How Click Farms Have Inflated Social Media Currency

Doug Bock Clark:

Every morning, Kim Casipong strolls past barbed wire, six dogs, and a watchman in order to get to her job in a pink apartment building decorated with ornate stonework in Lapu-Lapu City. The building towers above the slums surrounding it—houses made of scrap wood with muddy goat pens in place of yards. She is a pretty, milk-skinned, 17-year-old girl who loves the movie Frozen and whose favorite pastime is singing karaoke. She is on her way to do her part in bringing down Facebook.

Casipong huffs to the third floor of the apartment building, opens a door decorated with a crucifix, and greets her co-workers. The curtains are drawn, and the artificial moonlight of computer screens illuminates the room. Eight workers sit in two rows, their tools arranged on their desks: a computer, a minaret of cell phone SIM cards, and an old cell phone. Tens of thousands of additional SIM cards are taped into bricks and stored under chairs, on top of computers, and in old instant noodle boxes around the room.

Richard Braggs, Casipong’s boss, sits at a desk positioned behind his employees, occasionally glancing up from his double monitor to survey their screens. Even in the gloom, he wears Ray-Ban sunglasses to shield his eyes from the glare of his computer. (“Richard Braggs” is the alias he uses for business purposes; he uses a number of pseudonyms for various online activities.)

The Mosaic Web Browser is 22

Wikipedia on the Mosaic Web Browser.

Via the Internet Society.

US Digital Ad Spend Hits New $49.5 Billion High In 2014; Mobile & Social See Greatest Growth

Danny Sullivan:

Digital advertising spend set a new record in 2014, according to the latest figures from the Internet Ad Bureau, rising to $49.5 billion in the United States. The greatest segments of growth were in mobile and social, though search remained the biggest overall ad spend segment.
 The chart below from the IAB report released today shows the year-by-year growth since 2005. In 2013, overall spend was $42.8 billion. That climbed to $49.5 billion in 2015:

Manager Tip 4: A Modern Recruiting Checklist

Our latest Agent App release – perfect for recruiting/retention – rides the biggest tech wave, ever:

  1. 75% of Americans have smartphones.
  2. 1.5billion smartphones and tablets were sold in 2014. That’s more than all PC’s currently in use.
  3. App time exceeds www time.
  4. Google’s per click advertising revenue has ____ (quiz) for the past 13 quarters.

An Agent App recruiting checklist:

A. One tap CRM view: simple and fast!

Agent benefits:

single screen view of ALL activity

automatic updates

socialG social graph


calendar reminders

simple plans


saved searches





bulk contact import with duplicate checks

Broker benefits:

CRM plans offer a constant, broker value add to your agents client flows.

The best app for your agents listing, selling and prospecting



Speed. It is very fast.

Simple CRM Sync

Managers can use it!

Managers can run office meetings with the Agent App. Share market activity, prepare agents for buyers and sellers with quick sales tips and discuss CRM flow benefits for prospects.

B. The best search.

Two taps to save a search for clients with notification or email updates.

Keyword search library. Quickly find the property your client is looking for. No more confusing MLS search screens.

Live trends & statistics. You are no longer limited to canned MLS statistics.

Touring: the finest buyer tour app.

Interactive CMA. Walk your buyers and sellers through the market. Update on the fly. Share across all digital platforms.

Notifications that keep your agents on top of a fast market.

Speech input

C. Documents.

Auto fill your documents with listing, CRM and transaction data.

Share anywhere. The Agent App’s documents are OPEN.

A smart cover sheet makes it easy for agents to save time and improve accuracy.

An agent recently told me that it is no longer acceptable to respond to a question the old, “pc way”: “I have to go back to my office. I will get back two you in two hours.

The mobile era is here. Are your managers and recruiters ready?

Dial 1 608 468 6013 or email for a quick look.

Google: too big to derail

Jacob Silverman:

But like finance, Silicon Valley has to go beyond its core competencies. Google can’t depend on Internet advertising forever. The company seems to know this—its unified privacy policy, introduced in 2012, granted it the right to aggregate all consumer information collected across dozens of its various services. For Google, it was a recognition that data is its main asset, and that each foothold in a new industry—say, a smart home device or an in-car operating system—represents a new data stream that can reveal people’s likes, dislikes, and habits. Seen this way, Google is only in one business, broad as it is: controlling our telecommunications infrastructure, and the information flowing through it.
 To better understand this parallel evolution of tech and finance, just look at the latest news about the ongoing implosion of RadioShack. Like many companies facing bankruptcy, the derelict retailer is selling its assets. A number of its stores may become Sprint shops—a natural transition for a company that sold phones in partnership with AT&T. But an intense battle is going on right now over one of RadioShack’s most valuable assets—its consumer data. Information on more than 100 million customers (names, addresses, and purchase history) may soon be the property of Standard General, a hedge fund that won the auction for RadioShack’s assets.

