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November 18 2011

Splitting image: Benetton's banned advert

So the pope-kissing-imam ad was shouted down? The Vatican has been carefully controlling the pope's image for 500 years

You can understand why the Vatican got so angry with Benetton for creating an image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing the grand sheikh of Cairo's al-Azhar mosque. After all, the modern church has such a pristine image to protect – it's not as if it's beset by widespread accusations of clerical abuse or anything like that. A plainly fictional image of the pope kissing a Muslim man was, clearly, the worst thing to tarnish the Vatican's image in recent years. Much more serious than anything revealed about such Catholic institutions as St Benedict's school in London.

Benetton's adverts are actually a homage to a renowned Berlin wall graffiti painting of Communist leaders Erich Honecker and Leonid Brezhnev kissing. Everyone finds it funny to see former leaders of the defunct Soviet bloc snogging, it seems, but when contemporary figures from the western world are similarly mocked the cannoli hit the fan.

Why is the Vatican so displeased, and why did Benetton so readily surrender? The image of the pope is one of the greatest triumphs of marketing in history. A church that is led by a venerable celibate might seem to have an in-built selling-point problem. How can popes, who necessarily take the throne of St Peter as old and often ailing men, be made to seem charismatic and glamorous in a world that values youth and physical vigour?

The papacy tackled this problem five centuries ago by calling in some of the greatest image-makers in world history. Today's advertising gurus have nothing on Raphael and Titian. One of the most influential images of power in the history of the world hangs quietly today in London's National Gallery: Raphael's portrait of Pope Julius II created a new paradigm for papal portraiture by showing age as dignity, inner wisdom and sad knowledge. The power of this portrait was emulated and refined by Titian, then by Velázquez. Popes were reimagined in the Renaissance and baroque eras as men whose age and restraint conferred great natural authority.

Even in Italy, this cultivated image has been mocked in modern times. Federico Fellini staged a clerical fashion show that travestied the Church in his film Roma. But the impression that was crafted by some of the world's greatest artists is still tremendously potent, in Italy and abroad.

Benetton's mistake was to underestimate how profoundly the church has succeeded in sacralising the image of the pope, in spite of every modern menace to its authority. No parliament on earth exerts the fascination of the Vatican as a power complex. The pope's image truly is infallible, and Benetton realised it had crossed an invisible line that has endured every onslaught of the secular world. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

October 04 2011

Four short links: 4 October 2011

  1. -- Singaporean version of TechStars, with 100-day program ("the bootcamp") Jan-Apr 2012. Startups from anywhere in the world can apply, and will want to because Singapore is the gateway to Asia. They'll also have mentors from around the world.
  2. Oracle NoSQLdb -- Oracle want to sell you a distributed key-value store. It's called "Oracle NoSQL" (as opposed to PostgreSQL, which is SQL No-Oracle). (via Edd Dumbill)
  3. Facebook Browser -- interesting thoughts about why the browser might be a good play for Facebook. I'm not so sure: browsers don't lend themselves to small teams, and search advertising doesn't feel like a good fit with Facebook's existing work. Still, making me grumpy again to see browsers become weapons again.
  4. Bitbucket -- a competitor to Github, from the folks behind the widely-respected Jira and Confluence tools. I'm a little puzzled, to be honest: Github doesn't seem to have weak spots (the way, for example, that Sourceforge did).

September 13 2011

When media rebooted, it brought marketing with it

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we'll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months.

As president of Twist Image and author of "Six Pixels of Separation," Mitch Joel spends a lot more time thinking about digital marketing than most people. Joel sat down recently with O'Reilly's Joe Wikert to explore the publishing and marketing topics that are currently on his radar. These include:

  • "The how versus the why" — Why are you on YouTube? Why are you tweeting? Are those outlets actually suitable for the things you're trying to say, or are you using them because that's what everyone else is doing? Joel says it's important to question the time and energy you're investing in various platforms. [Discussed at the 6:08 mark.]
  • Advertising in books — Placing ads in books (digital or otherwise) is anathema to some publishers, but Joel doesn't share that view. As magazines and Google have shown, advertising can be made palatable by targeting the advertising to the content. What publishers need to do is resist the urge to "poison the well" with broad-based generic ads. [Discussed at 9:44.]
  • Why publishers should "burn the ships" — You can't look at the media as if it's the same media it was 5-10 years ago, Joel notes, and that means you can't look at advertising and marketing the same way either. Cramming traditional marketing models into digital platforms simply won't work. It's time for something completely different. [Discussed at 13:46.]

The full discussion is available in the following video. Joel will expand on some of these ideas during his keynote address at next month's TOC Frankfurt.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR


August 18 2011

Leaky paywalls and ads: What publishers can learn from the New York Times

This post originally appeared on Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 Blog ("Porous Paywalls and Book Publishing"). It's republished with permission.

Felix Salmon recently wrote an article talking about how the New York Times paywall is working because it's porous. He contrasts that to other paywalled sites that haven't enjoyed the same success as the Times. As I read Salmon's article I was thinking less about porous vs. rigid paywalls and more about DRM'd vs. DRM-free books.

There are definitely some similarities here. At O'Reilly we believe in a DRM-free world because we trust our customers and we believe they value our content enough to pay for it rather than steal it. It would be naive of us to think this philosophy totally eliminates the illegal sharing of content though. We just happen to believe those situations shouldn't cause you to penalize all your customers. Shoplifting happens from time to time at your local grocery store but that doesn't mean the store manager should put everything under lock and key.

