Regulator Will Start Issuing Bank Charters for Fintech Firms

By RACHEL WITKOWSKI, TELIS DEMOS and PETER RUDEGEAIR:

Firms offering online loans, smartphone payments and other financial-technology products would get new flexibility to expand and further shake up the U.S. banking industry under a proposed new federal policy.
 
 A top regulator said Friday that his agency would for the first time start granting banking licenses to “fintech” firms, giving them greater freedom to operate across the country without seeking state-by-state permission or joining with brick-and-mortar banks.
 
 The move could open the door to more competition between the old and new financial firms, and provide a bigger opening for some large tech companies to consider new ways to offer digital payments or other services.
 
 The announcement by Thomas Curry, head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, was a significant move by regulators struggling to strike a balance between encouraging innovation while extending traditional protections to new financial products that have boomed since the financial crisis.

Peak google, revisited

Naofumi Kagami:

Almost a year ago, I noted that while a few prominent tech pundits had pronounced “Peak Google” at the beginning of 2015, Google was actually as strong as ever 12 months later.
 
 In my post, I said that since no company keeps succeeding forever, anybody that predicts the demise of a company without giving a specific timeframe will always eventually be right. That is to say, any prediction without a timeframe is utterly valueless. I also noted that giving a timeline is extremely difficult.
 
 However, I think we now have enough information to give a rough timeline on when we can expect “Peak Google” in financial terms.

Confessions of an Instagram Influencer

Max Chafkin

There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of influencers making a living this way. Some make a lot more than a living. The most successful demand $10,000 and up for a single Instagram shot. Long-term endorsement deals with well-known Instagrammers, such as Kristina Bazan, who signed with L’Oréal last year, can be worth $1 million or more. Big retailers use influencers, as do fashion brands, food and beverage companies, and media conglomerates. Condé Nast, publisher of the New Yorker and Vogue, recently announced that it would ask IBM’s artificial intelligence service, Watson, to take a break from finding cancer treatments to identify potential influencers.

Who is the Genius Behind Merriam-Webster’s Social Media?

Emily Temple

In case you hadn’t noticed, Merriam-Webster’s Twitter game is strong—topical, funny, smart, and informative while also being relentlessly irreverent. Not what you’d necessarily expect from the social media account of a dictionary. (This is putting aside the fact that we now generally expect things like dictionaries to have social media accounts, of course.) But if you were ever a nerd who thought of the dictionary as your best friend (just me?)—well, this is sort of like that dictionary has finally come to life and loves you back and also tweets about words all the time. To find out more about this glorious sentient dictionary, I reached out to the folks behind the tweets to ask them about words, social media, and the place of dictionaries in 2016.

Mobile shopping hits record numbers over Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Sarah Perez

Black Friday has only just begun, but already mobile traffic and sales are breaking records compared with years prior, according to third-party reports and those from major retailers, out this morning. In addition to yesterday’s Thanksgiving sales report of a record $771 million in revenue from mobile devices, top retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Target, have also now released numbers pointing to mobile’s sizable impact on their online sales.
 
 According to Amazon, Thanksgiving has now become one of the busiest mobile shopping days on the retailer’s site in the U.S. The company reported that mobile orders on Thanksgiving have exceeded both last year’s Thanksgiving as well as Cyber Monday 2015.

Marketers Discover America

Bob Hoffman

– And, of course, the selfie-stick world view in which marketers and media honchos exist. As Rory Sutherland beautifully put it, “how clueless do you have to be not to realise that people living in a rust-belt town might not empathise too much with Yale students protesting about the cultural sensitivity of Halloween costumes?”
 
 Despite the self-flagellation now going on in our industry, I guarantee you nothing will change.
 
 Narcissistic ad people will continue to develop strategies aimed at impressing their pals in Brooklyn; brands will continue to throw money at social media delusions; inept display advertising will continue to grow at double digit rates; and people over 50 will continue to be ignored.
 
 The reason for this is simple. There is an unspoken but well-defined “acceptable range” of thinking.
 
 Living in the acceptable range is baked into the processes of contemporary marketing. Challenging what is acceptable is not even considered. For example, despite the fact that people over 50 buy most of the new cars, I spent over 30 years working on automotive accounts and never once heard anyone suggest that auto makers might consider targeting people over 50.

