Don Marti

QoTD: Walt Mossberg

But we were seated next to the head of this advertising company, who said to me something like, 'Well, I really always liked AllThingsD and in your first week I think Recode's produced some really interesting stuff.' And I said, 'Great, so you're going to advertise there, right? Or place ads there.' And he said, 'Well, let me just tell you the truth. We're going to place ads there for a little bit, we're going to drop cookies, we're going to figure out who your readers are, we're going to find out what other websites they go to that are way cheaper than your website and then we're gonna pull our ads from your website and move them there.'

Walt Mossberg

Related: Service journalism and the web advertising problem

Posted Sun 22 May 2016 10:22:15 AM PDT
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George F. Will

I think I understand what George F. Will is going through right now.

I wish I didn't.

Once, I thought I was writing for an audience of people with a principled committment to a free economy and an aversion to centrally planned decision making..

I thought I was writing for readers who wanted to restore civilized norms.

I didn't think they just wanted an oversized angry personality who would violate those norms, but take on the establishment.

I didn't think that the readers would want to go for easy answers and bling over hard work and building a movement.

I was wrong.

The desktop Linux audience, which I thought was out there, went the same way as George F. Will's principled conservative audience.

I want the desktop Linux users back, and I want George F. Will to get his principled conservatives back. But maybe people were never who we thought they were to begin with.

Posted Sun 01 May 2016 05:51:53 AM PDT
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World's Simplest Privacy Tool

Here's the world's simplest Firefox add-on, which just turns on Tracking Protection (ordinarily buried somewhere in about:config) and sets third-party cookie policy to a sane value.

install pq from addons.mozilla.org

So far it has 15 users and one review -- five stars. It doesn't do much, or for very many people, but what it does do it does with five-star quality.

Bonus link: How do I turn on Tracking Protection? Let me count the ways.

Posted Tue 02 Feb 2016 07:52:31 PM PST
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QoTD: Anderson McCutcheon

I feel that the evil part of programmatic advertising is that we are now monetizing the weak.

Anderson McCutcheon

Posted Sun 10 Jan 2016 09:22:15 AM PST
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Countdown to 2016 (and some links)

No, I'm not going to do predictions for 2016. Here's something a little easier—some things that can't happen.

Adtech will beat ad blocking by cleaning up its act.

This is clearly not going to happen, because the subject of the sentence is a group of companies, and companies don't act in the group's interest. Some companies will always try to get away with pushing the boundaries a little, and when it comes to cutting back on the bad stuff, we as an industry means Someone Else Do It.

Matt Sweeney at Xaxis predicts fewer, more relevant, high-quality ads. Now, when an adtech dude says relevant, he means whatever my company does. Are there going to be fewer Xaxis ads? Well, no, just fewer of the other guys'. Now multiply by all the other adtech firms. Everybody's got the relevant ads that will displace all the others...right?

Tom Hespos suggested self-regulation of ads that "creep out" users, back in 2010. But it didn't work then, and can't work now. Users don't only visit web sites that participate in self-regulation. People have to set up their personal security tools to deal with the worst sites they encounter. After all, most email marketers don't spam, but users still need spam filters.

Reputable publishers will pay Adblock Plus 30 percent for whitelisting.

Newsroom staffs are shrinking, everyone is stuck writing desperate clickbait because there's no time or travel budget for an enterprise story, stock photos are everywhere—and AdBlock Plus wants 30 percent off the top?

Really? 30 percent for maintaining a relatively simple tool that other free software people who don't run an "Acceptable Ads" racket can do better?

In the news business, publishers sometimes have to face down government agencies, powerful corporations, and organized crime to be any good at their jobs. Adblock Plus doesn't even rate. The creepiest trackers are all in on "Acceptable Ads", but responsible publishers are too forward-thinking (and too squeezed for cash) to cough up.

User targeting will turn out to be where the money is.

The more we learn about web ads, the more we learn that Bob Hoffman had a point. The web is a much better yellow pages and a much worse television.

Marty Swant: Google Says Search Intent Matters More for Marketers Than Users' Identity. Yes, Google is talking up search, where it rules, at the expense of creepy stuff, where it doesn't, but Google does have a substantial investment in user targeting, too.

In 2006, Jakob Nielsen pointed out Search engines extract too much of the Web's value because of how well the much better yellow pages model works. People have put a lot of time and money since then into chasing Holy Grails of putting the right ad in front of the right person at the right time. But while each individual user-targeting trick creates a brief "pop", the long-term trend is a general Peak Advertising effect for targeted web ads, while search holds its value.

Adtech will make bank while publishers starve.