But it was only when I read Fred Wilson's follow-up post to Salmon's article that I realized what other connection this has to book publishing: advertising, sponsorship and other revenue streams. As Fred points out, the Times doesn't necessarily have to charge for each online page view since they run ads on every page served.

I'm not suggesting we can suddenly give away book content and make the exact same amount of revenue with advertisements. But what I am saying is that advertising and its close cousin, sponsorship (e.g., "This book brought to you in part by..."), can and will play a role in the future of book publishing. Every publisher won't necessarily experiment with that model, but many will.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

24symbols is a great example of how this can work. The company offers both freemium (free, ad-supported content accessible only while online) and premium (for-pay, without ads and can be read offline) models. The customer decides which option they prefer. That last point is critical. 24symbols isn't just serving up free content and hoping that alone will somehow create a successful business model. They're also offering an ad-free offline option that some number of users will upgrade to. They key is to make the premium service feature set compelling enough that customers want to pay for the it.

Kindle with special offersWill 24symbols be successful? It's too early to say (although I'm a huge fan of Justo Hidalgo and what he's doing with 24symbols; if you missed it, check out his presentation at our TOC Sneak Peek from earlier this year). But I'm convinced the future will bring more advertising-based book publishing experiments, not fewer. And as I've said before, I can see a future where Amazon offers two versions of many (if not all) Kindle titles: an ad-free version with pricing similar to today's models and a second one with ads but at a lower price. Amazon has taken the first step with the hardware itself by offering the lower-priced "Kindle with Special Offers." As Jeff Bezos mentioned in the seventh paragraph of Amazon's most recent earnings announcement, "Kindle 3G with Special Offers has quickly become our bestselling Kindle."

Customers are already voting with their wallets and overwhelmingly choosing the advertising-subsidized version of the device itself. These results will undoubtedly encourage Amazon to start experimenting with ad-subsidized content as well.

Services like 24symbols and the Kindle platform are one thing, but the next logical step after that is for publishers to expose more of their content to the major search engines. How long will it be before some of the current New York Times bestsellers are fully and freely readable online with ads? If the stories are good enough and the premium alternative offers a significantly better reading experience (e.g., no ads, can be read offline, includes other features/services, etc.), some number of customers will upgrade, just like they're doing with Times subscriptions.

Associated photo on home and category pages: Black Mountains, Wales: rock wall by markhillary, on Flickr


August 15 2011

Dominant form of journalism foretold by Reynolds Journalism Institute

href="">Reynolds Journalism Institute proposalI recently had a talk with href="">Bill Densmore, a
consulting fellow at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, about a href="">comprehensive
proposal for re-establishing news providers on an economically and
socially sustainable foundation. I was not entirely happy with the
vision he laid out, but I recognized right away that it would triumph
and become a global standard. This paper deserves a look from anyone
interested in publishing, social networking, or democratic discourse.

It's not normal for me to be so insistent on a trend. Before you think
I'm over-dramatizing the situation, consider the following trends:

  • Moves by news organizations to charge for content. Although many sites
    (including O'Reilly, through href="">Safari Books Online) have
    been offering subscriptions for some time, the recent retreat from
    free content by the New York Times is sure to lead the rest of the

  • The increasing dependence most of us have on other people to choose
    what news we view, whether through aggregation feeds or friends on
    social networks.

  • The trend (which I currently find to be a gimmick) in newspapers to
    include excerpts from blogs by non-journalists.

  • Strains on the ability of advertising to generate revenue, and the
    ever-intensifying determination of sites to gather more information
    about viewers in order to target them more effectively.

  • Greater consolidation in traditional media, driven by the realization
    that no site can go it alone.

  • The spread of federated single sign-on, mostly through OpenID, egged
    on by the US government in its 2010 href="">National Strategy
    for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. (Alex Howard covered the proposal on Radar.)

Consider these, and compare Densmore's proposal. He has found the way
for news institutions to capitalize on what's already happening, and
the result is a formula they're going to like. Of course, the final
formula may be somewhat different from his, and perhaps no media mogul
will ever stand up before a crowd of thousands and say, "We're using
the RJI model for content aggregation." But in its outlines, we see
here the future of news.

And that means we had better look at the possible negative effects of
the change and insist that the solution prevent them.

News the RJI way

Densmore's paper is quite extended, because he needs to explain the
business end of his proposal to people who don't understand the
economics of current publishing, and the architectural end to people
unfamiliar with the underlying technology. He resorts to invented
terms, which I'll try to elude as I offer a summary that I hope will
be enough to push forward discussion.

The content aggregation and pricing layer

The change to the news will be driven by institutions that already
have a news brand and can draw a loyal following. Some may be new,
others may be familiar brands such as the New York Times, and some may
be local news outlets with specialized content that a small audience
values highly. These news institutions will create more enticing
landing places by licensing content from other news providers around
the world.

Those who have followed online publishing closely may remember the
stillborn Automated Content Access
Protocol (ACAP)
, which I href="">
critiqued four years ago. I think ACAP is back, but not as a
hitchhiker on standard search techniques. The RJI proposal echoes its
basic strategy for finding and licensing content.