Why is machine learning ‘hard’?

S. Zayd Enam:

However, machine learning remains a relatively ‘hard’ problem. There is no doubt the science of advancing machine learning algorithms through research is difficult. It requires creativity, experimentation and tenacity. Machine learning remains a hard problem when implementing existing algorithms and models to work well for your new application. Engineers specializing in machine learning continue to command a salary premium in the job market over standard software engineers.
 
 This difficulty is often not due to math – because of the aforementioned frameworks machine learning implementations do not require intense mathematics. An aspect of this difficulty involves building an intuition for what tool should be leveraged to solve a problem. This requires being aware of available algorithms and models and the trade-offs and constraints of each one. By itself this skill is learned through exposure to these models (classes, textbooks and papers) but even more so by attempting to implement and test out these models yourself. However, this type of knowledge building exists in all areas of computer science and is not unique to machine learning. Regular software engineering requires awareness of the trade offs of competing frameworks, tools and techniques and judicious design decisions.

Using global trends to chart our course

HP

There’s so much change happening around us these days that it’s easy to forget the speed at which things are changing.
 
 We now have more computing power in our pocket than all of NASA had in 1969 to put the first man on the moon. India sent a spacecraft to Mars for less money than it took Hollywood to make the movie Gravity.1 It took Uber a mere four years to hit $10 Billion in gross revenue.2 And Artificial Intelligence took just 42 hours to solve the 100-year-old mystery of how flatworms regenerate body parts.3
 This pace of change will continue to accelerate at warp speed, with more change expected in the next 15 years than in all of human history to date.
 
 So how does a company like HP stay ahead of all this change, to innovate, adapt, reinvent and engineer experiences for a future that promises to look very different from today?
 
 While we can’t know what the future will hold, we can look to the major socio-economic, demographic and technological trends occurring across the globe to help guide us: megatrends that we believe will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead – on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.
 At HP, we’ve identified four major megatrends: Rapid Urbanization, Changing Demographics, Hyper Globalization, and Accelerated Innovation.

6 new technology rules that will govern our future

Vivek Wadhwa

Technology is advancing so rapidly that we will experience radical changes in society not only in our lifetimes but in the coming years. We have already begun to see ways in which computing, sensors, artificial intelligence and genomics are reshaping entire industries and our daily lives.
 
 As we undergo this rapid change, many of the old assumptions that we have relied will no longer apply. Technology is creating a new set of rules that will change our very existence. Here are six:
 
 1. Anything that can be digitised will be
 
 Digitisation began with words and numbers. Then we moved into games and later into rich media, such as movies, images and music. We also moved complex business functions, medical tools, industrial processes and transportation systems into the digital realm. Now, we are digitising everything about our daily lives: our actions, words and thoughts. Inexpensive DNA sequencing and machine learning are unlocking the keys to the systems of life. Cheap, ubiquitous sensors are documenting everything we do and creating rich digital records of our entire lives.

The Curse of the Modern Office

Kris de Decker

Our so-called information economy mainly serves to manage an ever faster, larger and more complex production and consumption system, of which we have only outsourced the manufacturing part.
 
 Consequently, without the information economy — without the office — the industrial system would collape. Without the industrial system, there would be no need for the information society or the office — in fact, office work could be like it was before 1850, when the biggest bank in the US was run by just three people with a quill. [1]
 The sustainable image of the information society — as contrasted to the dirty image of the industrial society — is built on an obsession with dividing energy use into different statistical categories, fiddling around with figures on electronic calculating tools. In other words, it’s a product of office work, hiding the true nature of office work.

Related: The Transportationist.

Authenticity in the Age of the Fake

Phillip Ball:

Yet what if it were true that diamonds really can be manufactured? When GE revealed the discovery, the stock of the De Beers diamond cartel in South Africa, which dominated the global market, plummeted. It seemed like a rare and precious commodity was about to be supplanted by an artificial form that could be fabricated by the ton, mirroring a millennia-old concern about the devastating power of fakes. Concerns over the devaluation of gold currency led the Roman emperor Diocletian to ban alchemy in the third century, and worries about counterfeiting and debased coinage also lay behind the condemnations of the art by Pope John XXII in 1317 and of King Henry IV of England in 1403.
 
