell off the property and use the proceeds to buy another $5 million property and defer the taxes.

Mobile Readers Abound; the Ads, Not So Much

Jack Marshall::

 Mind the gap: publishers’ mobile ad revenue isn’t keeping pace with traffic growth. Getty Images
 Meanwhile, online giants Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Twitter Inc.—who sidestep many of those issues—are mopping up the mobile dollars marketers are spending. Facebook alone accounted for 37% of all U.S. mobile display advertising revenue in 2014, according to eMarketer.
 At New York Times Co., more than half of visits to the company’s digital properties now come from smartphones and tablets, according to the chief revenue officer, Meredith Kopit Levien. Those devices accounted for just 15% of the company’s digital ad revenue in the second quarter.
 “[Mobile revenues] are definitely lagging audience. No question,” Ms. Levien said.
 It is a similar story at News Corp’s Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal. More than half of unique visits to The Wall Street Journal Digital Network—which includes the Journal, MarketWatch, Barron’s, and WSJ Magazine—now come from non-desktop devices, but mobile accounts for less than 20% of the network’s digital ad revenue, according to a person familiar with the matter.

New research: Companies plan to massively increase spend on marketing analytics

Andrew Jones:

 A new research report on marketing analytics shows that brands plan to increase their spending on the category by a whopping 73 percent over the next three years. For big market cap B2C companies, it’s closer to a 100 percent increase.
 The category not only shows massive growth, but also a lot of funding — more than a billion dollars of VC money has been invested in data analytics companies so far this year.
 Overall, user data, investment data, and adoption data all indicate that analytics is one of the hottest marketing technology categories right now.

The Online Privacy Lie Is Unraveling

Natasha Lomas:

A new report into U.S. consumers’ attitude to the collection of personal data has highlighted the disconnect between commercial claims that web users are happy to trade privacy in exchange for ‘benefits’ like discounts. On the contrary, it asserts that a large majority of web users are not at all happy, but rather feel powerless to stop their data being harvested and used by marketers.
 The report authors’ argue it’s this sense of resignation that is resulting in data tradeoffs taking place — rather than consumers performing careful cost-benefit analysis to weigh up the pros and cons of giving up their data (as marketers try to claim). They also found that where consumers were most informed about marketing practices they were also more likely to be resigned to not being able to do anything to prevent their data being harvested.

Facebook has taken over from Google as a traffic source for news

Matthew Ingram:

Traffic analytics firm says its latest figures show the giant social network now accounts for more of the traffic to news sites than Google.
 Anyone who works for a major news website or publisher knows that social referrals—that is, links that are shared on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter—have become a crucial source of incoming traffic, and have been vying with search as a source of new readers for some time. Now, according to new numbers from the traffic-analytics service, Facebook is no longer just vying with Google but has overtaken it by a significant amount.’s chief technical officer Andrew Montalenti said in an interview with Fortune that the company’s latest estimates show that social-media sources (of which Facebook FB 1.32% is by far the largest) accounted for about 43% of the traffic to the network of media sites, while Google accounted for just 38%.
 The company’s clients include more than 400 major news and media outlets, including traditional publishers such as Wired, The Atlantic, Reuters and The Daily Telegraph, as well as a large group of digital-only outlets such as Mashable, The Next Web and Business Insider. Collectively, the network accounts for about 6 billion pageviews and more than one billion unique visitors per month.
 Parsely traffic sources
 This isn’t the first time that Facebook has edged past Google in the traffic-referral race, Montalenti said. The social network took the top spot by a small amount last October, but this month’s lead is far more dramatic — and the CTO said that from the company’s data, it’s clear that search has hit a kind of plateau and isn’t really growing any more as a referral source for media. Meanwhile, Facebook’s influence has “shown it’s on a continued growth trajectory.”
 That trajectory has been fairly dramatic: According to, as recently as January of last year, Facebook accounted for just 20% of all the traffic from documented sources to the company’s network of media sites, and now it is more than double that. Montalenti said this doesn’t mean Facebook accounts for 43% of all traffic, but just the sources that is able to get data on.
 Tony Haile, CEO of the traffic-analytics firm Chartbeat, said that his company’s data shows a similar theme: although Google has a much broader range of sites it sends traffic to via search, the larger news and media sites have become much more reliant on Facebook. “When we look at all the sites over our network, a third have more Facebook traffic than Google,” he said. “But when we only look at the largest 20%, about half of them have more traffic from Facebook than Google.”
 Parsley traffic FB vs Google
 Although there’s no question that social sharing has become a much more important source of traffic in its own right, the CTO said that a change in Google’s referral practices may also have played a role. While the search company used to show publishers what keywords were used to direct the most traffic to their articles, in most cases it doesn’t provide that kind of data any more. The company says this is for security reasons, but Montalenti says it could also be because Google doesn’t want publishers to game its algorithm.
 Whatever the reasoning, that lack of insight into what kind of traffic is coming from Google and why could have helped contribute to a lack of interest in SEO and growing interest in using social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter TWTR -2.62% . Facebook has also been trying to court media companies and get them to host more of their content on the site, Montalenti noted, through efforts such as the Instant Articles project it announced earlier this year.
 The only problem with that shift, the CTO says, is that Facebook is almost as impenetrable as Google when it comes to trying to figure out why one article did well and another didn’t. And that makes it difficult for publishers to build a coherent social-media strategy.
 “There’s a lot of effort among media companies being placed on specific social channels like Twitter, but our data shows that Twitter is basically a distant traffic source,” says Montalenti. “That’s unfortunate because Facebook is a lot less transparent around things like how the algorithm functions. There’s a lot more useful data from Twitter about their content, but FB is more like a black box in terms of how it operates. And yet it’s this huge and growing traffic source.”