How Marketers Lie to Themselves

The Ad Contrarian:

Anyone who has spent time in advertising knows that there are very few things in this world as unreliable as the numbers we throw around.
 Our industry is so poorly trained in mathematics and statistics, we can be fooled by the most elementary of statistical manipulations and misrepresentations.
 But our denseness about numbers is often as much about self-delusion as it is about ignorance. Often, we want to believe the lies we tell ourselves.
 I remember not long ago — during The Great QR Code Scare Of 2012 — I was finding the following statistic being bandied about: “60% of people say they use QR codes.”
 This statistic was obviously total bullshit, and yet serious people seemed to be taking it seriously. Anyone who spent any time in the real world could see that no one was using QR codes. Yet this stat kept popping up to justify the implementation of this dimwit technology.

“responsive design isn’t the answer in a post-browser world”

Tom Wentworth:

This new form factor represents a new push model of the web, and it’s not something that responsive design — an old reliable UI model when it comes to presenting content in a multi-device world — can facilitate. For the most part, being responsive helps us cater to new screen sizes and user interaction models like touch and swipe. But it’s time to face a harsh reality: responsive design isn’t the answer in a post-browser world. It can’t facilitate a new normal where notifications are the primary form of content.
 Web content management (WCM) solutions must evolve to cater to this shift in content consumption. Apple Watch users don’t have the same patience or needs as they do on a mobile device, and certainly not on a desktop. Shayne Sweeney, one of the engineering managers at Facebook said it best,
 If people use their desktop computers for hours at a time and their phones for minutes at a time, we think people will use the Watch for seconds at a time.”
 Consumers will engage mainly with short, actionable notifications and marketers will increasingly rely on design elements like cards to create that content.

Who millennials trust, and don’t trust, is driving the new economy

Emily Badger:

So, what gives? Why are hundreds of thousands of people letting strangers rent their bedrooms or drive their cars if society is growing more cynical? Why would you trust a company that ships you a dress worn by another woman last week if you don’t actually trust people all that much? How is the economy suddenly creating billion-dollar businesses around the idea of communal consumption at a time when we’re not feeling communitarian at all?
 Here is PwC’s smart answer: “If trust in individuals and institutions is waning or at best holding steady, faith in the aggregate is growing.”

Nearing Peak, U.S. Home Price Gains to Slow

Jonathan Lang:

Helping sustain the recent healthy pace of growth is the strength in housing prices in major cities that don’t include outlying, poorer-performing blue-collar counties and exurbs. For instance, another realty data cruncher, Local Market Monitor, which takes into account an area’s income and employment figures, as well as job and population growth and building-permit activity, sees more boom areas than S&P/Case-Shiller. The company’s founder, Ingo Winzer, says San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, and Denver have all moved to peak valuations, while Honolulu, Nashville, Raleigh, Salt Lake City, Portland, and Seattle also are near or at all-time highs.
 We think 4% growth in prices is a reasonable expectation over the next year or two, particularly in light of the strange dichotomy between economic and housing data that could prevent more rapid increases. While the split between a gradually rising rate of economic growth and a gradually slowing housing market is unlikely to result in a dramatic immediate change in housing prices in the next couple of years, it’s enough to raise questions about whether a more important, longer-term shift is under way.

‘Geo-inference’ can reveal your location in all mainstream browsers

Patrick Howell O’Neill:

Even Tor, the anonymizing network dedicated to protecting the user’s anonymity and location, does not protect perfectly against this attack. However, “it deploys good protection features,” Yaoqi said, and is likely the best browser defense one has against geo-inference attacks.
 The vulnerability stems from the fact that some of the world’s most popular websites are “location-oriented,” meaning they’re necessarily aware of visitors’ location information. Craigslist sites let users narrow their search by city or even neighborhood. Google directs users to a country-specific page— is just for the U.S., for example; Canadians get And then there are services like Google Maps, which caters to exact addresses and remembers specifically where almost all of its users live.
 The problem comes when the location information known by sites like Google and Craigslist leaks and becomes available to third parties that have no permission to know where you live.

US desktop search trends decline

AJ Kohn:

February saw more negative numbers with a 3.87% decrease, year over year, in desktop search volume. What’s truly amazing is that the number in February wasn’t just lower than 2014, but was lower than 2013 and 2012. That’s right, you have to go back to 2011 until you reach another February where desktop search volume was lower.
 February was also the third month of results since Yahoo’s Firefox search deal, which had resulted in a 1.2% gain in market share for Yahoo. However, that gain is starting to erode with Yahoo losing 0.2% share in February.

What did GOOGLE do SO WRONG to get a slapping from the EU?

Andrew Orlowski:

The most persuasive unresolved complaint is on the “retail” side, and relates to Google doing what Google promised never to do – promote its own services at the expense of rival startups. UK vertical search engine Foundem launched a highly regarded price comparison engine in 2006 (the Gadget Show thought it was the best) until it found itself blacklisted.
 Vertical is a specialist task, but Google had no intention of helping allowing others to explore it. That summer Foundem was hit by a Search Penalty, excluding it from any user searches for price comparisons. Google also scuppered its Adwords LPQ (Landing Page Quality) causing Google ads bought by Foundem to rise in price by 10,000 per cent. While other search sites were restored, Foundem wasn’t – particularly after the startup called foul, inviting the press and the European Commission to examine Google’s behaviour. In private, Google was promising Foundem it would be whitelisted, some day. In public, Google was denying whitelists and blacklists even exist – a stance it maintained until 2011.
 The world that Foundem’s founder predicted in a 2009 New York Times op-ed – where Google verticals dominate. For Google’s critics, its proposed remedy, as accepted by competition commissioner Almunia but rejected by his successor Vestager, was to turn the punishment into a new revenue stream. Rivals would be charged for access. The company which once rejected commercialism now put a price on every inch of its page.