 This, though, was no alchemy: The GE diamonds were perfect chemical replicas of the real thing. Was it the end of a billion-dollar market?

Mobile shopping data

Christopher Heine

Verto Analytics just released data comparing the top 15 retailers based on the online activities of 20,000 U.S. consumers during October 2016. The stats in the chart below also reveal market numbers for mobile and desktop audiences, which both show Amazon in the No. 1 position.
 
 In fact, Amazon is the leader in seven of the 11 categories.
 
 Check out the graphic below to get a granular view of how the company clearly has the digital pole position on its competitors going into Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which ought to make Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos thankful going into the holiday weekend.

“The need for entrepreneurs of all sorts to emerge is ever more urgent.

Steve Denning

Why are established organizations listing towards reliability and exploitation? Perhaps the clearest explanation came from Nicholas Colin, Associate Professor in business strategy, Université Paris-Dauphine, who pointed to the shifting power relationships between workers, executives, shareholders and customers.
 
 In the 1960s, Colin explained, workers were in a strong position. But in the 1970s, the situation changed. Capital was both more mobile and more concentrated and could now exert pressure on corporations and obtain higher returns over shorter periods.

The great convergence

Richard Baldwin

Facebook, Google and now Verizon are accelerating their tracking efforts despite consumers’ privacy concerns

Jason Kint

Verizon has topped itself by playing Russian roulette with consumer trust in an attempt to compete with the advertising businesses of Google and Facebook. In an email announcement last Sunday night to select subscribers, Verizon signaled how it intends to compete with those two powerhouses, outlining its plan to combine offline information, such as postal address, email address and device type, with AOL browser cookies, Apple and Google advertising IDs, and their own unique identifier header. Coupled with all of their customers’ browsing history and app usage, this mass of customer data will make for a rich competitive product to Facebook and Google.

Prediction will become free, the value of judgement will increase.

Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb:

Today we are seeing similar hype about machine intelligence. But once again, as economists, we believe some simple rules apply. Technological revolutions tend to involve some important activity becoming cheap, like the cost of communication or finding information. Machine intelligence is, in its essence, a prediction technology, so the economic shift will center around a drop in the cost of prediction.
 
 The first effect of machine intelligence will be to lower the cost of goods and services that rely on prediction. This matters because prediction is an input to a host of activities including transportation, agriculture, healthcare, energy manufacturing, and retail.
 
 When the cost of any input falls so precipitously, there are two other well-established economic implications. First, we will start using prediction to perform tasks where we previously didn’t. Second, the value of other things that complement prediction will rise.

This Analysis Shows How Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook

Craig Silverman

In the final three months of the US presidential campaign, the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others, a BuzzFeed News analysis has found.
 
 During these critical months of the campaign, 20 top-performing false election stories from hoax sites and hyperpartisan blogs generated 8,711,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook.
 
 Within the same time period, the 20 best-performing election stories from 19 major news websites generated a total of 7,367,000 shares, reactions, and comments on Facebook. (This analysis focused on the top performing link posts for both groups of publishers, and not on total site engagement on Facebook. For details on how we identified and analyzed the content, see the bottom of this post. View our data here.)

 

On political bots

John Markoff

An automated army of pro-Donald J. Trump chatbots overwhelmed similar programs supporting Hillary Clinton five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election, according to a report published Thursday by researchers at Oxford University.
 
 The chatbots — basic software programs with a bit of artificial intelligence and rudimentary communication skills — would send messages on Twitter based on a topic, usually defined on the social network by a word preceded by a hashtag symbol, like #Clinton.
 
 Their purpose: to rant, confuse people on facts, or simply muddy discussions, said Philip N. Howard, a sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute and one of the authors of the report. If you were looking for a real debate of the issues, you weren’t going to find it with a chatbot.

Related: Fake web traffic.

McDonald’s to roll out in-store mobile ordering

Lindsay Whip::

McDonald’s will introduce in-store mobile orders and payments next year as the world’s largest fast-food chain embarks on the next stage of its turnround plan to improve its image and attract millennial consumers.