Incidentally, Densmore dislikes the term "micropayments" because it
seems to devalue content, whereas his proposal does the opposite. He
also dislikes the term "paywall" because it represents a critique of
subscription models that have worked fine since the beginning of

How the user experiences the news

The innovation in Densmore's proposal is the use of federated single
sign-on to let readers leap from one site to another. The content is
not just republished and rebranded on the aggregator's site, but is
linked to directly. That means the original site can promote its own
brand, add updates, and incorporate reader comments.

Currently, if you want to read articles on two different subscription
sites, you need to sign up and pay at each. Densmore calls this a
broken user interface. Busy people want the content fed to them, even
if it requires payment, and want to just pay a monthly fee and forget
about it. The federated identity model allows this. The source of each
article can charge a small amount, such as half a cent, for each view,
and the aggregator can worry about harmonizing the economics of
subscriptions and license fees.

Personalization will become the crucial advantage of news aggregators.
Netizens' current strategies for spiking their news with variety
(adding sites to RSS feeds, scanning streams on Twitter or Google
Plus, and so forth) are ad hoc and produce inconsistent results. These
amateur and crowdsourced techniques will become professionalized. A
great deal of the value of a subscription, Densmore is betting, will
lie in the choices made by aggregators for the front page each of us
sees upon visiting their site each morning.

We will have many personas for news sites. I may use one persona for
doing technical research at work, another for checking on
international political events on the weekend, and a third for
following my favorite musicians.

TOC Frankfurt 2011 — Being held on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011, TOC Frankfurt will feature a full day of cutting-edge keynotes and panel discussions by key figures in the worlds of publishing and technology.

Save 100€ off the regular admission price with code TOC2011OR

The role of advertising

Few news sites will be able to break even through subscriptions alone.
Ads, as you may have guessed by now, will grab an accelerated ride on
the jetstream of personalization as well. Like it or not, we
will be known by our news providers, and hence indirectly by
those who want to sell us goods and services.

In fact, there's little about Densmore's proposal that is unique to
the news or publishing industries. It provides a general platform for
servers to learn about visitors and capitalize on that knowledge.
Publishers may need the platform more urgently than other industries
because what we offer is under more pressure from free and
crowdsourced alternatives, but the principles will appeal to anyone
who wants a deeper relationship with a visitor than a one-time click.

Densmore is learning from Google here. The techniques he advises news
sites to use are stepped-up versions of those that made Google a
200-billion-dollar company. He adds what he calls "advisor-tising,"
which involves some opt-in from visitors. If Densmore prevails, people
who visit a search engine by default to look up the news will instead
go to a news site of their choice.

Heading off dangers

The RJI model may appeal to consumers because it could help them get
more high-quality news with less effort. But what consumers think is
ultimately irrelevant. The model's main appeal is to news sites and
advertisers: it will save news sites from their long steady decline,
and serve up a better class of customer to advertisers. There will
probably always remain sites that can serve adequate advertising with
requiring subscriptions, as well as sites that sponsor content as a
public service or to drive an agenda. But the news mainstream, I'm
convinced, will be delivered to known personas.

This will drive tremendous information sharing about each of us by
news organizations and advertisers, but Densmore says, "The cat is
already out of the bag." Abuses will have to be dampened by laws,
regulations, and industry standards.

One detail I'd like to incorporate into the new system is the ability
to walk away from a persona. It would be nearly impossible to do that
now, because you'll need a credit card to sign up with a new persona
and it can then be instantly linked to the old one. I would like
regulations requiring companies to discard what they know about you,
upon your request. In exchange, they can charge higher subscription
rates for new personas, under the presumption that advertising is less
lucrative. (However, the personalized news choices they deliver will
also be less relevant, which makes charging more money for new
personas a dilemma.)

Any major change in a marketplaces calls for a look at possibilities
of market consolidation. In this case, one site could garner a
preponderance of the readership, giving it untoward control over the
news we see. I don't worry much about this because I expect news
stories to continue breaking out through social networking, and
because some Fox News or Al Jazeera will be able to emerge to break
hidebound monopolies. Densmore wards off bias through a neutral

The Information Trust Association (ITA) would create protocols and
business rules that enable appropriate network collaboration and
exchange -- a level playing field. The ITA would be guided by
publishers, broadcasters, telecom and technology companies, account
managers, trade groups and the public.

Even without a monopoly, there's a danger of us becoming passive
consumers Once each of us has his own front page. Densmore issues a
call, along with journalistic visionary href="">Dan Gillmor, for readers to become
informed information consumers. This is particularly important because
we don't want to receive just updates on topics we've already
expressed interest in. We want to know important new topics.

The history of privacy breaches has also shown that, in the absence of
strong EU-style privacy laws, agreements by publishers to respect
reader privacy cannot be trusted. There will be loopholes and too many
temptations to bend the rules. The current Supreme Court believes that
advertisers have a nearly inviolable right to send people ads, as href=">their ruling on the recent
Vermont drug marketing law shows.

I'll end by saying that the role of citizen journalists hasn't been
clearly integrated into the proposed regime. A hefty section of the
paper is devote to them, but it's not clear to me whether blogs just
another set of feeds into the personalized channel, or whether user
recommendations will be factored in to the choices offered by news
sites. This is an interesting topic to watch as RJI seeks partners
and tries to implement the system.

As Densmore told me on the phone, numerous social barriers to his
proposal have to be overcome. News sites have to be persuaded to try
his form of deep-delving aggregation. Readers have to be persuaded
that the news is once again worth paying for and that they can benefit
by sharing their preferences with news providers. It will be quite
some time before we can determine where the proposal is going.


