New Findings Show Google Organic Clicks Shifting to Paid

Brian Wood:

O n the Wayfair SEO team, we keep track of our non-branded click curves: the average click-through rate (CTR) for each ranking position. This helps us accurately evaluate the potential opportunity of keyword clusters.
 
 Over the last two years, the total share of organic clicks on page one of our e-commerce SERPs has dropped 25% on desktop and 55% on mobile.
 
 For the ad-heavy non-local SERPs that we work in, paid ads are likely now earning nearly the same percentage of clicks as organic results — a staggering change from most of the history of Google.
 
 Organic CTR loses 25% of click share on desktop, 55% on mobile

Theme 1: The information environment will not improve. The problem is human nature

Janna Andersen and Lee Rainie:

Misinformation and “fake news” have been around for as long as people have communicated. But today’s instant, low-budget, far-reaching communications capabilities have the potential to make the problem orders of magnitude more dangerous than in the past.
 
 Mankind has always lied, and always will; which is why the winners of wars get to write the history their way and others have no say, but with the internet, the losers have a say!
 William L. Schrader

It Takes Just $1000 to Track Someone’s Location With Mobile Ads

Andy Greenberg:

When you consider the nagging privacy risks of online advertising, you may find comfort in the thought of a vast, abstract company like Pepsi or Nike viewing you as just one data point among millions. What, after all, do you have to hide from Pepsi? And why should that corporate megalith care about your secrets out of countless potential Pepsi-drinkers? But an upcoming study has dissipated that delusion. It shows that ad-targeting can not only track you at the personal, individual level, but that it doesn’t take a corporation’s resources to seize upon that surveillance tool—just time, determination, and about a thousand dollars.
 
 A team of security-focused researchers from the University of Washington has demonstrated just how deeply even someone with modest resources can exploit mobile advertising networks. An advertising-savvy spy, they’ve shown, can spend just a grand to track a target’s location with disturbing precision, learn details about them like their demographics and what apps they have installed on their phone, or correlate that information to make even more sensitive discoveries—say, that a certain 20-something man has a gay dating app installed on his phone and lives at a certain address, that someone sitting next to the spy at a Starbucks took a certain route after leaving the coffeeshop, or that a spy’s spouse has visited a particular friend’s home or business.

Attack of the Zombie Websites

Craig Silverman:

Some of the world’s biggest brands were ripped off by a digital fraud scheme that used a network of websites connected to US advertising industry insiders to steal what experts say could be millions of dollars, a BuzzFeed News investigation has found.
 
 Approximately 40 websites used special code that triggered an avalanche of fraudulent views of video ads from companies such as P&G, Unilever, Hershey’s, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, and MGM, according to data gathered by ad fraud investigation firm Social Puncher in collaboration with BuzzFeed News. Over 100 brands saw their ads fraudulently displayed on the sites, and roughly 50 brands appeared multiple times.

Publishers are already feeling pain from Apple’s move against ad tracking

Ross Benes:

Apple is cracking down on ad tracking through Safari, and the first publishers to feel the pain are those who rely heavily on programmatic advertising.
 
 Programmatic publishers’ ad rates have taken a hit since Apple updated its Safari browser last month to prevent third parties from tracking users for more than 24 hours after a user visited a website. Although Apple’s move hurts publishers reliant on third-party data that advertisers depend on to target niche audiences at scale, publishers that sell their inventory directly say they aren’t affected by the Safari update.

Technology companies may have to say whether they are data peddlers or data stewards

Rana Foroohar:

“We’re entering an era in which data can be used to solve all sorts of the most pressing problems, but only if there’s trust in how that data has been handled,” Ms Rometty told me in a phone interview last week. “We see ourselves as stewards of clients’ data. And we don’t need to be regulated to do the right thing. We’ve been doing the right thing for a hundred years.”
 
 The comment was a clear swipe at Google and Facebook, both of which have been fined by national privacy watchdogs for their data collection methods, as well as a reference to new UK and EU regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation, that will make it tougher for companies to process, sell, or allow third-party access to personal data without consumers’ explicit consent. But it was also a new kind of marketing pitch: in a world in which most economic value is going to intellectual property, we are not only going to protect that value, we are going to offer a greater share of profits from it to clients.
 
 How would this work in practice? IBM, which serves mainly other businesses and governments, is now pitching the fact that they won’t keep any proprietary data in their servers for more than a specified contract period, and that the informational wealth garnered from using artificial intelligence to analyse that data would be owned by the clients themselves. For example, if a national health service gave IBM health records, the company could not then monetise information about the fact that certain populations in certain parts of the country have higher than average cancer rates.

Facebook’s Eroding Privacy Policy: A Timeline

Electronic frontier foundation:

Since its incorporation just over five years ago, Facebook has undergone a remarkable transformation. When it started, it was a private space for communication with a group of your choice. Soon, it transformed into a platform where much of your information is public by default. Today, it has become a platform where you have no choice but to make certain information public, and this public information may be shared by Facebook with its partner websites and used to target ads.
 
 To help illustrate Facebook’s shift away from privacy, we have highlighted some excerpts from Facebook’s privacy policies over the years. Watch closely as your privacy disappears, one small change at a time!

Who do you trust? How data is helping us decide

Rachel Botsman:

My first lesson in the dangers of trusting strangers came in 1983, not long after I turned five, when an unfamiliar woman entered our house. Doris, from Glasgow, was in her late 20s and starting as our nanny. My mum had found her through a posh magazine called The Lady.

Doris arrived wearing a Salvation Army uniform, complete with bonnet. “I remember her thick Scottish accent,” Mum recalls. “She told me she’d worked with kids of a similar age and was a member of the Salvation Army because she enjoyed helping people. But, honestly, she had me at hello.”

Doris lived with us for 10 months. For the most part she was a good nanny – cheerful, reliable and helpful. There was nothing unusual about her, aside from a few unexplained absences at weekends.

Back then, our neighbours, the Luxemburgs, had an au pair Doris spent a lot of time with. Late one evening, Mr Luxemburg knocked on our door after discovering the pair had been involved in running a drugs ring. “They had even been in an armed robbery,” my father later related, “and Doris was the getaway driver.” The getaway car, it transpired, was our family’s Volvo estate.