The move is part of the company’s so-called experience of the future that includes offering table service to customers and digital ordering at kiosks. The strategy was first tried out in countries outside the US, including Australia and the UK. McDonald’s has redesigned 500 of its 14,000 US restaurants and plans to roll out the strategy across the market as soon as it can.

“Ordering should be the most enjoyable experience but at McDonald’s it can be one of the most stressful points in time,” said Steve Easterbrook, chief executive, who was brought in to revamp sales at the company after turning round its UK operations. “Bringing out service staff on to the dining floor does change the atmosphere.”

Facebook Says It Found More Miscalculated Metrics

Mike Shields:

Facebook Inc. said it has uncovered several more flawed measurements related to how consumers interact with content, raising more questions about the metrics marketers lean on to decide whether to buy ads on the social media network.
 
 The company publicly disclosed on Wednesday that a comprehensive internal metrics audit found that discrepancies, or “bugs,” led to the undercounting or overcounting of four measurements, including the weekly and monthly reach of marketers’ posts, the number of full video views and time spent with publishers’ Instant Articles.
 
 None of the metrics in question affect Facebook’s billing, said Mark Rabkin, vice president of Facebook’s core ads team.
 
 This revelation comes two months after Facebook acknowledged that is had been overestimating the average viewing time for video ads on its platform for roughly two years.

Whenever The New York Times breaks a big story, within 24 hours, up to 60 percent of all global traffic to that story can typically come via push notifications,

Jessica Davies:

In the last 18 months, the Times has radically changed how it conveys news via push notifications. Previously, the team would send just headlines of the story. “That didn’t feel like the right tone and strategy for the lock screen,” said Bishop. “You’re just as likely to get a text message from a friend, as a news alert, on a lock screen, so we wanted to write ones that fit in better with that space,” he added. Now all its alerts are written as a one- or two-sentence summary of why that particular piece of breaking news is important. “Even if people don’t swipe, that gives value to the push,” said Bishop.

Secret Backdoor in Some U.S. Phones Sent Data to China

Matt Apuzzo & Michael Schmidt

For about $50, you can get a smartphone with a high-definition display, fast data service and, according to security contractors, a secret feature: a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours.
 
 Security contractors recently discovered preinstalled software in some Android phones that monitors where users go, whom they talk to and what they write in text messages. The American authorities say it is not clear whether this represents secretive data mining for advertising purposes or a Chinese government effort to collect intelligence.
 
 International customers and users of disposable or prepaid phones are the people most affected by the software. But the scope is unclear. The Chinese company that wrote the software, Shanghai Adups Technology Company, says its code runs on more than 700 million phones, cars and other smart devices. One American phone manufacturer, BLU Products, said that 120,000 of its phones had been affected and that it had updated the software to eliminate the feature.

Morgan Stanley: Airbnb’s Threat to Hotels Is Only Getting Sharper

Julie Verhage

“Our AlphaWise survey shows rising Airbnb adoption (now ~18 percent of travelers) with demand increasingly coming from hotels,” the team, led by Brian Nowak, writes. “While still small, we believe Airbnb has been almost double the threat to hotels in 2016 than previously believed, and the threat is growing.”

“Pure-play Web retailing is not sustainable.”

Nicholas Carr

 Bezos underestimated the allure of bricks and paper. With his bookstore chain, he now seems to be admitting that if Amazon is to expand its share of the book market, it will need to invest in bricks as well as bits. Beyond the business rationale, it’s hard not to see a certain vindictiveness to Amazon’s move. Having come up short in its plan to supplant books and bookstores with digital alternatives, the company is taking its revenge by attacking traditional bookshops on their own turf. Unlike the mom-and-pop independents, or even the struggling Barnes & Noble chain, Amazon has the scale and the cash required to wage a war of attrition. It can sustain losses on its stores for a long time. Bezos may love books, but what he loves even more is the idea of total victory, with no survivors among the vanquished.

Despite Zuckerberg’s Protests, Fake News Does Better on Facebook Than Real News. Here’s Data to Prove It.

Mike Caufield:

Well, if Zuckerberg can’t specify if fake news is more viral on Facebook, maybe we can, using the publicly available Facebook APIs. Let’s help him out!
 
