The New York Times CEO on state of digital advertising: ‘Nightmarish joke

Brian Morrissey:

“The world of digital advertising is a nightmarish joke,” he said during a panel discussion at the Cannes Lions. “Mark Zuckerberg’s first post about fake news, Facebook managed to serve an ad for fake news next to it. It’s a joke. It’s out of control. There are all sorts of creepy, borderline fraudulent middlemen, this thicket of strange companies, tracking pixels on everything. You couldn’t think of a more dangerous environment for a brand.”
 
 In case there was any mistaking his position, Thompson added a further assessment: “a complete mess.”
 
 “In terms of brand safety, you couldn’t think of a more dangerous environment,” he added. “A monster has been created.”
 
 I asked Thompson whether he blames ad tech for the current situation. He said the entire digital media world is too premised on audience buying.
 
 “The ecosystem that’s grown up is a strangely shaped thing,” he said. “It’s based on the idea that content doesn’t matter.”

What works in e-commerce – a meta-analysis of 6700 online experiments

Will Browne, Mike Swarbrick Jones:

Today, it is relatively simple to experiment with different versions of the same website. There are many technologies and tools that can help e-commerce businesses build and run randomised controlled trials (otherwise known as A/B tests). The amount of data available to large e-commerce sites means that businesses can measure the effect of changing design, messaging and merchandising. Over the last three years, Qubit has been helping these businesses explore which changes are associated with an increase in revenue.
In previous work [7], Qubit showed that many of the practices used in the A/B testing industry at the time were fundamentally flawed. Since its release we have seen a change in both the statistical models used in the industry, and a shift to more robust experimental procedures. In this paper, we would like to move the industry forward again, and answer the question – what kind of changes do our clients make, and how do they impact revenue?
 
We will present the results of a meta-analysis, conducted in 2017, on Qubit’s large database of experiments. We will describe the effects of 29 treatment types and estimate the cumulative impact of these experiments on site wide revenue. The methodology used in this paper was independently assured by PricewaterhouseCoopers UK LLP (PwC)1. To our knowledge, this is the first published, independently assured quantitative analysis of its type. We hope it will be used to improve the quality of A/B testing, to reset expectations, and to prioritise optimisations to websites.
 
We have decided to separate this work into three sections to answer three slightly different questions, keeping methodologies and results together where possible. In section 2 we divide our experiments into different treatment categories, and estimate the overall impact of each of them. In section 3 we estimate the overall distribution of all experiment impacts used in this work. In section 4 we look at how A/B testing impacts overall site-wide revenue across sets of web-domains. There are a number of appendices expanding on the results of these sections.

Quicken Loans/Rocket: Before You Hit “Submit,” This Company Has Already Logged Your Personal Data

Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu:

If you’re daydreaming about buying a home or need to lower the payment on the one you already have, you might pay a visit to the Quicken Loans mortgage calculator. You’ll be asked a quick succession of questions that reveal how much cash you have on hand or how much your home is worth and how close you are to paying it off. Then Quicken will tell you how much you’d owe per month if you got a loan from them and asks for your name, email address, and phone number.
 
 You might fill in the contact form, but then have second thoughts. Do you really want to tell this company how much you’re worth or how in debt you are? You change your mind and close the page before clicking the Submit button and agreeing to Quicken’s privacy policy.
 
 But it’s too late. Your email address and phone number have already been sent to a server at “murdoog.com,” which is owned by NaviStone, a company that advertises its ability to unmask anonymous website visitors and figure out their home addresses. NaviStone’s code on Quicken’s site invisibly grabbed each piece of your information as you filled it out, before you could hit the “Submit” button.

Quicken Loans’ In-House Realty wading further into real estate

Teke Wiggin::

n-House Realty is leveraging the acquisition to build a platform that will fuse property search with both its referral network and Quicken Loans’ lending experience.

Consumers will be able to use the coming platform to get pre-approved by Quicken Loans, zero in on listings and connect with an agent to see the properties.

It will present agents based largely on their performance data, facilitate instant communication between buyer and seller and tee up quick showings.

“We have all of the information on our partner [agent] that we can instantly share with the consumer because of our experience with the lender and our experience with the agent partner in that market,” Seabolt said.

In-House Realty plans to launch the new platform later this year or sometime in 2018.

This is only the beginning of Quicken Loans’ push into real estate.

In-House Realty is tinkering with ideas and technology in a laboratory-like environment. All the experimentation is aimed at streamlining the homebuying process and, ultimately, crafting the ever-elusive “end-to-end solution” for the industry, Seabolt said.

The basis of competition continues to change. Virtual Properties offers end to end lead generation/management, documents and transaction services along with core service integration (mortgage, insurance, relocation). Contact 608 468 6013 or jim@vp.io to learn more.