Yes, publishers are failing to replace print revenue with web and mobile. (Largely because of bad decisions long ago. Ben Brooks: They Never Even Tried For Value.)

But adtech isn't winning at publishers' expense. Sarah Sluis: With No Exit In Sight, Ad Tech Gets Lean Through Layoffs (via Marketing Land). Michael Eisenberg got this right last year.

Some of these adtech companies are venture backed and others are bootstrapped. In my opinion, the VC-backed ones will struggle to deliver their engineers much of a return. In fact, adtech is a value trap and is the farthest thing from easy money at scale.

Adtech can capture value, but not create it—the more effectively that user targeting works, the more of the signaling value of advertising gets lost.

Adtech will make progress against fraud.

The easy money at scale is on the fraud side. A good recent example is Ponmocup – A giant hiding in the shadows.

How bad is it? Bad enough that the IAB puts the numerator and denominator of the fraud ratio in separate press releases. Fortunately, I have a calculator. $8.2 billion in fraud divided by $15 billion in quarterly revenue (times 4 because the bottom part of the fraction is by quarter and the top is by year) and that's about 14 percent fraud.

I still think the 14% is on the low side. If you look at the level of access that malware has, the amount of malware out there, and the complexity of some of the attribution models that brand advertisers are using, it's pretty likely that sophisticated malware is able to avoid conversion-rate-based detection and free ride on real transactions. A user clicks on a search ad, and the attribution model gives some of the credit to a malware-generated impression delivered earlier to the same user's device.

Are attribution models developed with too much wishful thinking about the merits of user targeting, and not enough awareness of potential fraud attacks? We're going to find out.

All right, bonus link time. You probably saw these when they made the rounds earlier, but just in case you're a search engine bot looking for URLs to mark as important, check these out. (More links on the linklog feed for all you RSS fans.) Happy New Year and stuff.

MediaBriefing Analysis: Emily Bell: How "the great reintermediation of the web" caused publishers to lose control of distribution

Minda Smiley: US programmatic ad revenue totaled more than $10bn last year

Baekdal Plus: What's This About Editorial Independence? Aren't We A Team?

eaon pritchard: the brains of millennials are (not) being rewired by the internet

Alison Millington: How brands could use artificial intelligence to create ‘self-writing’ ad campaigns

The Verge's web sucks (via The Digital Reader)

Martin Bryant: Imagine a world where news sites drop display ads. It might not be that far away

Troy Hunt: How I got XSS’d by my ad network

Kate Kaye: Do Not Track Is Finally Coming, but not as Originally Planned

Sell! Sell!: Nine Ways To Improve An Ad

Oleg Dulin: Big Data Should Be Used To Make Ads More Relevant

Doc Searls: What am I doing here?

Help Net Security: Most malvertising attacks are hosted on news and entertainment websites

Nate Hoffelder: The Adblocking Revolution Is Not Months Away – It’s Happening Right Now

craigs: The Demise of Online Advertising As We Know it

Tim Peterson: What You Should Know About Yahoo's Malvertising Attack

Felix Salmon: Relax, blocking mobile ads won’t kill publishers

Google Chrome Blog: Protecting users from deceptive inline installation

Ben Woods: EFF’s Privacy Badger extension is finally ready to block ‘super-cookies’

Barry Levine: The digital ad business is broken, says former Forbes.com CEO

Ricardo Bilton: What would Kant do? Ad blocking is a problem, but it’s ethical

Cory Doctorow: Why privacy activists and economists should be on the same side

Bloomberg News: Thousands of apps secretly run ads that consumers never see

Neil Charles: Adblocking could be the saviour of high quality journalism (via Doc Searls Weblog » Doc Searls Weblog »)

Martha De Laurentiis: Marketers: Stop Advertising on Pirate Sites

Baekdal Plus: Publishers, Privacy is as Important For You as it is For Your Readers

Nick Bilogorskiy: Huffington Post serves malvertising, again.

Felicia Greiff: 2016 Election Digital Ad Spending Will Break $1 Billion

Pat LaPointe: How to Reach Consumers in Their 'Content Cocoons'

MediaPost | RTB Insider: Are Publishers Trying To Juggle Too Much Ad Tech?

John Naughton: Is this really the beginning of the end for web ads?

Scott Valentine: Analyze this: mobile, adtech, and big data analytics vendors fail to engage marketers

Jean-Louis Gassée: Life After Content Blocking

eaon pritchard: digital advertising. where did it all go wrong?