My parents decided to search Doris’s room. In a shoebox under her bed, she had stuffed piles of foreign currency, stolen from my parents’ home office. My dad stood on guard by our front door all night with a baseball bat, scared Doris would come home. Thankfully, she didn’t.

“Every quarter Google makes less revenue per ad but finds ways to show more ads”

Tom Foremski::

However, few reporters understand how Google makes money — ask them something basic such as to name Google’s two largest business groups and they cannot. It means they cannot even start to understand the deeper complexities of how money is made on the Internet.
 
 Google’s X is not about the science of creativity — it’s about the use of science as a distraction of public attention — by a secretive business organization controlled by insiders that influences entire industries and the economies of nations.
 
 IMHO, It’s a better, bigger story. I’d rather be working on the biggest stories I can find.

An easy fix for a broken advertising system

Doc Searls:

In fact the system probably worked in exactly the way it was designed to.
 
 In other words, the ANA’s programmatic buy wanted to place ads in front of readers who fit a certain multi-factor profile, and at least one of those readers showed up at Breitbart, where the ad was placed there specifically for them.
 
 See, if the ANA wants to hit, say, a typical Wall Street Journal reader with an ad, and the programmatic system finds that kind of reader on Breitbart, the system shoots an ad at that reader in Breitbart.

Opinion: Europe’s Strict New Privacy Rules Are Scary but Right

Jason King:

Apple defies industry logic.
 
 Apple is the only major tech company with a default assumption that consumers don’t want to be tracked or targeted across the web. Its leaders convey a belief that your data is your data until you say otherwise. In a world where data has been called the “new oil,” how does Apple side with privacy and stay so rich?
 
 Cynics argue that it’s because Apple depends less on advertising and commerce. I say it’s a benefit of Apple’s strategic decision to build trust with its customers.
 
 If you work in digital media, you need to know that the industry is one year from taking a big step toward Apple’s view. No, this isn’t a case of digital disruption coming (once again) from Silicon Valley. In this case, the seismic shift originates in the European Union. Much of the digital media industry is likely to panic over the coming months. But mark my words: The EU will ultimately lead publishers and advertisers to a better place.

A record 78% of U.S. teens own iPhones

Michael Olson:

Apple’s share of smartphone ownership increased for the fifth consecutive Piper Jaffray Taking Stock With Teens survey. Of >6,000 respondents, 78% have an iPhone, the highest percentage we have seen in our survey (up from 76% in Spring-17). The iPhone may have room to move higher with 82% of teens anticipating their next phone to be an iPhone, also the highest ever recorded in our survey (up from 81% in Spring-17). Android was the runner up with 13%, flat from the spring.

The Rise of the Rich Renter

Tank Misra:

The Great Recession has been reshaping America into a renter nation. And increasingly, highly paid, highly educated households are making room for themselves in it.

That’s according to a new report by the NYU Furman Center, which examines rental housing trends between 2006 and 2015 in metros with more than a million residents. Here’s the upshot: rich households—those earning more than 120 percent of the metro median income—saw their renter share rise by 1.2 percent between 2012 and 2015. Since 2006, that growth was a striking 6.2 percent. The renter share among households making less than 50 percent of the median income, on the other hand, remained roughly the same since 2012. Since 2006, it grew by a modest 2.9 percent. More educated subsets of metro residents also gained renters in this period.

What these numbers ultimately show is that contrary to convention, renting is gaining popularity among people who are seemingly well-positioned to buy a home. “We’re seeing a shift in the composition of renter households in the nation’s large metro areas,” Sewin Chan, an associate professor of public policy at NYU Wagner and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

This pivot away from homeownership, especially among educated, high-earning millennial households, has a number of explanations. Younger folks may value the flexibility renting offers; they can easily move cities, add or subtract roommates (or partners), and save on maintenance. Some households may also be wary of the risks of homeownership—especially if they came of age during the housing crisis. Plus, even if they’re getting hefty paychecks, paying off student debt may be a higher priority for some young people than scraping together enough for a mammoth down payment. As a result, the share of homeowners had declined, while the share of renters has risen across the U.S. in the last decade. In the 53 metros analyzed, renters made up 40 percent of the residents in 2015, but that share varies considerably by metro. In L.A., they made up more than half; in Salt Lake City, they only made up a third.

Peering Inside Google’s $19 Billion Black Box

Shira Ovide:

These Google traffic fees are the result of contractual arrangements parent company Alphabet Inc. makes to ensure its dominance. The company pays Apple to make Google the built-in option for web searches on Apple’s Safari browsers for Mac computers, iPhones and other places. Google also pays companies that make Android smartphones and the phone companies that sell those phones to make sure its search box is front and center and to ensure its apps such as YouTube and Chrome are included in smartphones.
 
 In the last year, Google has paid these partners $7.2 billion, more than three times the comparable cost in 2012. Details of these financial arrangements are secret, but analysts think that the biggest culprit in the recent cost uptick is a revised agreement Google struck with Apple a couple of years ago. Analysts think this contract costs Google $3 billion to $4 billion a year, or perhaps much more.
 Lately some Google watchers have said investors shouldn’t panic about the traffic fees. Baird recently estimated the growth rate of traffic acquisition costs is likely to ease off this year or in early 2018, in part because Google is past the worst of the cost increases from its revised Apple contract.

Snap to add context to content to open up new revenue streams

Tim Bradshaw:

“It’s a way to learn more about snaps that you’re viewing,” said Evan Spiegel, Snap’s chief executive, in an interview at its headquarters in Venice, Los Angeles. “We showed how communication can be made so much more engaging and fun if it’s visual. Now we believe that people want to explore the world and learn about things in a way that’s visual-first.”
 
 To begin with, Snap is providing context cards about a post’s location — for instance, if a friend has tagged a restaurant or store with a filter, or through users browsing posts by strangers on its recently launched Map feature. Partners include ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, restaurant booking apps OpenTable, Resy and Bookatable, and travel tipsters Foursquare, Michelin guides and TripAdvisor.