Surveillance business models: How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Sends You Letters about Your Medical Condition

Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu:

Yet there’s some medical information that Acurian doesn’t have to guess about: The company pays Walgreens, which uses a privacy exemption for research, to send recruitment letters to its pharmacy customers on Acurian’s behalf, based on the medications they’re using. Under this arrangement, Acurian notes that it doesn’t access the medical information directly; the customers’ identities remain private until they respond to the invitations.
 
 And that is not the entire story. An investigation by the Special Projects Desk has found that Acurian may also be pursuing people’s medical information more directly, using the services of a startup that advertises its ability to unmask anonymous website visitors. This could allow it harvest the identities of people seeking information about particular conditions online, before they’ve consented to anything.

Google (and Facebook), not GCHQ, is the truly chilling spy network

John Naughton:

During the hoo-ha, one of the spooks with whom I discussed Snowden’s revelations waxed indignant about our coverage of the story. What bugged him (pardon the pun) was the unfairness of having state agencies pilloried, while firms such as Google and Facebook, which, in his opinion, conducted much more intensive surveillance than the NSA or GCHQ, got off scot free. His argument was that he and his colleagues were at least subject to some degree of democratic oversight, but the companies, whose business model is essentially “surveillance capitalism”, were entirely unregulated.
 
 He was right. “Surveillance”, as the security expert Bruce Schneier has observed, is the business model of the internet and that is true of both the public and private sectors. Given how central the network has become to our lives, that means our societies have embarked on the greatest uncontrolled experiment in history. Without really thinking about it, we have subjected ourselves to relentless, intrusive, comprehensive surveillance of all our activities and much of our most intimate actions and thoughts. And we have no idea what the long-term implications of this will be for our societies – or for us as citizens.

The Grocery Store Of The Future Is Mobile, Self-Driving, And Run By A

Adele Peters:

For consumers, it’s designed to be an easier way to shop. To use the store, called Moby, you download an app and use your phone to open the door. A hologram-like AI greets you, and, as you shop, you scan what you want to buy or place it in a smart basket that tracks your purchases. Then you walk out the door; instead of waiting in line, the store automatically charges your card when you leave (Amazon is testing a similar system). The tiny shop will stock fresh food and other daily supplies, and if you want something else you can order it using the store’s artificial intelligence. The packages will be waiting when you return to shop the next time. When autonomous vehicles are allowed on roads, the store could also show up at your home, and the company is also testing a set of drones to make small deliveries.

The Mall of the Future Will Have No Stores

Esther Fang:

When Starwood Capital Group LLC bought Fairlane Town Center in 2014, the investment firm had a lot of work to do.
 
 The Dearborn, Mich., mall was only 72% leased, and among the vacant space was a sprawling former anchor store.
 
 A chance call to Ford Motor Co. to sell some mall advertising turned out to be a game changer. In April, Ford moved its entire engineering and purchasing staff into space once inhabited by department-store chain Lord & Taylor. Ford is now the mall’s largest tenant, with 240,000 square feet of space.

Banking Deserts

Drew Dahl & Michelle Franke.

What No One Ever Tells You About Tiny Homes

Gene Tempest/l:

My husband and I share a 492-square-foot apartment in Cambridge, Mass. We inhabit a “micro apartment,” or what is sometimes called a tiny house. This label is usually proudly applied to dwellings under 500 square feet, according to Wikipedia. We are unwittingly on a very small bandwagon, part of a growing international movement.
 
 But deep inside the expensive custom closets and under the New Age Murphy beds, the pro-petite propaganda has hidden some unseemly truths about how the other half lives. No one writes about the little white lies that help sell this new, very small American dream.

Google’s ad blocker

David Dayen:

With New Browser Tech, Apple Preserves Privacy and Google Preserves Trackers

Alan Tomer:

Google’s approach contrasts starkly with Apple’s. Apple’s browser, Safari, will use a method called intelligent tracking prevention to prevent tracking by third parties—that is, sites that are rarely visited intentionally but are incorporated on many other sites for advertising purposes—that use cookies and other techniques to track us as we move through the web. Safari will use machine learning in the browser (which means the data never leaves your computer) to learn which cookies represent a tracking threat and disarm them. This approach is similar to that used in EFF’s Privacy Badger, and we are excited to see it in Safari.
 