Google, Microsoft, Stall Points, and Growth

Paul Kedrosky:

When might Google have its Microsoft moment? That is, when will it begin its inexorable decline – as most aging tech companies do when their growth stalls, and as Microsoft did – largely unbeknownst to (and even denied by) most observers? How might we know?
 I have a few things I look for when thinking about inflection points in aging technology companies. Not all of these conditions need to be satisfied, but at least some of them do.
 There are five major parts of the argument:
 1. Stock compensation loses its luster
 2. Declining growth
 3. No longer hiring for innovation
 4. Price & margin pressure in core business
 5. Government action


Microsoft + IPhone

Paul Thurrott:

And if you are a Microsoft guy, there are good reasons to choose iPhone over Android … and even over Windows Phone. Microsoft mobile apps generally appear on iPhone before they do so elsewhere, and certain Microsoft mobile apps are only available on iPhone, at least for now. In several cases, you will see finished Microsoft apps appear on iPhone, whereas Android receives a rougher preview release instead. In many ways, iPhone—or iOS more generally—is the place to be if you’re interested in Microsoft’s mobile solutions.
 Regardless, this is the no judging zone, guys. Some people simply prefer iPhone to the competition, which I certainly understand given its market-leading content ecosystems. Others are provided with an iPhone at work and don’t have a choice. But it doesn’t matter why: there are hundreds of millions of iPhones out there, and in the fourth quarter of 2014—admittedly an unusual record-breaking period for Apple—iPhone (71.5 million units) outsold Lumia (10.5 million) by almost 7 to 1. So let’s just agree to be pragmatic here, as Microsoft is doing.
 While a complete rundown of every Microsoft app on iPhone would likely be out of date within minutes, it’s interesting to at least consider what is available. And looking at my own iPhone 6 Plus, I see the following.

The smartphone: An essential travel guide

Monica Anderson & Eric Smith:

Indeed, 43% of smartphone owners say turn-by-turn navigation is the only transit-related function they use on their phone at least occasionally, according to new analysis of the data. Some 16% say they never use their mobile device for this purpose.
 Turn-by-turn navigation is a popular feature among a wide range of smartphone owners, but younger adults are especially avid users. Some 80% of 18- to 29-year-old smartphone owners use their phone for real-time directions while at the wheel at least occasionally, and just 7% indicate that they never do so. Older adults are substantially less likely to use their phone for this purpose, but even so, more than one-third of smartphone owners ages 65 and older do so at least occasionally. College-educated and more-affluent smartphone owners are also especially likely to use their phones for navigation while driving. These groups are also more likely to own a smartphone.

A ‘Darker Narrative’ of Print’s Future From Clay Shirky

Margaret Sullivan:

You observed that print is responsible for the majority of ad revenues at the paper, but the disproportionate importance of print is not a signal of the robustness of the medium, it is a signal that advertisers have not found a way to replace print ads with anything as effective in other media.
 The problem with print is that the advantageous returns to scale from physical distribution of newspapers become disadvantageous when scale shrinks. The ad revenue from a print run of 500,000 would be 16 percent less than for 600,000 at best, but the costs wouldn’t fall by anything like 16%, eroding print margins. There is some threshold, well above 100,000 copies and probably closer to 250,000, where nightly print runs stop making economic sense. This risk is increased by The New York Times’s cross-subsidy of print, with its print+digital bundle. This bundle creates the risk of rapid future readjustment, when advertisers reconsider print CPM in light of reduced consumption and pass-around of print by all-access subscribers. (Public editor note: C.P.M. is the cost to the advertiser per thousand readers or viewers, a common measurement in advertising.)

Social Media and Car Dealers

Vindy Goel:

Although he plans to keep posting photos of happy buyers on Facebook and encouraging them to write reviews, he does not have much use for the rest of it — especially since Hyundai began charging $275 a month for the service.
 To Mr. Howell, selling a car boils down to one basic principle: Treat your customers well, and they will sing your praises to friends and family. “Those personal relationships are more important,” he said.
 Hyundai of Huntsville’s experience illustrates how far social media still has to go to serve small, locally focused businesses. While large companies have learned how to stand out on social networks and get lots of hand-holding from sites like Facebook and Twitter, most local business owners are left on their own and remain stumped by social marketing.

Weighing Privacy Vs. Rewards Of Letting Insurers Track Your Fitness

Christina Farr:

Would you be willing to hand over your health information to a life insurance company, in exchange for financial rewards?
 Activity trackers have become increasingly popular over the past few years, tracking everything from how many steps you walk, to your location throughout the day.
 Now, John Hancock, a U.S.-based insurer, hopes that fit and active people will exchange activity data for lower life insurance premiums and other perks. Those who sign up for this optional program, the first of its kind in the United States, will receive a free Fitbit device to track their activity levels.
 This program, announced Wednesday, may seem like a win-win: Insurers can sell their product to a new market of gadget-loving millennials and in return, healthy consumers can access steep discounts.