How to use App Pairing on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Edgar Cervantes:

Split Screen View is one of the most helpful features found on the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, but we are not here to talk about this specific function. At least not directly. Instead we will show you a good way to take advantage of Split Screen View.
 
 Don’t want to fumble around apps every time you need to multi-task? It can be a hassle having to manually select which applications to use… every single time. You likely have favorite app combinations anyways, so Samsung has come up with App Pairing.

Amazon has a luxury problem

Dow Jones:

Swatch Group executives earlier this year were planning to sell some of the Swiss conglomerate’s higher-end watches through Amazon.com Inc.
 
 Continue Reading Below
 
 But after months of talks, the two companies hit a wall. Swatch, whose brands include Longines, Omega and Blancpain, demanded a commitment that Amazon proactively police its site for counterfeits and unauthorized retailers. Amazon refused, according to Swatch Chief Executive Nick Hayek, putting a deal between the two on ice.
 
 “We add value to them,” Mr. Hayek said. “But they should also add value to the brand.”
 
 Amazon declined to comment on Swatch.
 
 Amazon is courting companies across the retail spectrum, but one sector is still mostly holding out: the world’s club of luxury brands. Swatch and other high-end retailers say Amazon’s online marketplace undermines the strict control they say is key to maintaining a sense of exclusivity — and keeping prices high. While some makers of luxury products have decided to join Amazon, many of the industry’s biggest players — including Swatch, Gucci owner Kering, luxury-watch maker Cie. Financière Richemont SA and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE — are staying away for now.
 
 The absence of high-end products has hampered Amazon’s push to be a force in the fashion industry, despite years of working to expand the merchandise it sells officially though its website. Adding luxury goods would help Amazon boost margins and build loyalty among customers of Amazon Prime, its premium service favored by higher-income shoppers that offers faster delivery and other perks, according to former executives familiar with the company’s shopper base.

Unless You Are Spock, Irrelevant Things Matter in Economic Behavior

Richard Thaler:

I wanted the exam to sort out the stars, the average Joes and the duds, so it had to be hard and have a wide dispersion of scores. I succeeded in writing such an exam, but when the students got their results they were in an uproar. Their principal complaint was that the average score was only 72 points out of 100.
 
 What was odd about this reaction was that I had already explained that the average numerical score on the exam had absolutely no effect on the distribution of letter grades. We employed a curve in which the average grade was a B+, and only a tiny number of students received grades below a C. I told the class this, but it had no effect on the students’ mood. They still hated my exam, and they were none too happy with me either. As a young professor worried about keeping my job, I wasn’t sure what to do.
 
 Finally, an idea occurred to me. On the next exam, I raised the points available for a perfect score to 137. This exam turned out to be harder than the first. Students got only 70 percent of the answers right but the average numerical score was 96 points. The students were delighted!
 
 I chose 137 as a maximum score for two reasons. First, it produced an average well into the 90s, and some students scored above 100, generating a reaction approaching ecstasy. Second, because dividing by 137 is not easy to do in your head, I figured that most students wouldn’t convert their scores into percentages.

The End Of E-Commerce? These Days, It’s All Just Commerce

Steve Dennis:

I recently attended shop.org, the annual conference historically focused on digital commerce. What struck me most (beyond the dwindling attendance) was that speakers mostly ignored online shopping as a stand-alone concept. Instead, many emphasized the importance of brick-and-mortar stores in delivering a remarkable customer experience. Moreover, the majority of technology providers in the expo offered solutions that were very much anchored in online/offline integration or leverage, not e-commerce optimization, as was true in the past. Rather than buying into the retail apocalypse narrative and seeing brick-and-mortar stores as liabilities, most were clearly in the camp of believing that stores were (wait for it) assets. Physical retail might be different, but it clearly is not dead.
 Notably, Mark Lore from Walmart/Jet spoke of the need for retailers to be channel agnostic and highlighted how Walmart’s stores give the brand a distinct advantage. TechStyle CEO Adam Goldenberg showcased statistics on how Fabletic’s overall brand performance has been enhanced through the opening of stores and on how the merging of cross-channel data gives them an edge. Kohl’s spoke of the role of mobile as a constant companion in the shopper’s journey from online to offline (and vice versa). While using somewhat different language, numerous other speakers acknowledged that customers shop everywhere and the best retailers need to meet th

When Data is Dangerous

Bob Hoffman:

It has become an article of faith in the marketing business that the future of marketing is about data.
  “Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change,” says The Economist.
 Scientific American says, “The digital revolution is in full swing…in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind…”
 The primacy of data in marketing has been beaten into us for the past 10 years. In fact, it has become such a platitude that we no longer even stop to think about what it means.
 
 Data sounds very scientific, impersonal and hygienic. But it is not.
 
 When marketers talk about data what they usually mean is personal private information about us that is collected, traded, sold and exploited without our knowledge or consent.
 
 To marketers, data is not all numbers and algorithms. It is your sexual preferences, your religious beliefs or lack thereof, your banking details, your medical and psychological diagnoses, your work history and political preferences. It is thousands of facts about you that you never suspected anyone knew or collected.
 
 It has the potential to be used in a myriad of dangerous ways by any incompetent, irresponsible organization that has the wherewithal to collect it or buy it.
 

The Rise of the Rich Renter

Tanvi Misra::

“The rise in higher-income renter households may mask the significant housing affordability challenges faced by lower-income renter households.”
 
 The Great Recession has been reshaping America into a renter nation. And increasingly, highly paid, highly educated households are making room for themselves in it.
 
 That’s according to a new report by the NYU Furman Center, which examines rental housing trends between 2006 and 2015 in metros with more than a million residents. Here’s the upshot: rich households—those earning more than 120 percent of the metro median income—saw their renter share rise by 1.2 percent between 2012 and 2015. Since 2006, that growth was a striking 6.2 percent. The renter share among households making less than 50 percent of the median income, on the other hand, remained roughly the same since 2012. Since 2006, it grew by a modest 2.9 percent. More educated subsets of metro residents also gained renters in this period.
 