July 26 2011

April 28 2011

April 11 2011

April 01 2011


taz: Zeitungen verkaufen Einfluss auf Berichterstattung

Berlin (ots) - Einige deutsche Tageszeitungen bieten Unternehmen an, auf Umfang und Themenwahl ihrer Berichterstattung Einfluss zu nehmen. Das ergab eine verdeckte Recherche der tageszeitung (taz). Dem Reporter, der sich als Vertreter einer Werbeagentur ausgab, machten Verlagsmitarbeiter in Kundengesprächen entsprechende Zusagen.

Ein Mitarbeiter der "Westdeutschen Allgemeinen Zeitung" bot eine anzeigenfreie Beilage zum Thema Banken an, in der die Branche über ihren Umgang mit der Finanzkrise informieren könne. "Ein vierseitiges Banken Spezial ohne Anzeigen in der Gesamtausgabe kann ich Ihnen zum Gesamtpreis von 117.500 Euro zuzüglich Mehrwertsteuer anbieten", hieß es in einem schriftlichen Angebot. Für das Magazin "Reise Extra" wurde für gut 30.000 Euro pro Seite ein Paket aus Anzeigen und einem PR-Text in Aussicht gestellt. Dagegen sagte ein WAZ-Sprecher auf Nachfrage der taz: "In unseren Verlagssonderveröffentlichungen können nur Anzeigen gekauft werden, keine Texte."

Bei der "Frankfurter Rundschau" sagte ein Mitarbeiter dem Reporter: "Wir wollen Anzeigenumsatz generieren und insofern - wenn Sie heute mit dem Thema ,Solarenergie' kommen, dann machen wir halt nächste Woche das Thema Solarenergie." Für den samstäglichen Reiseteil bot er eine Kombination aus Anzeige und Berichterstattung an: "Wenn ich eine ganze Seite buche, dann kann man schon über die zweite Seite redaktionell reden. So als Hausnummer."

Der verdeckt recherchierenden Reporter fragte bei der "FR" auch, ob eine redaktionelle Seite zur Anlagemöglichkeiten im Ausland machbar sei. Daraufhin wurde ihm eine fertig layoutete Beispielseite zum Thema "Geldanlage in Österreich" zugesandt: "Die entsprechenden Informationen und die Grundinformationen würden von Ihnen geliefert", heißt es im schriftlichen Angebot. Die Texte würden dann "von unserer Service-Redaktion entsprechend aufbereitet". Die Chefredaktion der "Frankfurter Rundschau" ließ eine Nachfrage zur Trennung von Journalismus und Anzeigengeschäft unbeantwortet.

Beim "Neuen Deutschland" wurde dem taz-Reporter eine Beilage namens "ND Extra" vorgelegt, in der ein Pressesprecher über seine eigene Institution schreibt. "Wir haben hier auch richtig redaktionelle Beiträge, die wir uns über Produktionskostenzuschüsse bezahlen lassen", sagte der Verlagsmitarbeiter. Dagegen erklärte "ND"-Chefredakteur Jürgen Reents, sein Blatt lege großen Wert auf die Trennung zwischen redaktionellen Texten und dem Einfluss von Anzeigenkunden. Auch in "ND Extra" könnten keine Texte gekauft werden.

Der taz-Reporter war an zehn deutsche Verlagshäuser herangetreten. Er hatte erklärt, er berate Firmen bei der Entscheidung, in welchen Medien sie Anzeigen schalten. Dabei habe er sich darauf spezialisiert, ein "geeignetes Umfeld" zu finden. Dies gilt in der Branche als ein Codewort für Schleichwerbung. Wenn eine bezahlte Veröffentlichung nicht schon durch ihr Layout als Anzeige zu erkennen ist, muss sie nach den Landespressegesetzen mit dem Wort "Anzeige" gekennzeichnet werden. Die drei genannten Zeitungen wollten die fraglichen Seiten mit Begriffen wie "Verlagssonderveröffentlichung", "Anzeigensonderveröffentlichung" und "Beilage" kennzeichnen.

Bei anderen Medien stießen der taz-Reporter auf Ablehnung. Das Düsseldorfer "Handelsblatt" etwa verwies auf seine Glaubwürdigkeit und wollte sich nicht auf "irgendwelche Koppelkisten" einlassen. Auch beim "Spiegel" in Hamburg wurden entsprechende Wünsche abschlägig beschieden.

// I really hope this is date-related news

taz: Zeitungen verkaufen Einfluss auf Berichterstattung | taz - die tageszeitung |
Reposted fromlit lit viareturn13 return13

March 30 2011

Search Notes: The future of advertising could get really personal

This week, we imagine the future of advertising as we think about how much can really be tracked about us, including what we watch, our chats with our friends, and if we buy a lot of bacon.

Google expands its predictions

Search engines such as Google have an amazing amount of data, both in general (they do store the entire web, after all) and about what we search for (in aggregate, regionally, and categorized in all kinds of segments). In 2009, Google published a fascinating paper about predictions based on search data. The company has made use of this data in kinds of ways, such forecasting flu trends and predicting the impact of the Gulf oil spill on Florida tourism.

You can see the forecasted interest for all kinds of things using Google Insights for Search. Own a gardening web site? You might want to know that people are going to be looking for information on planting bulbs in April and October.