Mathew Ingram: Dear ad industry: Suing ad blockers and cutting off readers is not a great strategy

Ben: Ad Blocking Benchmarks for Digital Publishers

Paul Ellenbogen: Ancestry.com can use your DNA to target ads

Noah Davis: If You Don't Click on This Story, I Don't Get Paid (via The Awl)

Paul Sawers: After selling his company to Google, this man now wants to block ad-blockers

AdExchanger: Ad Blocking Will Keep Growing Until We Make Ads Better

Garett Sloane: Inside Verizon’s plan to seal off its data (and conquer advertising)

Casey Johnston: Welcome to the Block Party (via Quartz)

Kashmir Hill: I created a fake business and bought it an amazing online reputation

Alex Dixie: Technology Alone Does Not Make Great Advertising

Matthew Yglesias: The ad blocking controversy, explained (via Nieman Lab and Tom Lee)

lukel: Why Safari Content Blockers beat standard adblocking

Justin Krause: The Web-Tracking Tipping Point

Brad Frost: Living with Bullshit

SysAdmin1138: Paying for the web

devin: What we break when we fix for Ad Blocking | tonyhaile.com (via Fortress of Doors)

Leli: ad blocking "controversy" aka foolishness

Lars Doucet: Ad Blockers and the Four Currencies

Johnny Ryan: Advertising 2.0: why publishers must lead

The Uptake: Ad Blocking and the Who US?? Mentality

Samantha Bielefeld: Ad Nauseam

DCN: You say you ignore the banners but they never ignore you.

Yieldbot: Exploding the Lie that People Hate Ads

Adzerk Joins EFF's "Do Not Track" Coalition, Becomes First Online Advertising Company to Adopt New Privacy Standard

Lara O'Reilly: Goldman Sachs: Online advertising is about to be 'fundamentally restructured' by Apple, Google, and Facebook (GOOG, FB, AAPL, CRTO, ORCL)

Doc Searls: Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history (via Digital Content Next)

jbat: It’s Time to Flip the Bit on Publishing and Data

Massimo: Implied Contract

DCN: Dear Abby: I don’t mind advertising but I do mind tracking. What do I do? (via Baekdal Plus)

Baekdal Plus: The Blocking Problem

Karl Fogel: Privacy is an ecological concept, not a transactional one.

Baekdal Plus: When Tracking Goes Wrong

Dave Townsend: Delivering Firefox features faster

Cory Doctorow: How to save online advertising (via John Battelle's Search Blog)

Walt Mossberg: Mossberg: The Real Trouble With Web Ads

BOB HOFFMAN: The Whining Of The Online Ad Industry

Cog Blog: Building Trust and Belief in Online Advertising

Kashmir Hill: Facebook will now be able to show you ads based on the porn you watch

News: Consumers don’t like video ads targeted using their browsing history

BlockAdBlock: AdBlock’s “Acceptable Ads” will fail. Adblock users want no ads at all.

Massimo: A new web ads business that works

Greg Baker: HP gives up against Amazon (via IFOST Blog)

Doc Searls: How #adblocking matures from #NoAds to #SafeAds

Justin Ellis: What’s actually working in digital advertising? 8 publishers on how they’re bringing in money

admin: Can inaction be a viable ad blocking strategy for publishers?

Dan Goodin: Unpatched browser weaknesses can be exploited to track millions of Web users (via discrete blogarithm)

Kaiser Fung: Why Fraudulent Ad Networks Continue to Thrive

Martin Weigel: The fracking of attention

Brad Smith: The collapse of the US-EU Safe Harbor: Solving the new privacy Rubik’s Cube

Cog Blog: Sir Martin Sorrell Moves the Needle

MediaPost | RTB Insider: Is Programmatic Being Used By Big Agencies To Bash The Independents?

BlockAdBlock: The “Acceptable Ads” scheme is completely absurd

Chris Larsen: Malvertising Campaign Hitting Big Name Sites

David Barton: Ad Dodgers through the Ages

Kevin: CISO View: on Enforcing Ad Blocking

Hayley Tsukayama: The newest version of Firefox lets you block online trackers

Ryan Tate: What The Intercept’s New Audience Measurement System Means for Reader Privacy (via Idea Lab)

Aaker on Brands: Is Big Data Killing Your Brand?

Simon Davies: Why the idea of consent for data processing is becoming meaningless and dangerous

News: Xaxis Brings Programmatic to Political Advertising with Xaxis Politics

Dan Goodin: User data plundering by Android and iOS apps is as rampant as you suspected

Michael Bentley: Lookout discovers new trojanized adware; 20K popular apps caught in the crossfire

martinbalfanz: Why "Ad Blockers" Are Also Changing the Game for SaaS and Web Developers - Snipcart

Dan LaBelle: Using HubSpot? Ad Blockers Are Costing You Leads

John West: Death by a thousand likes: how Facebook and Twitter are killing the open web

BOB HOFFMAN: The Glorious Revolution Continues

Dan Goodin: Beware of ads that use inaudible sound to link your phone, TV, tablet, and PC

Simon St. Laurent: Blocked!