 What these numbers ultimately show is that contrary to convention, renting is gaining popularity among people who are seemingly well-positioned to buy a home. “We’re seeing a shift in the composition of renter households in the nation’s large metro areas,” Sewin Chan, an associate professor of public policy at NYU Wagner and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

Search Analyst joins Google…

Danny Sullivan:

When I retired from search journalism in June, I had no idea what I would be doing next. I just knew I was ready for a break and something different from what I had been doing for so long. That something different has arrived: I’m joining Google as of Monday.
 
 My title is still being determined, but the position will be to serve as a sort of public liaison for search. The goal is to increase the connection between those at Google who work hard on search each day and the public that depends on Google for answers. I’ll be educating the public about how search works. I’ll be exploring and explaining issues that may arise. I’ll be looking at ways to take in feedback and work for solutions to improve search going forward.
 
 I’ll share more about my new role with the search team in the coming weeks. It’s going to take time for me to come up-to-speed on the many ways Google already communicates with the public, deals with issues, and for me to learn more about how search works from a behind-the-scenes perspective. After that, there will be a better sense of how the new position will help contribute.

Sears Was the Amazon of Its Time—Until It Made Preventable Mistakes

Derek Thompson:

But Sears faced another existential crisis in the 1970s and 1980s, and that time, it failed to adjust. The decline of manufacturing (and manufacturing jobs) hit both its most devoted consumers and the value of its real estate near steel towns. The blue-collar families Sears counted on to buy “utilitarian Sears pants and dresses … were a fading force in the marketplace,” Raff and Temin write. What’s more, other stores had chased Sears into America’s middle-class suburbs—sometimes, they even snuggled up to Sears locations in the same strip malls—erasing the company’s geographical edge.
 
 This second existential crisis called for a second strategy shift. But, lacking the vision of General Wood, Sears’s leadership made several grave errors that doomed the company.
 
 First, Sears determined that it didn’t need to do anything to change its business. It simply needed more businesses. After all, its leaders must have thought, if a company that started selling only watches could get into car parts, and a hardware company could get into insurance, why couldn’t a watch-and-cars-and-hardware-and-insurance company get into, well, anything? Since it was the 1980s, anything, in this calculation, meant “financial services.” As the company’s head of strategy said in 1980, “There is no reason why someone shouldn’t go into a Sears store and buy a shirt and coat, and then maybe some stock.”
 
 Eager to become America’s largest brokerage, and perhaps even America’s largest community bank, Sears bought the real-estate company Coldwell Banker and the brokerage firm Dean Witter. It was a weird marriage. As the financial companies thrived nationally, their Sears locations suffered from the start. Buying car parts and then insuring them against future damage makes sense. But buying a four-speed washer-dryer and then celebrating with an in-store purchase of some junk bonds? No, that did not make sense.
 
 But the problem with the Coldwell Banker and Dean Winter acquisitions wasn’t that they flopped. It was that their off-site locations didn’t flop—instead, their moderate success disguised the deterioration of Sears’s core business at a time when several competitors were starting to gain footholds in the market.
 
 Many decades after Sears had left Montgomery Ward, its old competitor, in the rural dust, another retailer was budding in small-town America. Its name was Walmart. Located on cheaper rural land than Sears, often paying cheap wages, and selling cheaper goods for cheaper prices, Walmart’s innovation seemed to be, well, a talent for cheapness. But its secret weapon was information technology. Walmart managed its supply chain with extraordinary precision. Its distribution centers were ingeniously located in central locations to optimize for efficient delivery to its stores.

What is Google Stamp and what will it mean for marketers?

Clark Boyd:

Early in August, news leaked via the Wall Street Journal that Google has been preparing a direct rival to one of Snapchat’s most popular and profitable features, Discover. This new product will be integrated with Google’s core services, and will be known as Google Stamp.
 
 The name Stamp is a portmanteau created by uniting the abbreviation ‘St’ from the word ‘stories’ and the acronym AMP, from the Google-led Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative. That quite succinctly sums up the purpose of Stamp: it will be a publishing platform that allow brands to tell stories in a new fashion, optimized for mobile.
 
 It seems that after a reported bid of $30 billion dollars to buy Snapchat was rejected in 2016, Google has decided instead to mimic some of the functionality that has made Snapchat such a hit with younger audiences. This will be a further blow to Snap, after Facebook copied so many of their features to launch Instagram Stories last year – followed by additional imitators in Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

“while Google faces the problem of the web itself degrading, which makes search less useful”

John Gapper:

The first question concerns barriers to entry. Small publishers, lacking the marketing and data analytics resources of bigger ones, have been at a disadvantage in building paid businesses. That is one reason why so many have instead stuck with ad-funded news.
 
 If Google or others provide technology and data analysis fairly cheaply, they will level the playing field. It will become easier for an array of niche publishers to find their markets amid the clutter. So far, there have been few subscription entrants similar to The Information, a technology news publisher founded by a former Wall Street Journal reporter. This may change.

Facebook, Amazon, and Google are reviving the ill-fated “company towns” of the Gilded Age

Julianne Tveten

Still, Pullman’s fiasco didn’t discourage other magnates. In 1900, chocolatier Milton Hershey began construction on a factory complex near a collection of dairy farms in rural Pennsylvania, where he declared there’d be “no poverty, no nuisances, no evil”—a Delphic precursor to Google’s now infamous and defunct slogan, “Don’t be evil.” To attract workers, Hershey reclaimed many of Pullman’s gilded comforts: indoor plumbing, pristine lawns, central heating, garbage pickup, and eventually, the theaters and sports venues any company town worth its salt would host.
 
 What was designed as a wholesome advertisement for the company quickly morphed into a miserly surveillance state. Hershey, who served as the town’s mayor, constable, and fire chief, patrolled neighborhoods to survey the maintenance of houses and hired private detectives to monitor employees’ after-hours alcohol consumption. While the town managed to stage a sort of idyllic capitalist performance for onlookers, by the 1930s its employees resented their binding environs and the Depression-era layoffs they endured from a company earning ten times its annual payroll in after-tax profits. A crippled attempt to unionize with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) bred a 1937 sit-down strike; days later, farmers and company cheerleaders armed with rocks and pitchforks bloodied and ejected the dissidents, destabilizing for good another corporate-civic lark. Hershey’s vast estate, however, remains unscathed to this day.