 Users Can Opt In to Publisher Payments—But Not Out of Tracking
 In tandem with their Better Ads enforcement, Google will also launch a companion program, Funding Choices, that will enable CBA-compliant sites to ask Chrome users with content blockers to whitelist their site and unblock their ads. Should the user refuse, they can either pay for an “ad-free experience” or be locked out by a publisher’s adblock wall. Payment is to be made using a Google product called Contributor, first deployed in 2015. Contributor lets people pay sites to avoid being simply shown Google ads, but does not prevent Google, the site, or any other advertisers from continuing to track people who pay into the Contributor program. This approach is consistent with the ad industry’s dogged defense of tracking, and its refusal to honor user signals such as Do Not Track. The industry’s sole response has been to create a system called AdChoices, which offers users a complicated and inefficient opt-out from targeted ads, but not from the data collection and the behavioral tracking behind the targeting. By that logic, it is okay to track and spy on people who opt out—as long as you don’t remind them that they are being tracked!

Humans as training data

Intelligent Tracking Prevention

WebKit:

How Does Intelligent Tracking Prevention Work?
 Intelligent Tracking Prevention collects statistics on resource loads as well as user interactions such as taps, clicks, and text entries. The statistics are put into buckets per top privately-controlled domain or TLD+1.
 
 Machine Learning Classifier
 A machine learning model is used to classify which top privately-controlled domains have the ability to track the user cross-site, based on the collected statistics. Out of the various statistics collected, three vectors turned out to have strong signal for classification based on current tracking practices: subresource under number of unique domains, sub frame under number of unique domains, and number of unique domains redirected to. All data collection and classification happens on-device.

Faking ‘wokeness’: how advertising targets millennial liberals for profit

Alissa Quart:
 

“Eco-warriors” are celebrated in one video. In another, a message flashes across the screen: “We believe no matter who you are, where you’re from, who you love, or who you worship, we all belong.” Yet another ad champions the theme of girls and Stem (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and celebrates a girl-centered technology organization.
 
 Despite all appearances, these videos are not public-service campaigns. Instead, they are advertisements for some of the most blockbuster brands around: for the car company Kia, for Airbnb, and for the phone carrier Verizon, whose ad campaign involves partnering with Girls who Code. These companies are now gesturing at liberal values through their messaging. If television is waking up politically, with shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, advertisements seem to be far ahead.

Calling BS on big data

Michelle Nijhuis

“Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you,” the Oxford philosophy professor John Alexander Smith told his students, in 1914, “save only this: if you work hard and intelligently, you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot.” Smith might be pleased to know that this week, at the University of Washington, in Seattle, some hundred and fifty students will complete “Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data,” a course less profanely and more prosaically known as INFO 198/BIOL 106B. Taught by Jevin West, an information scientist, and Carl Bergstrom, a biologist, it created something of an online sensation when its syllabus went up, in January, and when registration opened it filled to capacity in less than a minute.

Morgan Stanley’s 16,000 Human Brokers Get Algorithmic Makeover

Hugh Son:

Call them cyborgs. Morgan Stanley is about to augment its 16,000 financial advisers with machine-learning algorithms that suggest trades, take over routine tasks and send reminders when your birthday is near.
 
 The project, known internally as “next best action,” shows how one of the world’s biggest brokerages aims to upgrade its workforce while a growing number of firms roll out fully automated platforms called robo-advisers. The thinking is that humans with algorithmic assistants will be a better solution for wealthy families than mere software allocating assets for the masses.
 
 At Morgan Stanley, algorithms will send employees multiple-choice recommendations based on things like market changes and events in a client’s life, according to Jeff McMillan, chief analytics and data officer for the bank’s wealth-management division. Phone, email and website interactions will be cataloged so machine-learning programs can track and improve their suggestions over time to generate more business with customers, he said.

Fraud, Beyond Belief

Bob Hoffman:

The fraud is known as “Judy.” To give you a sense of its size, Dr. Fou calculated that it was capable of creating 1 billion fraudulent ad impressions a minute. It has been operating undetected for over a year. Do that math.
 
 But that ain’t nuthin’. Check Point also uncovered an ad fraud operation called “Fireball” that has infected 250 million computers worldwide as well as 20% of corporate networks. You can read about Fireball here.
 
 According to Dr. Fou, Fireball is capable of creating – you ready? – 30 billion fraudulent ad impressions a minute. I’m going to repeat that — 30 billion a minute.
 
 Dr. Fou called the “Judy” and “Fireball” operations “fraud on such a massive scale it is beyond belief.”
 
 And who’s buying these trillions of fraudulent ad impressions? That would be your company’s digital marketing experts.
 The more arrogantly confident the ad tech industry and its vacuous cheerleaders in agencies get about their “progress” to control ad fraud, the more laughable they look. And the more ridiculous advertisers look for buying into their horseshit.
 

7 in 10 Smartphone Apps Share Your Data with Third-Party Services

Narseo Vallina-Rodriguez, Srikanth Sundaresan:

Our mobile phones can reveal a lot about ourselves: where we live and work; who our family, friends and acquaintances are; how (and even what) we communicate with them; and our personal habits. With all the information stored on them, it isn’t surprising that mobile device users take steps to protect their privacy, like using PINs or passcodes to unlock their phones.