The End of Asymmetric Information

By Alex Tabarrok and Tyler Cowen:

Might the age of asymmetric information – for better or worse – be over? Market institutions are rapidly evolving to a situation where very often the buyer and the seller have roughly equal knowledge. Technological developments are giving everyone who wants it access to the very best information when it comes to product quality, worker performance, matches to friends and partners, and the nature of financial transactions, among many other areas.
 These developments will have implications for how markets work, how much consumers benefit, and also economic policy and the law. As we will see, there may be some problematic sides to these new arrangements, specifically when it comes to privacy. Still, a large amount of economic regulation seems directed at a set of problems which, in large part, no longer exist.

Branding in the sharing era

An Interview With The Economist’s Tom Standage:

STANDAGE: Exactly. Maybe you don’t care — there’s the trend to get rid of your own website. NowThis is interesting. You must have seen the NowThis stuff. How are they making any money? There’s no ads and there’s no branding. They’re waiting for AOL to buy them, or Yahoo. They don’t mind — either will do. That model cannot work. Maybe I shouldn’t go as far as that, but the changes to the sponsorship rules that YouTube have made is that you can’t make that model work, I don’t think. Who knows? But the point is that move toward content that’s consumed entirely on platforms other than the one the media organization itself owns.
 Maybe you can do that, because that’s kind of the TV model — most TV production companies don’t own networks. But I think it’s another challenge, particularly to people who are ad-supported.
 The question for us — obviously we weren’t invited to participate in Snapchat Discover. But were we to, what would The Economist on Snapchat Discover look like? God knows — I mean, it’s not really our kind of thing — but for the sake of argument, let’s say it’s that kind of model. How would we monetize that? There’s an advertising slice of it, but we don’t want to be in a world where advertising is the main thing that’s paying our bills. The question for us is: Can we use that to raise awareness of the brand and have a halo effect elsewhere? You get the same with using Snapchat Stories or using Instagram. You can’t link out from these things. You can’t sell ads — you just have to use it as a general branding.

Adblock Usage Rising Rapidly

Ben Bajarin.

Facebook hosting doesn’t change things, the world already changed

Eugene Wei:

Like any industry, the media loves a bit of navel-gazing (what is the origin of this phrase, because I don’t enjoy staring at my own navel; maybe mirror-preening instead?). When Facebook announced they were offering to host content from media sites like The New York Times, the media went into a frenzy of apocalyptic prediction, with Mark Zuckerberg in the role of Mephistopheles.
 All this sound and fury, signifying nothing. Whether media sites allow Facebook to host their content or not won’t meaningfully change things one way or the other, and much of the FUD being spread would be energy better spent focused on other far larger problems.
 Let’s just list all the conditions that exist and won’t change one bit whether or not you let Facebook host your content:

The Sales Director Who Turned Work into a Fantasy Sports Competition

Ethan BernsteinHayley Blunden:

Some employees checked scores and rankings every 5-10 minutes. That might have been unproductive if focused effort hadn’t increased dramatically, too. During the championships, many employees stayed late or came in on the weekend to put in a little extra “playing” time. One commented, “When I saw one of my colleagues leaving, I thought — ‘Yes, now I can catch up and climb above him in the ranks!’” Even with all the competition, employees consistently said that they were most often competing with themselves, trying to beat their own personal records (which were also tracked by the system).
 Sales became more of a team effort. Before the fantasy football experiment, the sales reps had focused almost exclusively on their own tasks and outcomes. But when they created the imaginary teams, they began to reap many of the benefits associated with teams without actually engaging in interdependent work. Reps coached each other on how to do their tasks better; they celebrated each other’s rankings; and they held each other accountable. Commitment to the team score prevented a free-rider effect — individuals didn’t stop trying when they hit their own personal targets. They felt bad if they were dragging down the team and sought advice from teammates who exceled where they needed help.

Mobile Alters Landscape Where Google Operates

Rolfe Winkler:

Smartphone users spend the vast majority of their time—88%, according to Yahoo’s Flurry Analytics—inside apps rather than Web browsing. That hurts Google because its search engine was designed to follow links between Web pages. Smartphone apps typically don’t have links; they are more like islands of content.

ComScore estimates U.S. smartphone users spend a fifth of their time inside Facebook’s app alone. Other apps help smartphone users bypass Google for lucrative searches, using Amazon to search for products or Priceline to book a hotel room, for example.

As Economy Rebounds, Government Still Plays Role In Mortgage Business

Stacey Vanek Smith:

SMITH: By dropped, he means that it used to be 90 percent, so 72 percent – that’s what passes for progress. Here is what Fannie and Freddie do. If you get a mortgage, you get that loan from a bank. Fannie and Freddie buy up those mortgages from banks and slap a guarantee on them. So if you don’t pay your mortgage, Fannie and Freddie will make up the difference. Fannie and Freddie take a fee for doing this, and then they sell these guaranteed mortgages to investors.

Cecala says one reason the government has been reluctant to hand Fannie and Freddie over to the private sector is that a privately-run Fannie and Freddie might only be interested in guaranteeing certain loans, like loans to really rich people or people with practically perfect credit.