 The question I want to ask is this: how do popular fake Facebook stories from fake local newspapers compare to top stories from real local newspapers? Not “how many stories are there of each” but rather “Is fake news or real news more likely to be shared, and what’s the size of the difference?”
 
 If Facebook is truly a functioning news ecosystem we should expect large local newspapers like the Boston Globe and LA Times to compete favorably with fake “hoax” newspapers like the Baltimore Gazette or Denver Guardian — fake “papers” that were created purely to derive ad views from people looking for invented Clinton conspiracies.
 
 For our fake story, we’re choosing the most popular story from the Denver Guardian, a fake newspaper created in the final days of the election. Its story “FBI Agent Suspected In Hillary Leaks Found Dead In Apparent Murder-Suicide”has now been shared on Facebook well over half a million times, as you can see with this call to Facebook’s API. This story exists on a site made to look like a real local newspaper and details quotes from people both real and fake about the murder-suicide of an FBI agent and his wife supposedly implicated in leaking Clinton’s emails. According to the story he shot himself and his wife and then set his house on fire. Pretty fishy, eh? Add it to the Clinton Body Count.

Fake ad sources on Facebook

Doc Searls:

Besides being false and misleading clickbait, they are not from espn.com. They’re from http://espn.com-magazines.online, and bait for a topic switch:to pitching a diet supplement called Alpha Fuel. The pages with the pitches are made to look like ESPN ones, logos and all. But they’re fake.

How the SoC is Displacing the CPU

Pushkar Ranade

The silicon transistor continues to be at the heart of post-PC era products like the smartphone, the tablet and the smartwatch. However, the success metrics for the transistor are quite different now than they have been in the past.
 
 Frequency (clock-speed) was the primary metric in the PC era and the standalone central processing unit (CPU) was the primary chip that drove advancements in semiconductor technology for decades. Form-factor was hardly an influencer and there wasn’t as much of a drive to integrate system-level functionality either on-chip (SoC) or in-package (SiP).
 
 Form-factor, cost and power-per-function are now critical drivers in the mobile market and that in turn has increased the importance of on-chip integration of functional hardware (e.g. power management, computing, audio/video, graphics, GPS and radio).

Mobile Overview Report

scientiamobile:

The MOVR (Mobile Overview Report) provides timely data about device usage trends – focusing on smartphone, tablet and feature phone usage – drawn from a sample of our internal data sources averaging over 1 billion hits per month.

CMA Wisdom

This short video describes how you can quickly:

  1. Create and discuss specific market trends and statistics with a seller.
  2. Share reports via text, email and social networks.
  3. Create detailed market reports.
  4. Save searches for sellers with your branding.
  5. Appear on notifications to your sellers and prospects.
  6. Improve seller knowledge.
  7. Quickly create price adjustment data.
  8. Grow your business!

72% of America’s internet time is on iPhone, iPad and Android. Leverage this fact!

“Gigicos helped them scout and guided them via live Facetime video”

Jennifer Jacobs and Kevin

Scavino was the titular head of the multi-million-strong virtual community called the Trump Train, creating content and building memes that fueled passion for Trump into a victory. He was one of the few who had access to the @realdonaldtrump Twitter account and would send out tweets on Trump’s behalf. “His genius,” Glassner said, “is that he can read the candidate extremely well and understand the messaging he’ll want to put out at any given time, every given day. It’s being a spokesman times a hundred.”
 As a 16-year-old, Scavino had ambitions to work for Trump, and climbed his way up through the company to become a general manager. Scavino, a devout Catholic, is now so close to the Trumps that the campaign staff said they view him as more like a member of the family.

The Balkanization of Android

Shira Ovide

The Android operating system for smartphones is one of the most successful technologies ever created. Apple Inc. sparked the smartphone revolution, but Android spread it to the masses. The software backed by Google parent company Alphabet Inc. powers more than 85 percent of the roughly 1.5 billion new smartphones sold each year.Yet for all its success, Android looks increasingly in danger of falling apart.