The research that we and our colleagues are doing identifies and explores a significant threat that most people miss: More than 70 percent of smartphone apps are reporting personal data to third-party tracking companies like Google Analytics, the Facebook Graph API or Crashlytics.

When people install a new Android or iOS app, it asks the user’s permission before accessing personal information. Generally speaking, this is positive. And some of the information these apps are collecting are necessary for them to work properly: A map app wouldn’t be nearly as useful if it couldn’t use GPS data to get a location.

How the desire for a bigger moat led to the over-engineered, poorly executed Windows Vista

Terry Crowley:

We do not see this only in desktop (including laptop) computing. The tablet probably blasted to form factor sufficiency faster than any broad consumer computing device we have ever seen. Actually, a broader perspective would say that is untrue. We were struggling with weight, battery life, processing capability, input modes and overall responsiveness in different incarnations of the tablet for decades. But when the iPad arrived on the scene with its combination of screen size, weight, battery life, touch input, processing power and instant-on we had turned through an inflection point of sufficiency. Changes since then have been merely incremental — which drives crazy the engineers working on these things and expending great energy and creativity to have it described this way. The engineers at Maytag working on the next iteration of the washing machine probably feel the same way.

Stop zillow…

website

Now Zillow’s “Instant Offers” encourages unknowledgeable home sellers to sell directly to profit-driven investors at below market value.​ This program mesmerizes home sellers into acting without consulting a Realtor, attorney or appraiser.
 
 Instant Offers is a costly, misleading program for the public and a stab in the back to Realtors who fund Zillow​. ​It’s a lose-lose program for everyone (except greedy investors). It ​reduces home seller equity while diminishing Realtor income.

No good news for media industry in Internet Trends report

Tom Foremski:

Last year it was 74% – an acceleration that demonstrates the competitive advantage of scale companies have online or as the report’s author Mary Meeker succinctly writes: “Big Get Bigger & Go After Other Bigs.”
 
 Meeker is a partner at KPCB, one of the first VC firms on Silicon Valley’s famed Sand Hill Rd. She was a popular Wall Street analyst during the dotcom boom.
 
 Here are some of the extremely worrying Internet trends for those media companies that are not Google and Facebook:

Google’s ad blocker could make it the “prosecutor, judge, and jury” of online ads

Noah Kulwin:

Google and Facebook dominate the digital advertising industry; the two companies reportedly accounted for 89 percent of all digital ad revenue growth in 2016. And antitrust experts and media industry leaders are concerned about any move — like next year’s ad blocker release first reported by the Wall Street Journal — that would give the tech conglomerates even more market power.
 
 “I don’t love that Google is kind of imposing a solution through Chrome,” said David Chavern, leader of the News Media Alliance, an industry association for print and digital news organizations. “It’s sort of saying ‘Here, publishers, this the deal. Take it or leave it.’”
 
 Google Chrome is already the most-used web browser in the U.S., with a 44.5 percent market share. According to Google, the ad blocker will be turned on by default, screening content and flagging advertisements that don’t conform to standards laid out by the industry trade group Coalition for Better Ads. (Google and Facebook are members of the CBA along with many other media companies and trade associations.)

Google to allow publishers to charge users who utilise ad-blockers: some ads are more equal than others

Hannah Kuchler

The internet company is launching “funding choices” where publishers can set a price per page view for consumers using ad blockers to pay — or abandon their blockers and see the ads. Google will track how many pages people view and charge them through a new version of their Google Contributor service.
 
 Google is also launching its own version of an ad-blocker, threatening to block adverts on websites that do not meet the standards developed by the Coalition for Better Ads, such as pop-ups or videos that play with sound or flashing lights.
 
 Sridhar Ramaswamy, senior vice-president of ads and commerce at Google, said the whole industry needs to work together to combat the rise of ad blockers.
 
 “Consumers are installing ad blockers because of bad, frustrating experiences,” he said. “They are very broad, blunt options that harm all publishers.”

Google could face a $9bn EU fine for rigging search results in its favour

Foo Yen Chee:

EU antitrust regulators aim to slap a hefty fine on Alphabet unit Google over its shopping service before the summer break in August, two people familiar with the matter said, setting the stage for two other cases involving the US company.
 
 The European Commission’s decision will come after a seven-year investigation into the world’s most popular internet search engine was triggered by scores of complaints from both US and European rivals.
 
 The EU competition authority accused Google in April 2015 of distorting internet search results to favour its shopping service, harming both rivals and consumers.