Web Search Interest: planting bulbs
Click to enlarge

Those predictions are all based on search data, but search engines can do similar things with data from websites. Google is now predicting answers to searches using its Google Squared technology. Want to know the release date of a movie or video game? Just ask Google. A Google spokesperson said this feature is for any type of query as long as they have "enough high quality sites corroborating the answer."

Movie guess
Click to enlarge

Yahoo and Bing evolve the search experience

We hear a lot about Google's experiments with changes in the user experience of search, but the other major search engines are changing as well.

When Yahoo replaced their search engine with Bing's, they said they would continue to innovate the search experience. The most recent change they've made is with Search Direct, which is similar to Google's instant search but includes rich media and advertising directly in a dropdown box.

Bing also continues to revise their user interface, the latest being tweets shown on the Bing news search results page (in a box called "public updates"). This is in addition to their "most recent" box.

Bing results
Click to enlarge

Search engines and social networks continue to change the face of advertising

Most of us don't spend much time thinking about the ads that appear next to Google search results, but search-based ads were an amazing transformation in advertising. For the first time, advertisers could target consumers who were looking for exactly what those advertisers had to offer. At scale. Want to target an audience looking to buy black waterproof boots? A snowboard roof rack for a 2007 Mini Cooper? A sparkly pink mini skirt? No problem!

Several years ago, Google introduced ads in Gmail that were intended to be contextually relevant to the email you were reading. This attempt was a bit more hit or miss. Contextual advertising is always going to be a bit less relevant than search advertising. If I'm searching for "best hiking gear," I'm likely looking to buy some. If I'm reading an article in the New York Times about hiking trails in Vermont, I might just be filling time while I wait in line to renew my driver's license. And matching advertising to email is even harder. I might open an email about hiking and wonder how I got on an outdoor mailing list.

For Gmail ads, Google is now looking to use additional signals about how you interact with your mail beyond just the content of the message. They noted that when working on the Priority Inbox feature, they found that signals that determined what mail was important could also potentially be used to figure out what types of ads you might be most interested in.

For example, if you've recently received a lot of messages about photography or cameras, a deal from a local camera store might be interesting. On the other hand if you've reported these messages as spam, you probably don't want to see that deal.

Facebook is also looking to show us ads based on conversations we're having online. This type of advertising has been available in a more general way on Facebook for some time, but this newest test shows ads based on posts in real time. AdAge's description of it sounds like it hits upon the core reason search ads are so effective:

The moment between a potential customer expressing a desire and deciding on how to fulfill that desire is an advertiser sweet spot, and the real-time ad model puts advertisers in front of a user at that very delicate, decisive moment.

Simply showing better ads in email and next to conversations in social networks is one thing, but the more interesting idea is how this idea can be used more broadly. Advertising has always provided the profit for most media (television, newspapers, websites) and innovation as we saw with the original search ads is critical in thinking through the future of journalism.

A breakthrough that makes advertising in online versions of videos more successful than commercials on television could be key in the transition of television to online viewing. Americans engaged in 5 billion online video viewing sessions in February 2011. We watched 3.8 billion ads, but if you are like me and watch a lot of Hulu (and many of you are, as Hulu served more video ads than anyone else), you might wonder if all of those ad views were of the same PSA.

Part of why mainstream advertisers haven't taken the leap from traditional television commercials to video ads is that TV commercials are tried and true. Why transition away from that? A good motivator would be an entirely new ad platform that takes real advantage of the online medium. (In the future, perhaps awebcam will track our facial expressions and use that data to stop showing us that annoying commercial!)

Ad platforms have been evolving use of behavioral targeting for a while, but it's still early days. As for the changes in Gmail ads, it will be interesting to see if the types of email we get one day is part of the personalization algorithm for our search (and search ad) results and if what kinds of email lists we subscribe to and what types of things we search for impact the video ads we see on YouTube.

Add to that the predictive elements of search and that organizations such as Rapleaf can tie our email addresses to what we buy at the grocery store (Googlers drink a lot of Mountain Dew and snack on Dorritos ... and bacon) and it's pretty clear that radical shifts in personalized advertising are likely not too far away.

Google still the top place to work

One in four job applicants wants to work at Google. That's nearly twice the number who want to work at Apple. The top write-in company (a list of 150 was offered in the study) was Facebook, followed by the Department of Homeland Security. No, I don't know why either.

Google was also named the top brand of 2011. So,despite their legal woes, consumers and potential employees are still fans.


March 23 2011

Four short links: 23 March 2011

  1. The Heritage Health Competition -- Netflix-like contest to analyze insurance-claims data to develop a model that predicts the number of days a patient will spend in hospital in the coming year. $3M prize. (via Aza Raskin)
  2. Historically Hardcore -- fantastic fake Smithsonian ads that manage to make the institution sexy. Naturally they've been asked to take them down.
  3. Another Plato Innovation Ignored -- turns out the above-the-fold doodle has a long and glorious history, culminating in a fantastic demonstration of our broken patent system.
  4. Graphite -- Enterprise scalable realtime graphing. Apache 2.0-licensed, written in Python. (via John Nunemaker)

March 14 2011

Is The Adjustment Bureau film poster the stupidest ever?

That Emily Blunt's going to get a scraped knee

I'm very taken with The Adjustment Bureau, I must say. No, not the film: I'll steer clear of that. I can't get enough of the poster, which I just saw sail past on the side of a bus and which made my day. It immediately put me in mind of Matt Damon, as envisioned by the makers of Team America: World Police – a wooden puppet only capable of saying "Matt Damon".