CECALA: We’d effectively be saying, OK, less wealthy people, you’re not going to necessarily be able to get a mortgage.

SMITH: Or if you could get one, it would be at a much higher interest rate. And higher interest rates are a very quick way to make houses all across America worth less. Adam Levitin is a professor of housing law at Georgetown. He thinks housing prices could drop as much as 20 percent if the government let go of Fannie and Freddie.

Google: ” Local sites dropped…..”

Danny Sullivan.

The hidden tricks of powerful persuasion

David Robson:

Olson has spent a lifetime exploring the subtle ways of tricking people’s perception, and it all began with magic. “I started magic tricks when I was five and performing when I was seven,” he says.
 As an undergraduate in psychology, he found the new understanding of the mind often chimed with the skills he had learnt with his hobby. “Lots of what they said about attention and memory were just what magicians had been saying in a different way,” he says.
 One card trick, in particular, captured his imagination as he set about his research. It involved flicking through a deck in front of an audience member, who is asked to pick a card randomly. Unknown to the volunteer, he already worked out which card they would choose, allowing him to reach into his pocket and pluck the exact card they had named – much to the astonishment of the crowd.

Why is it so hard to calculate ROI in Google Analytics?

 Ryan Evans:

“If I stopped doing paid search spend, would customers still find me through my other marketing efforts?”
 “How much would sales decrease if I cut paid search back a bit?”
 “If I did less paid search search and more blogging, what would happen to sales?”
 Those are dangerous questions for Google. Especially when spending boatloads of money on paid search has become such a religion. I’m not saying that everyone would flee Google in droves. Paid search IS often super valuable. But assigning 100% of the value to it when it’s just the last stop on a customer’s journey is a bit more than generous. It’s not exactly in Google’s best interest to make that clear.
 Google Analytics is a wonderful tool and can show you many things. But don’t trust the Leprechaun to show you where the gold is.


30 Seconds, 1 Minute, 2 Hours, 10 Years: Modern Recruiting & Retention

Recruiting and retention opportunities in the mobile era: four recent examples:

30 seconds

“I have 30 seconds to establish credibility with a prospect.

The agent app, with one tap, gives me immediate credibility. I know instantly what’s happening around my sellers home, at an open house or with a buyer. I no longer have to say, I’ll get back to you. One tap.”

1 Minute

“I was on vacation and a buyer called. I tapped once, moved the map and shared the latest information with them. One minute.”

2 Hours

“Buyer tours always have spare time. With the agent app, we can stop in front of any house and, with one tap review photos and market statistics. Touring keeps them engaged.”

10 Years

“This is the first product introduced in my 10 years at this brokerage that is worth learning…. deeply.”

Oh, there’s actually a fifth

“That’s not mobile! I see a laptop.” – a very successful middle age agent, watching me connect my laptop to a projector in order to share my iPad’s screen. Note, this can be done wirelessly with an Airplay or Apple TV device.

Her strong reaction indicates agents’ mobile awareness, that is, real apps vs repurposed web tools.

Contact Jim for a quick look: 608 468 6013 or

The truly personal computer: The smartphone is the defining technology of the age

The Economist:

By 2020, something like 80% of adults will own a smartphone connected to this remarkable global resource. If they are anything like today’s Europeans and Americans, who are leading in these matters, they will use them for about two hours a day; if they are like today’s European and American teenagers they will use them more than that. The idea that the natural place to find a computer is on a desk—let alone, before that, in a basement—will be long forgotten.
 Like the book, the clock and the internal combustion engine before it, the smartphone is changing the way people relate to each other and the world around them. By making the online world more relevant, and more applicable, to every task from getting from A to B to finding a date to watching over a child to checking the thermostat it is adding all sorts of convenience. Beyond convenience, though, a computer that is always with you removes many previous constraints on what can be done when and where, and undermines old certainties about what was what and who was who. Distinctions that were previously clear—the differences between a product and a service, between a car owner and a taxi driver, between a city square and a political movement—blur into each other. The world is becoming more fluid.

Still in the Search


Amit Singhal, who heads Google’s search team, uses this example to help illustrate how the world’s most popular — by far — search engine has transformed itself in the past few years. In interviews I’ve conducted with him over the years, Singhal has analogized making a major change in Google search to switching jet engines mid-air, as Google alters its algorithmic flight plan to refine its rankings, to add new corpora of information (like images, books, or travel), or to begin searching for queries before users finish typing them. In the past few years, though, Google changed not only the engines but much of the cockpit. The inexorable momentum of mobile — 2015 will probably be the year when people conduct more searches on phones and tablets than on the desktop — forced something bigger: a reconsideration of the entire mission in light of that sea change.

How Google Skewed Search Results

Rolfe Winkler & Brody Mullins:

For example, the FTC staff noted that Google presented results from its flight-search tool ahead of other travel sites, even though Google offered fewer flight options. Google’s shopping results were ranked above rival comparison-shopping engines, even though users didn’t click on them at the same rate, the staff found. Many of the ways Google boosted its own results have not been previously disclosed.

services in part because it feared losing searches, and advertising revenue, to rivals such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

One way Google favored its own results was to change its ranking criteria. Google typically ranks sites based on measures like the number of links that point to a site, or how often users click on the site in search results.