Wall Street’s Message to CEOs? The Future Is Tech

WSJ Tech audio:

On the heels of Ford’s recent CEO restructuring, the Wall Street Journal’s Christopher Mims talks how investors and boards are hunting for corporate leaders who can move quickly to fend off upstarts and place big bets on disruptive tech.

The scourge of web analytics

Stavros’ Stuff:

Finally, we are now at the point where the web has somnambulated into being a full-blown application delivery platform, except both the “application” and the “delivery” parts are hacked together with chicken wire and duct tape, and analytics are the cherry on top.
 
 The current state of affairs
 The current state of affairs is as encouraging as you’d expect after having read the previous paragraph, i.e. not at all. Almost all analytics software tries to extract as much information about the user as possible, in the hopes that, at some point, an intern will stumble upon a meaningful correlation between a user’s mouse cursor color and a preference for chicken nuggets. This information is retained indefinitely, resulting in a privacy nightmare for users, who end up with their cursor color and complete browsing histories in the hands of unscrupulous third-party vendors.
 
 
 Facebook knows what all these people like in bed.
 Have you ever noticed how much Javascript a Twitter button loads? Have you ever wondered why a Twitter button needs to load an entire iframe in order to display what is literally equivalent to an image with a link? It’s because every time you load a page that has a button or element from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google, etc, that company makes a note of which page you visited, when, who you are, what your browser was, where you were when you visited, etc. Facebook literally has a list of sites that you, John Smith, visited, even if you visited them completely outside Facebook, without clicking on any Facebook posts or links at all, just because there was a “Like” button on them.

There are bots, look around

Renee DiResta:

So said economist Larry Summers in a paper challenging the idea of efficiency in financial markets, a cornerstone of American capitalism. We’ve hit a point where the same can be said of efficiency in a cornerstone of American democracy, the marketplace of ideas:
 
 “There are bots. Look around.”
 
 The marketplace of ideas is now struggling with the increasing incidence of algorithmic manipulation and disinformation campaigns.

Millennials will Drive the Digital Transformation of the Workplace

Carolina Milanesi:

At Creative Strategies, we asked over 1,400 18 to 24 years old in the US what would make them not choose a company to work for after they were offered a job. While 35% were just happy to get a job, 46% would see not being able to work flexible hours as a dealbreaker. 21% would walk away from a job that did not let them use a smartphone for work in conjunction with their laptop or desktop, while another 17% could not tolerate an IT department that restricts what can be done with a smartphone. Finally, 14% could not be in a job that did not offer collaboration practices that fit their desired workflow, such as using apps like Google Docs or Slack, as well as video conference support.
 
 Workflow is different for millennials. Aside from prioritizing collaboration, 65% said their preferred method to communicate is messaging apps. When it comes to collaboration, Google reigns supreme with 81% of US millennials regularly using Google Docs, 62% Google search, 59% Google Mail. Outside of Google, Apple iMessage scored the highest, with 57% of millennials saying they regularly rely on it, followed by Microsoft Word with 51%.
 
 When it comes to devices, given a choice of laptop brands by their employer, there are only two brands that seem to matter: 62% would pick an Apple Mac and 14% would choose a Microsoft Surface Pro. Mobility is also no longer a “nice to have”. 34% of millennials say it is extremely important that the software, services and business processes they use for work are available on mobile as well as on a laptop. Finally, when coming into a job, 46% would prefer to be able to choose what laptop is given to them.

Wal Mart’s No interest credit promotion

Dennis Eckert:

Special financing offers have been around for years. One type works by offering you, the customer, no interest on a purchase if you pay off the balance before the promotional period ends. This can be a good deal, so long as you do pay off your purchase before the promotional period ends.
 
 The issue is that, if you haven’t paid off the balance of your purchase by the time the grace period ends – let’s say that’s 12 months, for example – you may be stuck with a pile of interest that was building up during that time. So, even if you have just a fraction of the purchase price left to pay on day 366, you could owe 12 months’ worth of interest based on the balance. That means your wallet could take a significant hit.
 
 The reality is most people’s lives are anything but predictable, and paying off a purchase within a set period of time doesn’t always happen as planned. We have responsibilities that weigh on us – tasks and relationships to juggle and, of course, a never-ending stack of bills to pay.

The lock screen battle: How The New York Times, CNN and BuzzFeed News pushed the Trump-FBI story to mobile readers

Mădălina Ciobanu:

President Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey has been making headlines since 9 May, when the White House published a statement citing the president’s decision, and the ramifications of this event have kept news organisations and readers’ lock screens busy ever since.
 
 At least once a day over the last week, if not more frequently, news outlets have been alerting audiences to new developments in the story.
 