The poster in question depicts said Matt Damon looking intense and running off towards the left, while holding hands with a pretty girl (Emily Blunt) who's looking gormless and not really running so much as standing on one leg and facing off at 45 degrees from him. "They stole his future," the strapline tells us. "Now he's taking it back."

The immediate future, at least for Damon's foxy friend, seems to hold a twisted ankle and a nasty scrape on the knee. Have you ever tried to run away from a shadowy government agency while holding the hand of a woman in a satin dress and impractical shoes? Experience tells us all that it's next to bloody impossible. The shadowy government agency is usually on you like green on Kermit.

Holding hands is good for skipping, like a great big flower-collecting girl. It's not good for shadowy-government-agency fleeing. Yet here it is – and in posters like this, the composition of the shot demands that the girl be facing in a slightly different direction, which is as much as to say it demands that she be about to topple over.

The poster's deliberate subtext is that Matt Damon's current movie is basically another Bourne movie – ie, another film in which Matt Damon or someone like him spends an hour and a half fleeing a shadowy government agency with a gormless girl attached to his hand.

Is it the most generic movie poster ever? Certainly, it is a solid-gold classic of the determined-man-about-to-yank-a-hot-chick-over genre, itself a subset of the determined-man-looking-in-one-direction-while-hot-chick-looks-in-another genre.

Those poster genres are no more than heterosexual cousins of the two-determined-men-looking-in-opposite-directions posters, or the two-determined-men-with-guns posters. (The two-wacky-men-jumping-in-the-air posters are a different kettle of fish altogether.) Single men on posters are normally looking determined directly at you, unless they're Tom Cruise, who is looking off to one side and standing on a box. Occasionally, if they're bald, you get the back of a head and a strong sense that the face on the other side is looking determined.

If there's one thing more gloriously dim and formulaic than blockbuster movies, it's the posters for them. Private Eye runs a feature pointing out lookalike book jackets, but it wouldn't even be worth doing with film posters. Everything in them comes pre-chewed. "This summer . . . " "They did X. Now he's doing Y." "He was an X. She was a Y. Together they Z." "It was a time of X. It was a time of Y." "One man . . . "

Women on posters get a worse deal even than they do in the films. Have you ever seen a woman on a film poster dragging a man about by his hand? No you have not. Women are there to wear bikinis or fall over. If they have a gun, it's either because they are a super-cool bikini-wearing Femme Nikita-type girl assassin, or because the man in the poster (see Knight and Day) is helping her hold it so the dear thing doesn't get knocked over by the recoil like Britt Ekland in that Bond movie where she falls off an oil rig wearing, y'know, a bikini.

Women don't do too well in posters for horror films, either. There are really two types here: the Terrified Hot Chick with one half of her face obscured by red splodge/knife blade/spooky-looking forest; and the Terrified Hot Chick squished half-naked against a glass window/bit of wire mesh/plastic sheeting.

Then there's the kids' stuff. Thanks to the stigma surrounding people who used to play Dungeons and Dragons, the words "adventure", "magical", "epic" and "journey" are only ever used, humiliatingly, to refer to computer-generated squirrels who get lost and form unlikely friendships with computer-generated polar bears. You're forever being invited to "prepare yourself" for "the ultimate adventure" or "the ride of a lifetime" – though the latter boast, I can tell you, does nothing to impress those of us who remember Space Station Zero at Thorpe Park in Surrey.

But back to the poster in hand: could there be more going on after all? The girl is pointing in one direction; she is being dragged by her hand in another; she may fall over. Could this be, like, a metaphor?

I think it could. On The Adjustment Bureau's website, as well as being offered the opportunity to "like" the film on Facebook, visitors are encouraged to pitch in on the question of whether we exercise true free will or are helpless victims of determinism.

"Fate or free will?" it asks. Join the debate! The greatest minds in the history of western philosophy have grappled with the question unsuccessfully. Now it is the turn of Matt Damon fans. Who knows? Perhaps we'll have a breakthrough. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

March 04 2011

Interview zu “Bloggergate”

Das Medienmagazin journalist hat für ihre aktuelle Ausgabe ein Interview mit mir geführt. Es geht dort um die Frage der Schleichwerbung in Blogs durch bezahlte, aber nicht als Werbung gekennzeichnete Links (“Bloggergate”).

March 01 2011

Dusting for device fingerprints

In a previous Strata Week post, I wrote about BlueCava, an Orange County, Calif.-based company that has patented a way of identifying the unique fingerprint of any electronic device connected to the Internet. Last October, they closed a $5 million round of series-A funding led by Mark Cuban.

Recently, BlueCava announced the formation of an advisory board, which includes executives from Facebook, MasterCard, HP, FirstData, Bill to Mobile, and Merchant Warehouse. I caught up with CEO David L. Norris to discuss device identification, reputation technology, online fraud, and consumer privacy.

Our interview follows.

Tell me a bit more about what BlueCava does and how it works.

David NorrisDavid Norris: BlueCava provides a platform that enables businesses to identify devices that are coming to their website. First, we identify the device and then we provide additional information about the device that would be useful to our customers in making decisions about how to interact with that device. One application is finding fraud. Another interesting area is social networking sites: a site may choose not to allow certain users to participate if they have a history of trollish behavior.