But Marissa Mayer, who was then a Google vice president, said Google didn’t use click-through rates to determine the ranking for its own specialized-search sites, because they would rank too low, according to the staff report. Ms. Mayer is now chief executive of Yahoo Inc. A Yahoo spokeswoman didn’t immediately make her available for comment.

Instead, Google would “automatically boost” its own sites for certain specialized searches that otherwise would favor rivals, the FTC found. If a comparison-shopping site was supposed to rank highly, Google Product Search was placed above it. When Yelp was deemed relevant to a user’s search query, Google Local would pop up on top of the results page, the staff wrote.

Danny Sullivan has more here and here.

Google’s “cost per click” has fallen for the 13th consecutive quarter.

Google averages one White House meeting per week.

How Millennials Get News: Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation

American Press Institute:

Much of the concern has come from data that suggest adults age 18-34 — so-called Millennials — do not visit news sites, read print newspapers, watch television news, or seek out news in great numbers. This generation, instead, spends more time on social networks, often on mobile devices. The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.
 A new comprehensive study that looks closely at how people learn about the world on these different devices and platforms finds that this newest generation of American adults is anything but “newsless,” passive, or civically uninterested.

Apple Watch & Technology Evolution

Jeff Haynie:

By contrast, consider the mobile app. A good app can recognize where you are, what (or who) you’re near, whether you’re moving or standing still, which direction you’re pointed–all without a single input from you. Mobile apps provide an automatic contextual awareness that web applications can only dream about. It’s the choice between a dumb terminal and an anticipatory, participatory portable assistant.

Why Our Brains Love High Ceilings

Fast Company:

One of the first things a realtor will point out to prospective home buyers or apartment tenants is a high ceiling. To many of us, anything above the standard eight-foot ceiling is a big selling point. In recent times, home buyers have tended to pony up for the amenity of nine-foot ceilings; in the abstract, when added heights aren’t adding to mortgages or rents, people prefer their ceilings 10 feet high.
 Part of the appeal of high ceilings is no doubt related to a general preference for space, but the behavioral and brain evidence suggests there’s more to it than that. Some research from a few years back ties high ceilings to a psychological sense of freedom. And new neuroimaging work shows that a tall room triggers our tendencies toward spatial exploration.
 “You can imagine that our enjoyment of rooms with higher ceilings could be due to these two processes working in tandem,” psychologist Oshin Vartanian of the University of Toronto-Scarborough tells Co. Design. “On the one hand, such rooms promote visuospatial exploration, while at the same time they prompt us to think more freely. This could be a rather potent combination for inducing positive feelings.”

How Millennials are reshaping B2B marketing


Millennials—the largest generation since the Baby Boomers—are the new darlings being targeted by marketers. Much has been written about the Millennial consumer: the most educated, most tech-savvy, most connected, thrifty, and socially and environmentally conscious.
 These digital natives are the force that’s driving a new era for consumer marketing, one focused on values, transparency, relevancy and engagement.
But what about business-to-business (B2B) marketing? Increasingly, Millennials are assuming positions at work where they influence purchasing decisions. How do their consumer shopping habits impact their attitudes and approach for researching business products and services and engaging with vendors?
To find out, we surveyed 704 individuals who influence or are responsible for B2B purchasing decisions of US$10,000 or more for their company. They come from organizations large and small, across 12 countries and 6 targeted industries. When we compared the responses of Millennial employees (born 1980–1993) with those of Gen X (born 1965–1979) and Baby Boomers (born 1954–1964), we discovered Millennials’ behavior differs somewhat from their older colleagues, and their consumer practices do effect their B2B purchasing expectations (with a few surprising exceptions).
Millennials, even more than Gen X or Baby Boomers, prize a hassle-free, omni-channel client experience personalized to their specific needs. They want data, speed and trusted advisors who are eager to collaborate.


Manager Tech Tips: “mobile data traffic is expected to rise at a CAGR of around 40%”

Ericsson Interim Mobility Report 2015 (PDF):

A shift from web browsing towards more app-based mobile usage indicates changing consumer preferences. Having studied nine key markets around the world, Ericsson ConsumerLab has identified a shift in consumer viewing behavior in those markets: this year for the first time more people will watch streamed on demand video than broadcast TV at least twice per week.

In 2015 and beyond, are your company dollar investments aligned with agents, clients, managers and the app revolution?

Learn more about Virtual Properties Agent App, Public App and CRM cloud services. Our single entry systems have you covered from apps, websites, intranets to closings and beyond.

Jim Zellmer +1 608 468 6013 or

The Four Horsemen: Amazon/Apple/Facebook & Google–Who Wins/Loses

Scott Galloway Video.

Eating out More

Mark Perry.

Apps Are Eating Weight Watchers Business

Annie Massa:

Meanwhile, with consumers paying more attention to how many calories they are burning from exercise or everyday activities, fitness gadgets have surged in popularity, with 51.2 million American adults using applications to track their health, according to Nielsen. That is making it harder for Weight Watchers to justify subscriptions starting at $20 a month, since activity trackers can be paired with free mobile apps that make it easy to analyze caloric input and output.
 ‘Get Modern’
 “Weight Watchers really has to change what they’re offering — they have to get modern,” said Meredith Adler, an analyst at Barclays. “People are just more digital now than they ever were.”
 New York-based Weight Watchers has embraced activity trackers. Subscribers can use FitBit, Jawbone and the company’s own ActiveLink gadget to track diets and exercise. On the call, Chambers acknowledged that the company still had work to do to remake its image and offerings.