 With so many updates, conflicting statements and key figures involved, it can be tricky for readers, even those with prior knowledge of Comey and his prominence in the 2016 US election, to keep track of what was happening, or to become interested in the news in the first place.

How The Economist found its niche on a visual platform

Ria Jones:

Instagram is one of our fastest-growing social media platforms, with engagements rising nearly 70% year on year. The platform has enabled us to showcase the breadth of our journalism beyond what we are traditionally known for, which is our print content. At The Economist we strive to reach a “globally curious” audience and our Instagram feed is no exception. Our presence has allowed us to cultivate a younger audience, and we are proud to have an even gender split of followers.
 Some of our most popular posts combine a striking image with a timely news event. The photo we posted of Bastille Day celebrations later summed up collective grief in the wake of the Nice attack. An image of composer Ludovico Einaudi, performing his specially composed “Elegy for the Arctic” in front of a glacier, was beautiful but also pertinent to conservation issues. In addition to photos, our feed also includes covers, cartoons, charts and videos to highlight the diversity of The Economist’s journalism.

ANOTHER SOCIAL MEDIA MYTH EVAPORATING

Bob Hoffman:

“Extensive new research” from a firm called EngagementLabs throws about an ocean of cold water on this belief.
 
 Here’s what they did. Over the course of a year, they did a week-by-week study comparing online chatter with real talk – “the conversations people have in person with family, friends, colleagues at work” – for 500 brands.
 
 They measured four parameters: Volume (the amount of talk); Net sentiment (positive talk minus negative talk; Sharing of content, and Influence (do the people who chatter matter?)
 
 Here’s what they found.
 For volume “the findings were mixed… But for all practical purposes, the association was not sufficient that a brand marketer could reasonably assume that one is a mirror to the other.”
 For sentiment, “no meaningful correlation at all.”
 For sharing “…the correlation for brand sharing was essentially zero…it is fair to conclude that consumer engagement with brands’ marketing content works entirely independently offline and online.”
 
 And finally, the affect on more influential consumers? “On this metric there is a slightly negative correlation.” In other words, the more online, the less real-world.
 
 While positive word-of-mouth is a valuable asset to marketers, this study is pretty damaging to the theory that social media is related to real-world word-of-mouth.
 
 Like so many other social media fantasies, the idea that social media chatter is the “tip of the iceberg” of consumer interest is turning out to be another marketing delusion.

Uber Doesn’t Want You to See This Document About Its Vast Data Surveillance System

Kashmir Hill:

The ever-expanding operations of Uber are defined by two interlocking and zealously guarded sets of information: the things the world-dominating ride-hailing company knows about you, and the things it doesn’t want you to know about it. Both kinds of secrets have been in play in the Superior Court of California in San Francisco, as Ward Spangenberg, a former forensic investigator for Uber, has pursued a wrongful-termination lawsuit against the company.
 
 The case, filed in May of last year, has weaponized Uber’s secrecy. Most sensationally, Spangenberg’s suit got significant press coverage in December for his claims that company employees accessed its data inappropriately to track exes and to spy on celebrities like Beyoncé. Uber responded to those claims by saying that employees only have access to the amount of customer data they need to do their jobs and that all data access is logged and routinely audited, with thorough investigations performed in the event of potential violations.

How Coca-Cola targeted ads based on people’s Facebook, Instagram photos

Tanya Dua:

When Coca-Cola wanted to push iced-tea drinkers to consider its Gold Peak brand this summer, it didn’t target people like most brands do by using their search history. Instead, it combed through consumers’ photos on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and served them ads based on images they shared on those platforms.
 
 Gold Peak tapped into an image recognition engine that identified people who posted images that featured glasses or jugs of iced tea, displayed emotions such as happiness and excitement as well as contained cans or bottles of its competitors, including Snapple, Honest Tea, Lipton and others. Those people were then served Gold Peak ads on 40 mobile sites and apps after leaving Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
 
 For example, if you posted a picnic table spread with a jug of iced tea somewhere in the mix on Instagram, Gold Peak could have targeted you with ads while you read an article on Business Insider or checked the weather on the AccuWeather app in the past month, thanks to your photo.

Tesco Now

Tesco:

What is Tesco Now?
 
 Tesco Now is a secret app that’s not yet available to the public. There has been no mention of it since 2015 when the supermarket trademarked the name.
 
 The app lets you order a limited range of groceries, similar to what you can find at a Tesco Express:

The end of petrol and diesel cars? All vehicles will be electric by 2025, says expert

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard:

No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.
 
 This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. His report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.

DocuSign breach

DocuSign:

Last week and again this morning, DocuSign detected an increase in phishing emails sent to some of our customers and users – and we posted alerts here on the DocuSign Trust Site and in social media. The emails “spoofed” the DocuSign brand in an attempt to trick recipients into opening an attached Word document that, when clicked, installs malicious software. As part of our process in response to phishing incidents, we confirmed that DocuSign’s core eSignature service, envelopes and customer documents remain secure.
 