What’s the future price of solar?

Ramez Naam

I’ll attempt to make some projections (tentatively) here.

tl;dr: If current rates of improvement hold, solar will be incredibly cheap by the time it’s a substantial fraction of the world’s electricity supply.
Background: The Exponential Decline in Solar Module Costs

It’s now fairly common knowledge that the cost of solar modules is dropping exponentially. I helped publicize that fact in a 2011 Scientific American blog post asking “Does Moore’s Law Apply to Solar Cells?” The answer is that something like Moore’s law, an exponential learning curve (albeit slower than in computing) applies. (For those that think Moore’s Law is a terrible analogy, here’s my post on why Moore’s Law is an excellent analogy for solar.)

How Facebook, Apple and Twitter are ending online equality

Mike Elgan

The latest trend in social networking is the rise of elitism.

It’s not an elitism that’s emerging spontaneously from the everyday social interaction of users. Facebook, Apple and Twitter are intentionally devising a new online world of inequality. This new social media elitism is being trotted out as a “feature.”

It’s sad, too. Egalitarianism used to be the signature attribute of new media.

While old media was a one-to-many affair (whoever was rich or famous had access to the TV cameras or the newspaper headlines while the rest of us were forced to sit in silence and passively receive their communications), new media was participatory and engendered equality. Even the most self-aggrandizing actor or preening musical diva had to set up a Myspace or Twitter or Facebook account and use the same tools and features as everybody else.

Of course, we all haven’t enjoyed complete equality in our reach or influence on social networks. Famous people have generally had larger audiences, and therefore more influence. But when the rich and/or famous have talked to us, we’ve been able to talk back. New media was different from old media in that it was a level playing field, where all of us — rich and poor, famous and obscure — used the same set of social media features, tools and interaction spaces.

I No Longer Have Any Trust In The Nest Protect

Michael Larabel:

When removing the unit from my Nest account, somehow all of the other Nests were still relaying these warnings. I couldn’t find a way to stop it.
 In the end, I ran out to my garage, 20lb sledgehammer, and began whacking on the device… Few hits later, peace and quiet was restored… I must say though, was quite impressed with the build quality of the Nest Protect. The housing broke but the Nest Protect remained largely intact after meeting the sledgehammer.

Learning New Information is Easier When it is Composed of Familiar Elements

Carnegie Mellon psychologists uncover critical relationship between working memory and strength of information ‘chunks’.
 People have more difficulty recalling the string of letters BIC, IAJ, FKI, RSU and SAF than FBI, CIA, JFK, IRS and USA. The well-established reason is that the amount of information we can hold in our short-term or working memory is affected by whether the information can be “chunked” into larger units.
 New research by Carnegie Mellon University psychologists takes this learning principle one step further by uncovering how the strength – or familiarity – of those chunks plays a crucial role. Published in Psychonomic Bulletin Review, they show for the first time that it is easier to learn new facts that are composed of more familiar chunks.