Apple Search Ads – Preliminary Performance Findings

Shani Rosenfelder

With app discovery largely broken, app marketers are desperately looking for new ways for their app to be discovered. To help fix what’s broken, Apple began showing ads in the search results of its App Store on October 5th.
 
 Looking north towards Google in Mountain View, Cupertino-based Apple is seeking to emulate the success of the search giant that built an empire from one concept: the value of search intent.

BuzzFeed on the growth in mobile video

Lauren Johnson

I would say I was a little skeptical, and my main skepticism was that I didn’t see people consuming lots of video on mobile. It felt like people didn’t have headphones, it loads slowly, it didn’t seem like it was the natural thing for mobile—and I was really wrong about that.
 
 We saw it first with our YouTube growth, and about half of that was mobile, and then the majority of Tasty being mobile and this explosion of audio-optional video that lives within the news feed.
 
 In the last two years, I really became a full believer in what video was going to be able to do for BuzzFeed. Fortunately Ze saw that earlier than me.

2016 US Mobile App Report

comscore (PDF):

With desktop engagement finally in decline, it is now losing share to mobile at a rapid rate. The convenience of smartphones and tablet devices, and the innovation around mobile apps have completely shifted the digital media landscape in favor of mobile.

—–

While every component is contributing to digital’s massive growth in time spent over the past three years, it is the smartphone app that has been the biggest driver by far. It has accounted for 80% of all growth in digital media engagement during that period of time.

—–

Smartphone apps have become the primary access vehicle to the internet, representing half of total digital media time spent. They already account for the vast majority of total mobile and mobile app time spent and are gaining share among every segment of the market.

—–

Millennials spend an exorbitant amount of time on their smartphone apps, and usage declines with age. However, every segment of the population is using their smartphone apps more over time, with 55-64 year-olds seeing the greatest year-over-year increase with growth of 37%

—–

Over the past year, average digital audience size has grown 36% among the top 1000 properties. Mobile audiences have grown 81% in that time vs. a 4% decline on desktop. Mobile audiences first passed desktop in June 2014 and within two years have doubled those on desktop.

—-

It may be more challenging to build a large audience on apps, but those app users are a very loyal bunch. They spend more than 3 hours per month on the Top 1000 apps on average – about 20x greater than what mobile web visitors spend on their Top 1000 properties.

Have we reached peak app? [PDF]

Political Voter Targeting

Joshua Green & Sasha Issenberg

On Oct. 19, as the third and final presidential debate gets going in Las Vegas, Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter feeds are being manned by Brad Parscale, a San Antonio marketing entrepreneur, whose buzz cut and long narrow beard make him look like a mixed martial arts fighter. His Trump tie has been paired with a dark Zegna suit. A lapel pin issued by the Secret Service signals his status. He’s equipped with a dashboard of 400 prewritten Trump tweets. “Command center,” he says, nodding at his laptop.

Disney CEO sees future and mobile video and technology

Ad age:

Walt Disney Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger said the company’s future lies in using technology to make more direct connections to consumers, although he declined to say whether he was interested in buying Twitter or Netflix.
 The following are excerpts from Mr. Iger’s remarks during a luncheon Wednesday at the Boston College Chief Executives Club. Mr. Iger, 65, made the remarks during in an on-stage conversation with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
 
 “Technology’s tools are giving the consumer an ability to pick and choose and even price in a much more consumer-centric manner, so you have to embrace it because it’s not going away. The biggest thing that we’re trying to do now is figure out what technology’s role is in distributing the great content that we have.”

Scheme to Delete Google Results Is Exposed

Jeff John Roberts

When a Google search turns up negative stories, Europeans can turn to a controversial “right to be forgotten” law. But in the United States, where no such law exists, Americans may try their luck with shifty “reputation management” companies that promise to scrub embarrassing Google GOOG -0.67% results.
 
 While such reputation “experts” have been around for years, one of them appears to have found a sneaky new way to purge Google results using court orders.
 
 The scheme, discovered by law professors Eugene Volokh and Paul Levy, relies on filing libel lawsuits against fake defendants, and then telling Google there is a court order to remove the content in question.