 However, as part of our ongoing investigation, today we confirmed that a malicious third party had gained temporary access to a separate, non-core system that allows us to communicate service-related announcements to users via email. A complete forensic analysis has confirmed that only email addresses were accessed; no names, physical addresses, passwords, social security numbers, credit card data or other information was accessed. No content or any customer documents sent through DocuSign’s eSignature system was accessed; and DocuSign’s core eSignature service, envelopes and customer documents and data remain secure.

Profits From Store-Branded Credit Cards Hide Depth of Retailers’ Troubles

Michael Corkery & Jessica Silver-Greenberg:

Department stores and big name retailers are increasingly making the hard sell to sign up customers for credit cards at the register. The store cards promise deep discounts on clothing, furniture and electronics, and are tough for shoppers to resist.
 
 For some retailers, those credit cards are not just a sales tool, but also an essential way to bolster their struggling businesses — a trend that has worrisome implications for the industry and its customers.
 
 The store cards, with steep interest rates that are often twice that of the average credit card, generate a rich profit stream for retailers at a time when many of America’s traditional retailers are losing the battle for sales against Amazon and other e-commerce rivals. Those profits on plastic are helping obscure the true extent of the industry’s pain, a major pressure point for a piece of the economy that employs one in 10 Americans.

Rent seeking and digital monopolies

pro market:

“The deeper you delve into the reasons artists are struggling in the digital age, the more you see that internet monopolies are at the heart of the problem and that the problem is no longer just for artists,” he writes. “Monopoly control of our data and corporate lobbying are at the heart of this story.”
 
 In an interview with ProMarket,1) Taplin discussed the rise of monopoly platforms and the part that rent-seeking and regulatory capture play in the digital economy today.
 
 Q: How did you become interested in antimonopoly?
 
 It was a very personal story. Levon Helm, who was the drummer for The Band, got throat cancer in 2000. He’d been making a decent living off of royalties from past records that he had made 15 years before, then Napster happened and that just ended. It just so happened that he got throat cancer at that very point. He had to pay for medical bills and he couldn’t go on the road because he could hardly sing.
 
 Eventually he figured out how to do something by having shows at his house, getting a bunch of friends to come and play and calling it the Midnight Rambles. He made a little money, but not enough, just barely paid his bills. It just seemed incredibly unfair to me. That’s how it started.

Continued rise in use of mobile devices for news

Pew Internet:

Nearly half of U.S. adults (45%) often get news on a mobile device. That is 9 percentage points above just a year ago, when 36% often got news this way, with significant growth occurring among Democrats but not Republicans. What’s more, an increasing share of Americans also prefer getting news on mobile over a desktop computer. Among those who get news on both types of devices, nearly two-thirds (65%) say they prefer mobile

Zillow faces lawsuit over ‘Zestimate’ tool that calculates a house’s worth

Kenneth Harney.

In an interview, Andersen told me she is considering bringing the issue to the Illinois attorney general because it affects all property owners in the state. She has also been approached about turning the matter into a class action, which could touch millions of owners across the country.

In the suit, Andersen said that she has been trying to sell her townhouse, which overlooks a golf course and is in a prime location, for $626,000 — roughly what she paid for it in 2009. Houses directly across the street but with greater square footage sell for $100,000 more, according to her court filing. But Zillow’s automated valuation system has apparently used sales of newly constructed houses from a different and less costly part of town as comparables in valuing her townhouse, she says. The most recent Zestimate is for $562,000. Andersen is seeking an injunction against Zillow and wants the company to either remove her Zestimate or amend it. For the time being, she is not seeking monetary damages, she told me.

“Anticipating needs”

Said Business School:

Marketing Tech’s ‘Connected Consumer’ report suggests that by 2020 57% of business buyers will switch brands if a company doesn’t anticipate their needs.
 
 Personalisation means that advertising will have to change. The rise of adblockers, particularly among young people, is not because consumers do not want to see advertisements. It’s just that the industry has failed to keep up with the type of content that people want to see and share. Google’s move from a 30-second advertisement format to a 6-second format spells the end of teasers, conceptual, and clever advertisements. Digital advertising now needs to be big-picture and very visual.
 
 They trust influencers
 
 Vloggers and social media influencers are word-of-mouth recommendations for the digital age. Beauty and digital make a particularly good match because they are both very visual. There are over 45 billion videos and tutorials available on the internet, 95% of them done by people in their bedrooms. Their apparent authenticity allows them to connect with consumers in a way that traditional magazines and advertisers are now struggling to do.