Commuting Kills


Every year we lose up to 10% of our electricity purely due to resistance during transmission. If you’ve ever wondered why a room-temperature superconductor is sought after, this is why. Thinking about superconductivity reminded me of the problem I have with companies who don’t allow telecommuting. The way I see it, remote-workers are like work-place superconductivity: Brain power and productivity arrive instantly where they’re needed with zero transmission cost.
 I decided to do the math on what the health and environmental costs are related to commuting to work every year.
 Moving people from home to work is surprisingly expensive in many ways. The average commute time by car in the United States is about 25 minutes each way. The average commute time by other means is also just over 25 minutes each way. [Source: US Census Bureau and data from] The average number of work days per year is 261. [Source:]

Manager Tip 7: Flow Taxes

A few notes for your upcoming recruiting conversations.

1. Agent Tax

Time is money in a tight inventory market. Most brokers require their agents to use 11 to 21 systems. That spaghetti is a significant tax on agents and their your margins.

A single entry system supports company dollar growth.

2. Lead Tax

A broker that I recently spoke with has so many systems that an agent must wait up to 36 hours for their listing photos to appear “everywhere”.

This, in an era where Instagram users add an average of 70 million images daily.

Some brokers are still operating on the newspaper cycle.

3. Flow tax.

Another broker mentioned that their marketing person is using xyz email service. This means that all agents must somehow move and maintain their contacts in multiple systems (how likely is that?) and lose CRM flow benefits. This is a classic example of optimizing for one person or a small part of the organization in competition with brokerage wide recruiting and retention benefits and goals.

Our integrated, real time CRM systems support lead to closing flow with your agents and prospects, from www sites, apps, saved searches, CMA’s, newsletters, ecards, documents, showings, postcards, brochures, notifications, surveys and mortgage opportunities. Agents maintain their contacts in one place.

4. Close deals NOW

Search listings, share and create a CMA on the fly and sign listing agreements using one fast app. Demo it in seconds on the Agent App.

Get started with this 3 minute video. or +1 608 468 6013

Inside an Instagram Bot Farm


People want Instagram followers so much, they don’t care if they’re bots—because when it comes to social media, appearances are reality. The businessmen who are happy to oblige those desperate for fake followers are rolling in the monies but at the same time, they’re locked in a weird arms race of algorithms—one where the bot farmers and social media platforms are constantly trying to outsmart the other.
 The biggest battle right now is over Instagram, and one group of bot farmers is winning.

The digital ad business is broken, says former CEO

Barry Levine:

 “The onion is slowly and surely getting peeled back.”
 Jim Spanfeller isn’t talking about how he’s making onion soup, although he does run The Daily Meal, a popular site about food and drink. This ex-CEO of, former publisher of Yahoo Internet Life, and chairman emeritus of the Internet Advertising Bureau is talking about how the problems in the current digital ad ecosystem are revealing themselves.
 The industry is in what charitably might be called a dilemma — and uncharitably, a crisis.

People now spend 3x more on smartphones than PCs with wearables coming on strong

Chetan Sharma:

With each passing day, more consumers are connected and are using more connected devices. The connected intelligence era is starting to take shape.

It is not just a western market phenomenon, the connected age is reaching the far corners of the planet.

The total number of connected devices will reach 16 billion by the end of 2015.

The biggest category of the devices will still be featurephones followed by smartphones and personal computers.

By 2020, Industrial and Smartphones will become the top two connected devices categories.

12 Hard Truths About Mobile Media

Mobile Media Memo:

 Mobile is disrupting all aspects of the media business – behavior, revenue and brand – and we have yet to experience the full extent of its bite.
 “I think things are probably much, much worse industry-wise than people acknowledge,” The Awl’s John Herrman explained to The Verge. “It is, to the web, what the web was to what came before it.”
 This time, it’s not just print in the crosshairs. It’s everyone.

What if you could replace performance evaluations with four simple questions?

Jena MacGregor:

Everyone loves to hate performance evaluations, and with good reason: Research has shown them to be ineffective, unreliable and unsatisfactory for seemingly everyone involved. They consume way too much time, leave most workers deflated and feel increasingly out of step with reality. A once-a-year, backwards-looking conversation with the boss hardly fits our forward-looking, instantly updated world. Yet despite all that frustration, many companies do little to change them, thinking there are few alternatives.
 That hasn’t been the case at Deloitte. The new issue of the Harvard Business Review, released Tuesday, unveils a detailed look at the professional services firm’s total redesign of its performance management program. It’s an overhaul the company first started rolling out nine months ago.