The Unintended Consequences of Law

Joe Bosquin:

“Building impact fees are now almost 20% of our costs,” says Burns, who is talking about building in Chico, a far more affordable place than, say, Mountain View, albeit the home of Cal State and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. “They just keep throwing more on us. If you have to do an Environmental Impact Review, that’s going to add a year onto your project and cost $50,000 to start.”
 
 Despite the high fees, Burns has built 1,500 homes in California throughout his 46-year career. He’s constructed houses for the Irvine Co. in Orange County and worked for former NAHB president Sid Dunmore in the Bay Area and Sacramento. In Chico, where he’s overseeing the build-out of the 423-unit Creekside Landing subdivision as a site superintendent with Concord, Calif.–based Discovery Homes.
 
 “Don’t get me wrong, I am all for mitigating the impacts of new homes,” says Burns. “But it does come with a cost. In California, it has made entry-level housing almost nonexistent.”

Google Has Quietly Dropped Ban on Personally Identifiable Web Tracking

Julia Angwin

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company’s “number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products.”
 
 And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick’s massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.
 
 But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

Implicit, collaborative data collection minimizes privacy concerns: report

Joe McCarthy

The “creepiness cliff” for consumer data collection always seems to be one step away, yet consumers have become more tolerant to various practices as the shopping experience improves and brands act in a more mannered way, according to a new report by L2.
 
 Brands are moving their CRM programs to cloud-based solutions that better integrate data collected from diverse channels. As data silos collapse, brands can better shape data collection practices to minimize customer repulsion.

How BuzzFeed turned Tasty’s recipes into a viral video hit

Eric Johnson

On the new podcast, Frank shared the behind-the-scenes story of Tasty, a.k.a. those top-down recipe videos you’ve probably seen in your Facebook feed. Last year, when Facebook started autoplaying those videos as users scrolled past, BuzzFeed started experimenting with different types and lengths of videos to surface to its followers.

Travelers search for flights 48 times before actually booking one, Expedia says

Leslie Josephs:

Travelers are afraid of commitment.
 
 On average, would-be voyagers search for a flight 48 times before booking, according to Expedia, the largest online travel agency in the US.
 
 Even in the era of low fares throughout the airplane, finding the best one is certainly a reasonable, if time-consuming, goal. Google, which launched its travel app, Google Trips last month, is trying to cut down on the frequent searches with a new feature that taps into one of the great motivators of travel: the fear of missing out.
 
 Google Flights, its flight-search tool, now provides travelers alerts for when the fare is expected to rise, which could be a matter of hours. It is also giving travelers tips to get a lower fare, such as flying on other days, or to and from other airports.

I remember attending a conference years ago where the Travelocity CEO mentioned that the search to book ratio was 8 to 1.

Wealthy Chinese buyers are a growing force in U.S. real estate markets

Troy McMullen:

After a long and painful slide following the real estate collapse in 2008, Seattle’s property market is enjoying one of the sharpest rises anywhere in the United States. Buoyed by a rapidly expanding economy that has brought tens of thousands of high-paying jobs to the city, real estate values have nearly doubled since 2009, according to the online real estate database Zillow.

Yet while technology billionaires gobble up estates from Puget Sound to Lake Washington, Jim Conlan, a real estate broker with Century 21 North Homes Realty in Seattle, says the real catalyst for the dramatic upswing can be found in China.

In a new Pipper Jaffray survey, almost four out five teens say their next phone will be an iPhone.

Chris Matyszczyk

The latter premise stems from the latest Taking Stock With Teens survey released on Friday by investment bank Piper Jaffray.
 
 This is a survey performed every six months to see where teens’ fickle minds and feelings are at about certain product categories.
 
 This time, the surveyors talked to 10,000 US teens — up from 6,500 in April. The average age was 16 and the respondents came from households whose average income is $68,000.
 
 For quite some time, these teens have consistently claimed that their next phone will be an iPhone. In April, 75 percent said their next phone would be an iPhone.
 
 Here we are in October, and that number has risen to 79 percent.
 
 Moreover, while in April, 69 percent of teens said they already had an iPhone, in the latest survey 74 percent said they did.

Within months, Google to divide its index, giving mobile users better & fresher content

Barry Schwartz

Google first announced that it was experimenting with the idea of a mobile index last year at SMX East. Since that time, Google’s clearly decided that a mobile index makes sense and is moving ahead with the idea.
 