“The put price quoted Sept. 26 means a vendor would be paying 35 percent of the value of shipped goods on an annualized basis merely for payment protection. “

Reuters

The put option has “sky-rocketed into the uneconomical range,” said Marc Wagman, managing director of Aequus Trade Credit, whose clients include Sears vendors. “Sears suppliers in this case have few options.”
 
 Wagman said some of his clients are reconsidering whether they can afford the risk of selling to Sears.
 
 Brathwaite, the Sears spokesman, said he believed put prices and other insurance reflect “perception rather than reality” and that providers of these financial products can use “false information to their advantage.”

Introducing the Citymapper Smartbus

citymapper:

We also feel buses haven’t evolved enough. They still roam around cities utilising old systems of operations and inefficient technology. If we’re going to solve urgent problems of congestion and infrastructure, we need buses to improve, to operate smarter. In the era of smartphones we can have responsive buses that react to realtime needs.
 
 Buses also get a bad rep, and are seen as a subpar experience. Even when they’re the best transport option, some people don’t take them. Perhaps we can help change that by improving the bus experience.

USA TODAY asks FBI to probe rise in fake Facebook followers

Elizabeth Weise and Brad Heath:

The April purge of fake accounts reduced USA TODAY’s Facebook likesby 6 million, from 15.2 million to 9.5 million as of Thursday night. Wadsworth said Facebook told Gannett it planned to purge another 3 million accounts soon, which could reduce overall followers to as low as 6.5 million.
 
 Merely creating accounts – even a lot of them – that violate Facebook’s terms probably wouldn’t be a crime, said Orin Kerr, a George Washington University law professor and director of the school’s Cybersecurity Law Initiative. “Beyond that, it would depend on what they did with the fake accounts.”
 
 Facebook said in mid-April it didn’t appear the spam operation had been activated yet. It didn’t involve any paid ads. Still, Gannett had halted marketing efforts meant to attract new readers until it gets the issue under control, Wadsworth said. She said an internal investigation had found no evidence that Gannett or its marketing campaigns had deliberately attracted fake accounts.

Why the Retail Crisis Could Be Coming to American Groceries

Craig Giammona:

These are tough times for the U.S. retail industry, with stores closing at a record pace so far in 2017. It’s no secret why: Amazon is gobbling up more and more sales of clothing, electronics, and other items that once drew shoppers to department stores and malls. The grocery business has been a safe haven in recent years. Only about 1 percent of the roughly $1.5 trillion industry has moved online. That’s made supermarkets an attractive real estate tenant in an era when other shopping has moved from the mall to the living room couch. The reliability of food sales has also drawn more and more stores into the market for prepared food, snacks, and other traditional grocery items as a reliable driver of store traffic. After all, we have to eat and get more garbage bags.

“It’s perceived as relatively impervious to the shift online,” James Cook, director of retail research at JLL, said of the grocery business. “For most of America, food is not purchased online.”

Regulating the internet giants: The world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data

The Economist

A NEW commodity spawns a lucrative, fast-growing industry, prompting antitrust regulators to step in to restrain those who control its flow. A century ago, the resource in question was oil. Now similar concerns are being raised by the giants that deal in data, the oil of the digital era. These titans—Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft—look unstoppable. They are the five most valuable listed firms in the world. Their profits are surging: they collectively racked up over $25bn in net profit in the first quarter of 2017. Amazon captures half of all dollars spent online in America. Google and Facebook accounted for almost all the revenue growth in digital advertising in America last year.

60 Years of Urban Change: Midwest

Shane Hampton:

60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed.
 
 We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century.

“The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he said. “That sucks.”

Ashlee Vance

In 2011 a young computer scientist named Jeff Hammerbacher said something profound while explaining why he’d decided to leave Facebook—and the promise of a small fortune—to start a company. “The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads,” he said. “That sucks.”
 
 Hammerbacher was getting at the idea that so many of the world’s best and brightest people flocking to Silicon Valley for jobs at companies such as Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. might be an unhealthy use of human capital. Sure, these companies offered plenty of interesting work, but much of it revolved around the core business of advertising. Very smart people were pouring their energy into an unromantic goal: keeping the rest of us on their websites so we might click on an ad for an irritable bowel syndrome cure.
 
 Hammerbacher’s flippant remark has lived on because it captures a crucial sentiment, one that’s even more important today than in 2011. Google and Facebook are unlike any other two companies in history. They’re technology-and-advertising hybrids—strange amalgams with incredible power. They’re building the tools we use to communicate, to do business, to form and maintain relationships, to learn, to travel to and fro, and to relax. And they’re doing all of this while being wholly dependent on ad dollars for their survival. Never have advertising companies had such an all-encompassing influence on our life. And next year it will be even greater.