Stop Expecting Facebook and Google to Curb Misinformation — It’s Great for Business

Sam Biddle:

We’ve arrived at the sad, dumb point in history at which the only thing less surprising than acts of mass violence are the ways in which our planet’s mega information distributors muck everything up with ensuing frauds, hoaxes, and confusion. The problem is thoroughly identified: Facebook, Google, and, to a lesser extent, Twitter have the quality control of a yard sale and the scale of a 100,000 Walmarts. But despite all our railing and shaming, these companies have a major disincentive to reform: money.
 
 In the wake of yet another American massacre, this time in Las Vegas, media scrutiny is aimed once more at Facebook, Google, and Twitter, for the same old reasons. The sites, time after time, and this time once more, served up algorithmic links to websites peddling deliberate lies and bottom-feeder misinformation. These companies provided an untold mass of online users with falsehoods posing as news resources, as is completely normal now and only noteworthy because it was pegged to a heinous national tragedy. The discussion will now swing from “This is bad” to “What can be done?”, and we can expect all the typically empty pro forma reassurance from Silicon Valley public relations offices. Don’t expect much more.

Bitcoin is fiat money, too What Charles Kindleberger has to say about cryptocurrencies

The Economist:

FINANCIERS with PhDs like to remind each other to “read your Kindleberger”. The rare academic who could speak fluently to bureaucrats and normal people, Charles Kindleberger designed the Marshall Plan and wrote vast economic histories worthy of Tolstoy. “Read your Kindleberger” is just a coded way of saying “don’t forget this has all happened before”. So to anyone invested in, mining or building applications for distributed ledger money such as bitcoin or ethereum: read your Kindleberger.
 
 Start with A Financial History of Western Europe, in which Kindleberger documents how many times merchants in different centuries figured out clever ways of doing the exact same thing. They made transactions easier, and in the process created new deposits and bills that increased the supply of money. In most cases, the Bürgermeister or the king left these innovations in place, but decided to control the supply of money and credit themselves. It is good for the king to be in charge of his own creditors. But also, it has always been tempting for private finance to create too much money. There is no evidence that money born on a distributed ledger will be clean of this sin.

 

‘Instagirls don’t change customer behavior’: The limits of influencers

 Jill Manoff:

Many brands are still spending big bucks on influencers with upward of a million followers, despite multiple reports that micro-influencers, which demand much lower rates, are more effective at driving ROI.
 
 Rhiyen Sharp, whose resume includes years at IMG and New York Models, has represented a wide range of influencers, from models and musicians to Instagram “it” girls. He is now director of digital strategy and creators at The Industry Model Mgmt, where he spends time consulting brands and retailers on partnerships, and designing and producing campaigns. Among his latest projects to launch is a campaign for Switzerland-based fashion brand Tally Weijl, featuring influencer Ava Sambora.

The FT warns advertisers after discovering high levels of domain spoofing

Jessica Davies:

The Financial Times has investigated the scale of domain spoofing occurring against its site, and has been shocked by the results.
 
 The publisher has found display ads against inventory masquerading as FT.com on 10 separate ad exchanges and video ads on 15 exchanges, even though the FT doesn’t even sell video ads programmatically, with 300 accounts selling inventory purporting to be the FT’s. The scale of the fraud uncovered is vast — the equivalent of one month’s supply of bona fide FT.com video inventory was fraudulently appearing in a single day. The FT has estimated the value of the fraudulent inventory to be £1 million ($1.3 million) a month.
 
 “The scale of the fraud we found is jaw-dropping,” said Anthony Hitchings, the FT’s digital advertising operations director. “The industry continues to waste marketing budgets on what is essentially organized crime.”

Commercial Surveillance State

Matthew Crain and Anthony Nadler:

Once momentum and capital accrued, it became increasingly difficult to alter course. Historians of technology call this “path dependence,” and it highlights that the evolution of technology is always about more than technology per se. With an accommodating policy framework, surveillance was cemented as the net’s primary business model. A supporting infrastructure advanced rapidly. When Google and Facebook went on to build advertising empires in the intervening years, they relied on more than just moxie and heaps of venture capital. They also banked on the political premise that data collection would be pervasive by default, that they would be free to build the tools of mass surveillance and targeted persuasion without being held to public account. While privacy dust-ups have been perennial, a digital marketing lobby has ballooned to mitigate threats. Google is now among the nation’s biggest lobbyists and Facebook is on track to join the ranks.
 
 The internet’s apparent tendency to promote winner-take-all markets, combined with neoliberalism’s high tolerance for market concentration, has enabled Facebook and Google to achieve extraordinary control over the digital marketing sector. These two behemoths, increasingly recognized as an online advertising duopoly, are among the world’s leading purveyors of marketing surveillance and key platforms for political persuasion. At Facebook in particular, this incredible bottlenecking of surveillance capacity has drawn a surge of criticism regarding the company’s role in enabling political manipulation and what, if any, civic responsibilities are borne by private enterprise of such magnitude.

Social media terms ‘jargon-busted’ for teens: “found that most children do not understand the agreements they sign when they create social media accounts”

Alli Shultes::

A set of jargon-busting guides that teach children about their rights on social media sites has been published.
 
 Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield said Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and YouTube had “not done enough” to clarify their policies.
 
 She simplified the websites’ terms and conditions with privacy law firm Schillings.
 
 But Instagram said the simplified version of its terms contained “a number of inaccuracies”.
 
 The slimmed-down guides are a response to the Commissioner’s Growing Up Digital report, which found that most children do not understand the agreements they sign when they create social media accounts.
 
 All the sites require children to be over 13 to create an account.

Nordstrom micro concept

Steve Dennis:

This week Nordstrom announced it will open its first “Nordstrom Local” in West Hollywood, California. The new venture is noteworthy on several dimensions. First, at 3,000 square feet, the pilot concept is dramatically smaller than a typical Nordstrom full-line department store. Second, it won’t stock any of the items that Nordy’s is best known for, such as shoes, clothing, cosmetics and accessories. Third, the focus will be on services: tailoring, manicures, style advice and cocktails.
 