 It’s unclear exactly how the mobile index will work. For example, since the mobile index is the “primary” index, will it really not be used for any desktop queries? Will it only contain “mobile-friendly” content? How out-of-date will the desktop index be? Desktop usage is now a minority of Google queries but still generates substantial usage.
 
 The most substantial change will likely be that by having a mobile index, Google can run its ranking algorithm in a different fashion across “pure” mobile content rather than the current system that extracts data from desktop content to determine mobile rankings.

Advertising’s century of flatline growth

Eric Chemi

The advertising industry has always held a special fascination because of its impact on our culture and our desires, a reality dramatized to great effect by such television series as thirtysomething and Mad Men. In the business world, the future of ad spending is an endlessly debated topic. Will new digital media kill old media, and if so, where will the ad dollars flow? What does megaconsolidation in the cable industry, powered by the merger of Comcast and Time Warner, mean for ad rates?
 
 But in one sense, the advertising business is about as static and boring as they come. The industry has never grown in scale. Looking at data since the 1920s, the U.S. advertising industry has always been about 1 percent of U.S. GDP. It’s surprisingly consistent, mostly tracking between 1 percent and 1.4 percent—and averaging 1.29 percent. This is according to DB5, a media and marketing research firm that specializes in bridging traditional and new media.

Data, Facts & Principles

Bob Hoffman

Right now, the online advertising industry is drowning in data, but has generated almost no useful facts or principles.
 
 Nobody can agree on anything related to online data. Other than the collection of it is obnoxious and intrusive.
 
 The encyclopedia of things we don’t know about online advertising since we started collecting “big data” is comical.
 
 We don’t know where our ads are running
 We don’t know who’s viewing our ads or if they’re even human
 
 We don’t know who’s clicking on our ads or why or, again, if they’re even human
 
 We don’t know if anything we’re told by online experts is true because everything they tell us seems to turn out wrong
 
 We don’t know if any of the data we’re gathering online is real or has value
 
 As my friends in Brooklyn would say, we don’t know shit.
 
 Traditional advertising is far from science. But over the years we have been able to develop some facts and derive some principles. Are they perfect? They’re barely adequate. But at least they provide us with some guideposts.

Facebook and Google: most powerful and secretive empires we’ve ever known

Ellen P. Goodman and Julia Powles:

Google and Facebook have conveyed nearly all of us to this page, and just about every other idea or expression we’ll encounter today. Yet we don’t know how to talk about these companies, nor digest their sheer power.

We call them platforms, networks or gatekeepers. But these labels hardly fit. The appropriate metaphor eludes us; even if we describe them as vast empires, they are unlike any we’ve ever known. Far from being discrete points of departure, merely supporting the action or minding the gates, they have become something much more significant. They have become the medium through which we experience and understand the world.

As their users, we are like the blinkered young fish in the parable memorably retold by David Foster Wallace. When asked “How’s the water?” we swipe blank: “What the hell is water?”

Advertising’s lost generation

The contrarion

If you dared to question the received wisdom of the people who were “just smarter” than you, you might as well turn in your badge. You were done.
 
 Not surprisingly, the advertising industry is suffering. It is broadly acknowledged that the quality of advertising has reached an all-time low and is in free-fall. We are learning how foolish and misguided we were.
 
 But the satisfaction of seeing the ad industry floundering and in disrepute is small solace for the pain of driving for Uber.
 
 This post is dedicated to the thousands of talented ad people who were trampled in the insane stampede of advertising’s cultural revolution.

Botnets may be old news, but they are still a threat today

EIJA PAAJANEN

During the last years, there have been some big botnets that have hit the news. Today, botnets keep on running, but they are seldom newsworthy any more. They seem to have become “business as usual”. And for several years, botnets have been performing all kinds of tasks, such as data mining and espionage, in infected infrastructures, instead of just the typical dDos or spam email attacks.
 
 Botnets are like automated backdoors to your corporate network, and most malware attacks are somehow connected to botnets, which are used to get remote control of the system, and further distribute malware. Bots can also quite easily be used to target an organization, as compromised nodes can be rented fairly cheaply.