As we identify devices, we build information about each device. One of the things we can tell about a device is if it's a shared computer being used by multiples users. We can also determine the specific level of use — whether it's a household computer in the kitchen with a handful of users or an Internet cafe computer with hundreds of users.

It sounds like BlueCava is largely used to identify negative behavior. Can the technology also be used to identify devices or users with a positive history?

David Norris: In some ways it's better to identify a good device rather than the bad ones — it's much harder to mimic or fake a "clean" machine that has no history. So we've taken on the task of identifying a broad set of devices. This year, we'll identify more than 1 billion devices.

From there, among the partnerships we've signed up, we're going to assign direct financial benefits to those with a positive history, such as discounts and rewards. We'll be announcing further details soon. For site managers, it you have a historical reputation that's good, there's an opportunity to reduce some of the costs associated with interacting with you, like performing extensive background checks. So they can afford to pass some of those savings on to users who merit it.

What about the privacy issues associated with device identification?

David Norris: We do not collect any personal information. We don't collect Social Security numbers or email addresses. We identify devices and we characterize a device's behavior. For devices with GPS receivers built in, we collect information at a ZIP-code level, not a granular level. That would be a violation of privacy.

We've also implemented what the FTC is calling "do not track," so users can either opt out or set their preferences when it comes to online marketing.

There's a difference between being identified and being tracked: if you turn tracking off, we can still identify a device but we don't keep track of which websites it's been to.

Since no system is perfect, what are the remedies available to users whose devices or histories are misidentified?

David Norris: If a question comes up about a particular device, the user can go to the merchant or site owner, who can then escalate the issue in a review queue. It becomes a human process at that point.

So BlueCava is not making direct recommendations about user accounts?

David Norris: We're very careful not to position ourselves as a fraud solution. We are a tech company that can be part of an existing fraud solution, but device identification is only part of the story. We're gathering information that's already available and has been used for years by other companies. What we're doing differently is using it in a unique way.

Imagine that you're a store owner, and one day someone walks into your store and then walks out. The next day, they walk in again, and your recognize them. You'd do that naturally based on hair color, eye color, the shape of their face, etc. And you could recognize them even if they were wearing a different shirt, because you know that their shirt can change but their face won't. We do the same thing with devices. Our technology is adaptive, and allows for change to occur. But it's up to each individual client how to use that information.

Some users may find this kind of device identification intimidating because it seems like "magical spying." What would you say to them?

David Norris: Cookies used to seem magical too. But then people got used to the idea of them.

Our technology, I believe, will replace cookies eventually. It just observes your machine instead of reaching into it and dropping something there.

Device identification is an improvement over cookies in part because if you choose to opt out, you're opted out and that's it. If you opt out using cookies, the system actually drops an opt-out cookie on your machine — if you clear your cookies, then you're opted back in! Also, you have to opt out on multiple browsers. From a device identification standpoint, it's much cleaner: you opt out once and it's done.

This interview was edited and condensed.

February 09 2011

Four short links: 9 February 2011

  1. isotope -- dazzling Javascript library.
  2. Designs, Lessons, and Advice from Building Large Distributed Systems (Slideshare) -- in the words of Matt Webb, through whom I found it, There's a lovely collection of numbers from Jeff Dean at Google, about how long common computer processor and network operations take. [...] What makes this more human is this comparison, which reveals a little bit about computer time: your equivalent to a computer looking up data from a chip is remembering a fact from your own brain. Your equivalent to a computer looking up data from a disk is fetching that fact from Pluto. Computers live in a world of commonplace interactions not the size of a house, like us, but the Solar System. On their own terms, they are long, long lived, and vast.. (via Matt Webb)
  3. Amazon Selling More Kindle Books Than Paperbacks (New Scientist) -- Since the beginning of the year, for every 100 paperback books Amazon has sold, the Company has sold 115 Kindle books. Additionally, during this same time period the company has sold three times as many Kindle books as hardcover books. (via Brad DeLong)
  4. The AOL Way -- the leaked business plan for AOL's content farms. I was fascinated by how big companies plan, but this is yet more sausage best made unseen. Most sausagey for me was Slide 33 showing the fantasy: a story suggested by high searches and advertising possibilities, with heavily "SEO optimized" text. (via Chris Heathcote on Delicious)

January 27 2011

Four short links: 27 January 2011

  1. Mozilla Home Dash -- love this experiment in rethinking the browser from Mozilla. They call it a "browse-based browser" as opposed to "search-based browser" (hello, Chrome). Made me realize that, with Chrome, Google's achieved a 0-click interface to search--you search without meaning to as you type in URLs, you see advertising results without ever having visited a web site.
  2. Periodic Table of Google APIs -- cute graphic, part of a large push from Google to hire more outreach engineers to do evangelism, etc. The first visible signs of Google's hiring binge.
  3. NFC in the Real World (Dan Hill) -- smooth airline checkin with fobs mailed to frequent fliers.
  4. XSS Prevention Cheat Sheet (OWASP) -- HTML entity encoding doesn't work if you're putting untrusted data inside a

January 20 2011

Pages before ads and other Facebook marketing tips

Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella) and Alison Zarrella (@alison), co-authors of "The Facebook Marketing Book," discuss what Facebook can and cannot do for businesses in the following interview. Most importantly, they explain why Facebook pages — not the ads — should be the focus of Facebook campaigns.

What sets Facebook apart from Google, Twitter and other online marketing tools?