 Nordstrom joins a growing number of brands shrinking their footprints and once online only brands delving into the physical realm with small box stores. Of course, the reasons for the big guys going small and the little online brands getting into brick and mortar vary. The downsizing of traditional formats is often driven by a typically vain attempt to optimize productivity. With more business being done online the thought is that less square footage is needed to take care of the customer. The problem is that shrinking to prosperity rarely works.

Privacy implications of email tracking

Steven Englehardt, Jeffrey Han and Arvind Narayanan:

We show that the simple act of viewing emails contains privacy pitfalls for the unwary. We assembled a corpus of commercial mailing-list emails, and find a network of hundreds of third parties that track email recipients via methods such as embedded pixels. About 30% of emails leak the recipient’s email address to one or more of these third parties when they are viewed. In the majority of cases, these leaks are intentional on the part of email senders, and further leaks occur if the recipi- ent clicks links in emails. Mail servers and clients may employ a variety of defenses, but we analyze 16 servers and clients and find that they are far from comprehen- sive. We propose, prototype, and evaluate a new defense, namely stripping tracking tags from emails based on en- hanced versions of existing web tracking protection lists.
 

The price of incivility

Christine Porath and Christine Pearson :

We studied this phenomenon with the USC marketing professors Debbie MacInnis and Valerie Folkes. In one experiment, half the participants witnessed a supposed bank representative publicly reprimanding another for incorrectly presenting credit card information. Only 20% of those who’d seen the encounter said that they would use the bank’s services in the future, compared with 80% of those who hadn’t. And nearly two-thirds of those who’d seen the exchange said that they would feel anxious dealing with any employee of the bank.
 
 What’s more, when we tested various scenarios, we found that it didn’t matter whether the targeted employee was incompetent, whether the reprimand had been delivered behind closed doors (but overheard), or whether the employee had done something questionable or illegal, such as park in a handicapped spot. Regardless of the circumstances, people don’t like to see others treated badly.

Hiding in Plain Sight? The “Right to Be Forgotten” and Search Engines in the Context of International Data Protection Frameworks

Krzysztof Kornel Garstka and David Erdos:

In the wake of the Google Spain (2014) and debate on the “right to be forgotten”, now included in the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it has become widely recognised that data protection law within the EU/EEA grants individuals a qualified right to have personal data relating to them deindexed from search engines. At the same time, however, this outcome has at times been conceptualised as a uniquely EU/EEA phenomena, perhaps even resulting from one idiosyncratic CJEU judgment. This paper questions such a conceptualisation. Through an analysis of five major extra-EU/EEA international data protection instruments, it argues that most of these could on a reasonable interpretation be read as supporting a Google Spain-like result. Further, and in light of the serious threats faced by individuals as a result of the public processing of data relating to them, it argues that the time is ripe for a broader process of international discussion and consensus-building on the “right to be forgotten”. Such an exercise should not be limited to generalised search engines (which undoubtedly raise some uniquely challenging interpretative conundrums within data protection), but should also encompass other actors including social networking sites, video-sharing platforms and rating websites.

How does Ethereum work, anyway?

Preethi Kasireddy:

Odds are you’ve heard about the Ethereum blockchain, whether or not you know what it is. It’s been in the news a lot lately, including the cover of some major magazines, but reading those articles can be like gibberish if you don’t have a foundation for what exactly Ethereum is. So what is it? In essence, a public database that keeps a permanent record of digital transactions. Importantly, this database doesn’t require any central authority to maintain and secure it. Instead it operates as a “trustless” transactional system — a framework in which individuals can make peer-to-peer transactions without needing to trust a third party OR one another.
 
 Still confused? That’s where this post comes in. My aim is to explain how Ethereum functions at a technical level, without complex math or scary-looking formulas. Even if you’re not a programmer, I hope you’ll walk away with at least better grasp of the tech. If some parts are too technical and difficult to grok, that’s totally fine! There’s really no need to understand every little detail. I recommend just focusing on understanding things at a broad level.
 
 Many of the topics covered in this post are a breakdown of the concepts discussed in the yellow paper. I’ve added my own explanations and diagrams to make understanding Ethereum easier. Those brave enough to take on the technical challenge can also read the Ethereum yellow paper.

Do Tech Companies Really Need All That User Data?

Walter Frick:

The online economy — from search to email to social media — is built in large part on the fact that consumers are willing to give away their data in exchange for products that are free and easy to use. The assumption behind this trade-off is that without giving up all that data, those products either couldn’t be so good or would have to come at a cost.
 
 But a new working paper, released this week by Lesley Chiou of Occidental College and Catherine Tucker of MIT, suggests that the trade-off may not always be necessary. By studying the effects of privacy regulations in the EU, they attempted to measure whether the anonymization and de-identification of search data hurts the quality of search results.
 
 Most search engines capture user data, including IP addresses and other data that can identify a user across multiple visits. This data then allows search companies to improve their algorithms and to personalize results for the user. At least, that’s the idea. To determine whether storage of users’ personal data improves search results, Chiou and Tucker looked at how search results from Bing and Yahoo differed before and after changes in the European Commission’s rules on data retention. In 2008 the Commission recommended that search engines reduce the period over which search engines kept user records. In response, Yahoo decided to strengthen its privacy policy by anonymizing user data after 90 days. In 2010 Microsoft changed its policy, and began deleting IP addresses associated with searches on Bing after six months and all data points intended to identify a user across visits after 18 months. In 2011 Yahoo changed its policy again, this time deciding to store personal data longer — for 18 months rather than 90 days — allowing the researchers yet another chance to measure how changes in data storage affected search results. (Google did not change its policies during this period, and so is not included in the study. Some of Tucker’s past research has been funded by Google.)

App Annie: App usage doubles in 2 years as mobile web fades

Robert Williams:

Mobile app usage has doubled in the past two years to an average of two hours per day, boosting it to 7x the amount of time users spend on mobile web browsers, according to a study by App Annie made available to Mobile Marketer. The top 20% of people who use apps for the longest periods spend more than four hours a day with mobile apps.
 
 Native mobile apps accounted for 88% of the time and 93% of sessions on Android phones worldwide, with the remainder being spent in mobile browsers, the study found. The preference for apps was seen among all age groups, not just millennials and teens, in every country surveyed during the first half of 2017.
 