Get ready for the most sweeping business change since the Industrial Revolution.

Ram Charan:

The single greatest instrument of change in today’s business world, and the one that is creating major uncertainties for an ever-growing universe of companies, is the advancement of mathematical algorithms and their related sophisticated software. Never before has so much artificial mental power been available to so many—power to deconstruct and predict patterns and changes in everything from consumer behavior to the maintenance requirements and operating lifetimes of industrial machinery. In combination with other technological factors—including broadband mobility, sensors, and vastly increased data-crunching capacity—algorithms are dramatically changing both the structure of the global economy and the nature of business.
 Though still in its infancy, the use of algorithms has already become an engine of creative destruction in the business world, fracturing time-tested business models and implementing dazzling new ones. The effects are most visible so far in retailing, creating new and highly interactive relationships between businesses and their customers, and making it possible for giant corporations to deal with customers as individuals. At Macy’s, for instance, algorithmic technology is helping fuse the online and the in-store experience, enabling a shopper to compare clothes online, try something on at the store, order it online, and return it in person. Algorithms help determine whether to pull inventory from a fulfillment center or a nearby store, while location-based technologies let companies target offers to specific consumers while they are shopping in stores.

Commentary on The Mortgage Market

Anthony Sanders:

“So the question becomes, ‘Who’s going to buy these mortgages?’ And if we’re talking about 30-year fixed rate mortgages, which are yielding less than 4 percent, who’s going to be crazy enough to buy [them] or put [them] on their balance sheet?” Bove asked.
 Who is crazy enough to buy 30 year fixed-rate mortgages and/or put them on their balance sheets? The Federal government and their proxies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, of course!
 But first of all, Dick, 2018 is a long way off and I wouldn’t announce the obituary for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac quite yet.
 Second, Michael Lea and I have been saying for a long time now that banks do not want to put 30 year mortgages on their books. Why? 30 year fixed-rate mortgages pose a number of risks to the lender/investor (interest rate risk, prepayment risk, default risk, underwriting risk, etc). Banks would prefer to hold short-term adjustable rate (aka, variable-rate) mortgages that have shorter duration (less risk exposure). Here is our Mercatus paper entitled “Do We Need The 30 Year Fixed-rate Mortgage?” In short, the US is the only country with an obsession with the 30 year fixed-rate mortgage. France, hardly the model of a healthy economy or banking system, is second with 67 percent of long-term fixed-rate mortgages.

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Agrihood

John Gittelsohn:

American builders have a long history of bulldozing farms to make way for housing developments. Now developers are starting farms to sell homes. Harvest, a $1 billion “urban agrarian” community being built by H. Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood Development in Texas, hired a farmer to cultivate vegetables before construction began on a planned 3,200 houses. Willowsford, a community of 2,130 homes in Virginia’s Loudoun County, set aside 2,000 acres of green space, including 300 acres for raising fruit, vegetables, chickens, and goats. Developer DMB integrated produce fields and edible gardens into projects in Arizona, California, and Hawaii.

Smart Search:

Market [Trends] & Neighborhoods [Trends]

Client A is interested in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath single family home from $175,000 to 225,000 (tap refine, upper right).

I begin with a fast survey of the entire market using the Agent App.

I then tap trends & charts (upper left) and walk my client through all buyer and seller activity.

This accomplishes several things:

  1. Credibility: Instant market smarts with a tap or two.
  2. Flow: I can save this search for myself and my contacts. The search automatically appears in my contact’s CRM connections.
  3. SOI: I share trends & charts via text, email, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and other destinations.
  4. Brand: On iPhone and iPad, I am always on top of the market. My competitors are still using 50 clicks.

Dive into Neighborhoods:

You are no longer limited to stale MLS statistics based on zip code, county, city or MLS area.

All of this in front of clients, in seconds.

Your work is immediately available in the CRM

and, of course auto-filled to your listing and offer documents.


720p iPhone version iPad 480p 720p

Interested in a quick look? Dial 1 608 468 6013 or email

Let’s compare technology usage data :)

(c) 2015 Virtual Properties, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Brand success in an era of Digital Darwinism

Jacques Bughin:

The challenges for brand-marketing executives will probably increase as consumers opt for more complete digital interactions. We found that the likelihood of brand conversion is lower for fully digital consumers than for experimenters. Specifically, when experimenters become aware of a brand, their conversion rate reaches about 40 percent. The conversion rate for fully digital consumers, by contrast, is only 25 percent.
 More actively digital consumers are prone to abandon a brand midstream for a number of reasons. They are more likely to have joined Facebook, Twitter, or product-evaluation platforms for conversations about the qualities of products or services. The greater number of touchpoints before purchase increases the odds a consumer will encounter a deal breaker along the digital highway. What’s more, companies have less control over more digitally seasoned consumers, who initiate their prepurchase interactions independently. And since the level and influence of advertising in the social-media space have yet to reach the levels common in offline channels, brand messages are less likely to influence decisions.
 Our research indicated, however, that some companies have managed to navigate this competitive turbulence successfully. To understand the differentiating factors for that success, we rated brands across four digital skills: the ability to create brand awareness among an unusually high share of digitally savvy consumers, to serve customers digitally during the purchase processes, to generate an online customer experience deemed at least as good as the offline one, and to track the digital comments of customers about their experience and to use those comments to improve it. We added the scores across these dimensions, compiling a digitization index that represents the weight of satisfactory touchpoints leading to a purchase across decision journeys.3