Just a disgusting advertising & marketing
 PR article for fb

really a necessity for poor O'Reilly?

absolutely not worth in my tumblelog!

--  CENSORSHIP ---------------

by oanth - censorship dep for PR & Ads



January 13 2011

Four short links: 13 January 2011

  1. Strict Mode is Coming to Town (YUI Blog) -- Javascript gets strictures. In addition to the obvious benefits to program reliability and readability, strict mode is helping to solve the Mashup Problem. We want to be able to invite third party code onto our pages to do useful things for us and our users, without giving that code the license to take over the browser or to misrepresent itself to the user or our servers. We need to constrain the third party code.
  2. Public Data Corporation -- UK to form a corporation to centralize both opening and commercializing government data. "A Public Data Corporation will bring benefits in three areas. Firstly and most importantly it will allow us to make data freely available, and where charging for data is appropriate to do so on a consistent basis. It will be a centre where developers, businesses and members of the public can access data and use it to develop internet applications, inform their business decisions or identify ways to run public services more efficiently. Some of this work is already taking place but there is huge potential to do more. Secondly, it will be a centre of excellence where expertise in collecting, managing, storing and distributing data can be brought together. This will enable substantial operational synergies. Thirdly, it can be a vehicle which will attract private investment." Did I wake up in crazyland? Private Investment?!!
  3. What If Flickr Fails -- thoughtful piece about business models. Among all the revenue diets a company might have, advertising equates best with candy. Its nutritive value is easily-burned carbohydrates. A nice energy boost, but not the protein-rich stuff comprised of products and services that provide direct benefits or persistent assets.
  4. Arbor.js -- graph visualization library in Javascript.

November 10 2010

November 09 2010

Graffiti art divides councils' opinion

Is graffiti a renegade art form or a public nuisance? Hackney council is demanding a giant rabbit be whitewashed while Brighton is using graffiti as advertising

The subject of graffiti has always provoked comment, criticism and controversy. Local authorities and their cleaning teams have struggled to contain the perceived urban scourge of "tagging" (quickly executed stylised signatures) on any hoarding or derelict space that may lend itself to decoration.

Now it appears Brighton and Hackney councils have taken different approaches to the problem. While the south coast council has won plaudits for its actions, its east London counterpart is facing a public backlash for its decision to order the owners of a recording studio to "remove or obliterate" a giant rabbit painted on to its wall.

Secretive Belgian street artist ROA was granted permission last year to create the 12ft rabbit by the owners of The Premises music studio and cafe. Supporters claim that street art is of great benefit to the borough, attracting tourists and helping to overturn negative stereotypes of gang culture and gun crime. But the council policy is to paint over all graffiti and street art.

"It is not the council's position to make a judgment call on whether graffiti is art or not, our task is to keep Hackney's streets clean," it said in a statement.

As well as considerable local support, the online petition to Save the Rabbit has already attracted more than 2,000 signatures.

Last year, the council was criticised for erasing a cartoon from a block of flats by international renowned street artist, Banksy. Its latest attempt to get rid of a public artwork has created such opposition that The Premises' directors Julia Craik and Viv Broughton – who will be charged by the council for a contractor to paint over the rabbit – have issued a formal request to the council to debate its policy on street art removal. The council says that in order to trigger a debate at a full council meeting more than 750 people who live, work or study in the borough need to sign its own e-petition which is due to go live on 1 December.

In contrast to Hackney's approach, Brighton council has employed an innovative approach to graffiti in its successful collaboration with the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership. Graffiti artist Aroe has handpainted the logo of a seatbelt campaign, Embrace Life, on to 10 sites around the city to a height of 20ft in some locations. The sites for the logo were a mix of council-owned and private properties; selected by SSRP's communication manager, Neil Hopkins, the graffiti officer at Brighton council's clean team, Sarah Leach, and Aroe, with permission being given by each property owner.

Using derelict spaces for mural art, or in this case to promote a socially responsible campaign, deters taggers who, having seen the signature on the artwork, will leave the site alone in deference to accepted hierarchies in the world of graffiti art.

"From our point of view this initiative has deterred a significant numbers of taggers in the city, reducing our cleaning bill by an estimated £1,000 so far. However, an even greater value is improved public perception, reduced fear of crime and an improved local environment. These outcomes are very important and the project has been a resounding success for the council," says Leach.

Good advertising

Ken Seymour, SSRP partnership manager, adds: "With this campaign we have managed to help the council reduce its operating costs and improve the local environment, creating a high-visibility campaign at a fraction of normal advertising rates. In this time of fiscal austerity, such partnerships are vital in delivering best value while still maintaining innovation and quality."

Latest available figures show that councils across the UK spend an estimated £1bn a year on graffiti removal.

The success of Brighton's policy is reflected not just in reduced costs and fear of crime but in the phenomenal interest in Embrace Life which has gone from a county-wide initiative to outstanding international success. Its online film advertisement won a gold award at the New York Festivals International Advertising Awards (digital and interactive category), has had more than 18m online views and is a contender for YouTube's Ad of the Year award, which will be announced later this month.

Of the original 10 Embrace Life sites installed in Brighton in January, eight are still painted with the logo and generating ongoing savings for the city clean team. Leach says she would welcome involvement in another project of this kind.

The debate over good or bad graffiti will continue, but Brighton's experience shows that this art form has the power to inform, inspire and transform. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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