 Marketers are accordingly boosting their investment in apps, with 63% of respondents saying they expect their app marketing budgets to increase. Retail apps are growing sales through mobile channels, with mobile app users converting to paying customers at 3x the rate of other mobile users, according to a Criteo study cited by App Annie.

The Not-So-Glossy Future of Magazines

Sydney Ember and Michael Grynbaum::

At a time of belt-tightening, celebrity editors, with their big salaries and expensive tastes, are increasingly passé. Budget-minded executives at publishers like Hearst and Condé Nast are looking more critically at requests for six-figure photo shoots and $5-a-word writers.
 
 “The timing doesn’t really surprise me,” said Tom Harty, president and chief operating officer at Meredith, which publishes Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle. Magazines, Mr. Harty said, often circulate upcoming budget numbers in September.
 
 “When you start thinking about the revenue stream for the following year,” he said in an interview, “it must lead to some cost discussion.”
 
 In some ways, the spate of departures was a coincidence. Mr. Carter, 68, said he would have left earlier this year if not for the election of President Trump, whom he enjoys covering. Mr. Wenner, 71, has been deferring to his son, Gus, 27, who this year was named president of Wenner Media. Nancy Gibbs of Time had worked at the company for 32 years. And Cindi Leive of Glamour and Robbie Myers of Elle both served for nearly two decades.

How the GDPR will disrupt Google and Facebook

Johnny Ryan:

When one uses Google or Facebook.com one willingly discloses personal data. These businesses have the right to process these data to provide their services when one asks them to. However, the application of the GDPR will prevent them from using these personal data for any further purpose unless the user permits. The GDPR applies the principle of “purpose limitation”, under which personal data must only be “collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes”.[2]

Google and Facebook cannot confront their users with broad, non-specific, consent requests that cover the entire breadth of their activities. Data protection regulators across the EU have made clear what they expect:

Uber Goes on Rare Legal Offensive, Suing Ad Agency for Fraud

Eric Newcomber:

Uber Technologies Inc. is accustomed to getting sued. Now it’s doing the suing. And it’s partly thanks to Breitbart News.
 
 The global ride-hailing company is taking advertising agency Fetch Media Ltd. to court for click fraud, alleging that the firm improperly billed Uber for “fake” online ads and took credit for app downloads it had nothing to do with. Fetch is owned by the world’s fourth-largest advertising company, Japan’s Dentsu Inc.
 
 Uber filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The company said it discovered something was amiss when it canceled a campaign on the conservative website Breitbart, where Fetch was placing Uber ads. As part of the lawsuit, Uber plans to seek at least $40 million in damages, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified disclosing legal plans. Fetch didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
 
 Going on the offensive in court is a rare move for Uber. The company is a plaintiff in only two federal cases, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, it has been a named defendant in about 250 federal cases. The data aren’t comprehensive but show Uber is usually on the defensive.
 
 Online advertising fraud has been a problem for the industry since the dawn of the internet. The practice has grown more sophisticated in recent years along with the amount spent on such ads. Fetch has acknowledged the challenge publicly and said it was working with research firm Forensiq to “fight against mobile ad fraud.”
 
 “One of the biggest challenges we face as digital marketers is to reduce mobile ad fraud,” James Connelly, Fetch’s chief executive officer, said a year ago.

Toronto Real Estate Board shuts down local man’s data project

David Hains:

Shafquat Arefeen just wanted to understand the housing market better.
 
 The 26-year-old financial data analyst saw that the Toronto Real Estate Board (TREB) had made aggregated data publicly available — but he wanted to develop his own insights. Using information released by TREB in early July, he published a visualization of trends in Toronto’s housing market.
 
 Readers loved it. His website, which does not have ads, got 13,000 visitors in the first month the visualization was available.

We Are Subsidizing Rich Suburbanites to Clog Cities With Their Cars

Peter Coy

A new report from TransitCenter, a foundation that says it “works to improve urban mobility,” calculates that the parking benefit is worth up to $1,000 a year for commuters who are in high tax brackets and work in big cities. Collectively, it calculates, the break costs $7.3 billion a year in lost tax revenue.
 
 True, there’s also a tax benefit for mass-transit commuters that costs the government about $1.3 billion a year. TransitCenter says that while it’s good as far as it goes, “it is overshadowed by the parking tax benefit’s much larger adverse impact.”
 
 If you work in a place where there’s lots of free parking in lots or on the street you don’t benefit from the tax break. That’s because in such places the employee parking lot isn’t an economically valuable fringe benefit; you could have parked for free even if it didn’t exist. The break is only valuable for people who work in crowded areas. So two-thirds of American workers are in effect transferring money to the other one-third.

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here

Alan Berger

The suburbanization of America marches on. That movement includes millennials, who, as it turns out, are not a monolithic generation of suburb-hating city dwellers.
 
 Most of that generation represents a powerful global trend. They may like the city, but they love the suburbs even more.
 
 They are continuing to migrate to suburbs. According to the latest Census Bureau statistics, 25- to 29-year-olds are about a quarter more likely to move from the city to the suburbs as vice versa; older millennials are more than twice as likely.
 
 Their future — and that of the planet — lies on the urban peripheries. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma made clear that, especially in suburbs, the United States desperately needs better drainage systems to handle the enormous amounts of rainfall expected from climate change.
 
 They also made clear that new, sustainable suburbs can offer an advantage by expanding landscapes that can absorb water.
 
 Housing affordability is a major driver of the appeal of suburbia, which has historically been, and still is, more affordable, especially for first-time home buyers.
 
 Yet millennial suburbanites want a new kind of landscape. They want breathing room but disdain the energy wastefulness, visual monotony and social conformity of postwar manufactured neighborhoods. If new suburbs can hit the sweet spot that accommodates the priorities of that generation, millennial habitats will redefine everyday life for all suburbanites, which is 70 percent of Americans.
 
 How can technology, revolutionary design and planning transform suburban living?

Google responds to Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention with AdWords tracking update

Ginny Marvin:

In June, Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Prevention, an initiative aimed at limiting third-party trackers from capturing cross-site browsing data, in the next version of Safari, coming out this fall. The move has implications for ad performance tracking for Google and others. On Thursday, Google sent an email to AdWords advertisers outlining changes it is making in response to Intelligent Tracking Prevention.
 