Real Estate Agents Are Desperate to Understand Millennial Homebuyers

Patrick Clark:

Now that millennials seem poised to flex their muscles and pour some money back into the housing market, real estate agents sound as if they’re afraid of being rejected.
 Last month, a 30-year-old marketing executive named Kyle Reyes took to ActiveRain, an online community for real estate professionals, to complain that Americans in his age group had lost the art of strong eye contact and a proper handshake. “It’s an entire generation that doesn’t know how to communicate,” Reyes wrote.
 Mumbling millennials have real estate agents worried—and for good reason. In a profession where success depends on gaining strangers’ trust and winning word-of-mouth referrals, older agents are scared they won’t be able to relate. “There’s a huge disconnect,” said Reyes, president of Manchester, Conn.-based Silent Partner Marketing, a company that has advised real estate brokerages on appealing to millennials. “I’m seeing a slow generational shift towards younger agents.”

Replacing Middle Management with APIs

Peter Reinhardt:

And I suspect these software layers will only get thicker. Entrepreneurial software developers will find ways to tie these APIs together, delivering products that combine several “human” APIs. Someone could use Mechanical Turk’s API to automate sales prospect research, plug that data into 99designs Tasks’ API to prepare customized infographics for the prospect sent via email. Or someone could use Redfin’s API to automatically purchase houses, and send a Zirtual assistant instructions via email on how to project-manage a renovation, flipping the house completely programmatically. These “real-world APIs” allow complex programs (or an AI in the spooky storyline here), to affect and control things in the real-world. It does seem apropos that we invest in AI safety now.

We see quite a bit of this in our CRM automation services.

The price of free part 2005: YouTube makes a move against brand-sponsored videos

Eric Blattberg:

YouTube is putting down the clamps on video creators who work directly with brands, nudging them instead to rely on Google’s sales team for deals.
 YouTube has quietly amended its ad policies to block “graphical title cards” from sponsors aiming to promote their brands and products on YouTube channels, according to a revised FAQ document in YouTube’s help and support section. Video overlays of sponsor logos and product branding are no longer allowed — unless the sponsor pays Google to advertise on that channel.
 A YouTube representative called this revision a clarification of its existing policy, one that occurred late last year, intended to prevent advertiser conflicts and ensure viewers don’t feel bombarded by ads. Paul Kontonis, executive director of the Global Online Video Association, however framed it as an explicit change that prevents YouTube stars and multichannel networks from working prominent sponsor logos and images into their videos without handing Google a cut of the revenue.

Dare Greatly

Peter De Lorenzo:

Is it something I personally like? No, but frankly, I’m not the target. It’s the new-generation “X” and “Y” buyers who matter. Was this a purposeful attempt to eradicate Cadillac’s glorious past? No, it was a stark admission that new stories had to be written for new generations of buyers who not only couldn’t care less about the history of the brand, but who are impatient to find the luxury brand that speaks to them most. In other words, whatever previous notions of Cadillac that were hovering out there in the mist simply no longer applied.
 What has transpired in the last six months in regards to Cadillac in terms of marketing strategy, product direction and everything else associated with this brand in transition has been monumental and is geared to what Cadillac will be in the future – where it needed and wanted to go, and what it will look and feel like on the journey there.
 This new Cadillac is armed with a driven leader bolstered by conviction and experience, one who has a completely different outlook for the brand. He has a like-minded and aggressive CMO at his side, a new advertising agency and a whole new way of thinking about the brand unfolding in staccato bursts of thought and creativity.
 And the result of this swirling maelstrom of new thinking?

Is Google making the web stupid?

Seth Godin:

The gaming of the SEO system combined with the power of first page results (virtually all search clicks come to those on the first page of results) combined with Google’s shift to controlling as much as possible of the unpaid clickstream means that this paradigm is no longer what it was.

That means that a thoughtful, well-written online magazine has a harder time being discovered by someone who might be searching for it, which makes it harder to scale.

If you’re a content provider, the shift to mobile, and to social and the shift in Google’s priorities mean that it’s worth a very hard look at how you’ll monetize and the value of permission (i.e. the subscribers to this blog are its backbone). And if you’re Google, it’s worth comparing the short-term upside of strangling the best (thoughtful, personal, informed) content to the long-term benefit of creating a healthy ecosystem.

Here’s the key question: Are the people who are making great content online doing it despite the search regime, or enabled by it?

For the first ten years of the web, the answer was obvious. I’m not sure it is any longer.

And if you’re still reading this long post, if you’re one of the billions of people who rely on the free content that’s shared widely, it’s worth thinking hard about whether the center of that content universe is pushing the library you rely on to get dumb, fast.

More from Marco.