 What is Intelligent Tracking Prevention?
 
 In short, with ITP, third-party cookies that are determined to be able to track users across sites can only be used for 24 hours from the time a user visits a website via Safari. After 24 hours, the third-party cookies can only be used for log-in purposes. The cookies are purged entirely after 30 days.

Every Major Advertising Group Is Blasting Apple for Blocking Cookies in the Safari Browser

Marty Swant:

The biggest advertising organizations say Apple will “sabotage” the current economic model of the internet with plans to integrate cookie-blocking technology into the new version of Safari.
 
 Six trade groups—the Interactive Advertising Bureau, American Advertising Federation, the Association of National Advertisers, the 4A’s and two others—say they’re “deeply concerned” with Apple’s plans to release a version of the internet browser that overrides and replaces user cookie preferences with a set of Apple-controlled standards. The feature, which is called “Intelligent Tracking Prevention,” limits how advertisers and websites can track users across the internet by putting in place a 24-hour limit on ad retargeting.
 
 In an open letter expected to be published this afternoon, the groups describe the new standards as “opaque and arbitrary,” warning that the changes could affect the “infrastructure of the modern internet,” which largely relies on consistent standards across websites. The groups say the feature also hurts user experience by making advertising more “generic and less timely and useful.”
 
 “Apple’s unilateral and heavy-handed approach is bad for consumer choice and bad for the ad-supported online content and services consumers love,” according to a copy of the letter obtained by Adweek this morning. “Blocking cookies in this manner will drive a wedge between brands and their customers, and it will make advertising more generic and less timely and useful. Put simply, machine-driven cookie choices do not represent user choice; they represent browser-manufacturer choice.”

Conservatives, liberals unite against Silicon Valley

 
 Nancy Scola:

Simpson’s group has long criticized the country’s biggest tech companies, saying they abuse consumers on everything from privacy to pricing. But across Washington, liberals and conservatives are beginning to find common ground in the view that the industry’s power over American life has grown too vast and unchecked — and the new dynamic is upending traditional ideological alignments.
 
 Tech’s new critics include Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has begun sounding the alarm that Google has grown into “the most powerful company in the history of the world.”
 
 Carlson recently aired an interview with Matt Stoller, a member of an antitrust team that lost its jobs at the left-leaning think tank New America after praising a $2.7 billion fine that the European Commission levied against Google this summer for stifling competition. The New York Times reported that Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, a New America funder, had complained about the statement posted by Stoller’s team — a turn of events that Carlson described as a sign of Google’s “terrifying” power.
 
 Stoller, a former aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), later praised Carlson as “one of the few on TV willing to talk about it.”

Why nobody can trust facebook

Bob Hoffman:

You would think a company that built its business on the promise of putting sophisticated data to work for advertisers would have the sense not to release numbers that are patently ridiculous.
 But time and again Facebook has undermined its credibility by making claims that are easily proven to be false, and then defended these claims with statements that are absurd.
 This week it was reported that Facebook was claiming to reach 41 million Americans between the ages of 18-24. If Facebook reached every American between 18 and 24 they’d still be 10 million short. There are only 31 million of them.

GDPR, Privacy and Surveillance Capitalism (Facebook, Google, Among Others)

The European Union’s GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation comes into force in May, 2018.

GDPR will have a significant effect on business models that rely on “surveillance capitalism“.

Samuel Gibbs:

Messaging services such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Gmail will face tough new rules on the tracking of users under a revision to the ePrivacy Directive proposed by the European Commission on Tuesday.

The new legislation seeks to reinforce the right to privacy and control of data for European citizens, with messaging, email and voice services – such as those provided by Facebook, Google and Microsoft – forced to guarantee the confidentiality of conversations and metadata around the time, place and other factors of those conversations.

Listening to, tapping, intercepting, scanning or the storing of communications will not be allowed without the consent of the user, unless it is critical for billing or other purposes. Companies will have to ask for the explicit consent of users before being able to use their data for advertising purposes, which most use to fund services provided for free to end-users.

Matt Burgess:

The focus of the GDPR is to give greater protections to individuals as well as tougher rules on those who handle data.

“One of the things we have high hopes for significant change under the GDPR is how transparency is really delivered to users, particularly by these internet companies,” Dixon tells WIRED. “We know from our engagement with them that a lot of them are looking very proactively at how they are going to do the transparency under the GDPR.”

This is likely to entail how people can access and view the information that is gathered about them by some of the internet’s biggest firms. “They’re working with designers to look at how they can quickly engage a user quickly but also deliver them with what they need to ensure when they sign-up they’re fully informed,” Dixon says.

In recent years, her office has been heavily involved in some of Europe’s biggest data protection cases, including the Safe Harbour case, where Europe’s top court ruled a 15-year agreement for companies to transfer information to the US was unlawful. Technology companies including Facebook, Google, Apple, Twitter and Amazon have European headquarters in Ireland. That means almost all data privacy complaints against them cross Dixon’s desk before being passed to higher courts in Europe.

The real estate process offers a target rich environment for surveillance capitalism.

I thought it might be interesting to review the privacy policies of a few service providers:

Dot loop (owned by Zillow):

“We do not sell your personal information to third parties. We may share your personal information with third parties who may offer services that may be of interest (“Third Party Sharing”).”

Zipforms:

“We may also provide your personal information, but not the non-public personal information you enter into zipLogix products and services related to your clients and customers, to our parent company and its subsidiaries to offer other products or services that may be valuable or interesting to you; we do not provide your personal information to other third parties for marketing purposes.

We will disclose personal information without notice only if required to do so by law or in the good faith belief that such action is necessary to protect and defend the rights or property of zipLogix.”

Virtual Properties offers a unique, integrated crm/document/transaction model that brokers and agents control.

“Before you hit submit, this company has already logged your personal data” – Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu.

Quicken’s privacy policy:

We do not share your information with outside companies for their promotional use. We do not track URLs that you type into your browser, nor do we track you across the Internet once you leave our site.

Tim Walters and Horace Dediu discuss GDPR in a 91 minute podcast.