Idle Words: The Advertising Bubble

Chase Hoffberger: The new kings of YouTube botting

Lauren Johnson, Christopher Heine: We Brought Together the Major Players in the Ad Blocker War, and Here's What They Told Each Other

Ricardo Bilton: Venture capital gives ad tech the cold shoulder

Tim Peterson: Facebook to Tell Brands More About Who's Near Their Stores, Tailor Ads to Them

Frédéric Filloux: Ad Blockers Will Change How Ads Are Sold

Marketing Magazine Home RSS Feed: Adblockalypse now: we need a consumer/advertiser treaty

iMedia Connection: All Feed: Look-alike targeting's new frontier

Melissa Yeager: As campaign ads move online, the public gets left in the dark

Fatemeh Khatibloo: Consumer Privacy Attitudes: A 2015 Update

Kenneth P. Vogel: The Koch intelligence agency

Josh Stearns: Why Journalists Need to Stand Up for Reader Privacy

Lara O'Reilly: One of the few female ad tech CEOs explains why there may be so few women in ad tech (GOOG, GOOGL)

Judy Shapiro: News Flash: Ad-Blocking Is Not Marketing's Fault

James Green: Dear Publishers: Yes, Ad-Tech Companies Are Partly to Blame for Bad Advertising

Alexander J Martin: Video malvertising campaign lasted 12 hours? Try two months

AdExchanger: Publishers: Who Controls The User Experience On Your Website – You Or Your Advertisers?

Adam Roach: Better Living through Tracking Protection

Rahil Bhagat: Google Chrome update can drop data consumption by 70 percent - CNET

eaon pritchard: to brand or not to brand? is that a question?

Fatemeh Khatibloo: Understanding "Creepiness"

BOB HOFFMAN: Blair Witch, Zappos, Oreo, & Ice Bucket

Feeding the Cloud: Tweaking Cookies For Privacy in Firefox

Richard: The state of digital advertising right now

Massimo: Digital Doesn’t Matter

Madeline Welsh, Joseph Lichterman, and Shan Wang: The mobile adblocking apocalypse hasn’t arrived (at least not yet)

Harry Davies: Ted Cruz campaign using firm that harvested data on millions of unwitting Facebook users (via The Conversation)

Johnny Ryan: Despite the hype ISP adblocking is a no-go in Europe

Tim Peterson: Q&A;: Why Firefox Maker Mozilla Launched an App That Blocks Ads

Lara O'Reilly: The online advertising industry is about to be severely disrupted — 'It's the amputation of a significant revenue stream'

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff: Visualizing the Invisible

Shane Goldmacher: Inside the 2016 black market for donor emails

Basil Simon: Love thy reader, securely

Bill Budington: Panopticlick 2.0 Launches, Featuring New Tracker Protection and Fingerprinting Tests

Kevin Drum: Don't Blame Ted Cruz for Facebook's Sins

Posted Thu 31 Dec 2015 07:42:56 AM PST
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MSIE on Fedora with virt-manager

Internet meetings are a pain in the behind. (Clearly online meeting software is controlled by the fossil fuel industry, and designed to be just flaky enough to make people drive to work instead.)

Here's a work in progress to get an MSIE VM running on Fedora. (Will edit as I check these steps a few times. Suggestions welcome.)

Download: Download virtual machines.

Untar the OVA

tar xvf IE10\ -\ Win8.ova

You should end up with a .vmdk file.

Convert the OVA to qcow2

qemu-img convert \
IE10\ -\ Win8-disk1.vmdk \
-O qcow2 msie.qcow2

Import the qcow2 file using virt-manager.

Select Browse, then Browse Local, then select the .qcow2 file.

That's it. Now looking at a virtual MS-Windows guest that I can use for those troublesome web conferences (and for testing web sites under MSIE. If you try the tracking test, it should take you to a protection page that prompts you to turn on the EasyPrivacy Tracking Protection List. That's a quick and easy way to speed up your web browsing experience on MSIE.)

Posted Thu 22 Oct 2015 08:14:17 AM PDT
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Update on users: they're still not morons

From a SiteScout blog post on retargeting:

Users who recognize your brand will now see your advertisements displayed across thousands of websites, creating the impression of a large-scale advertising campaign, but for a fraction of the budget.

That's unrealistic. Users have figured out retargeting, and it's already motivating them to block ads.

As David Ogilvy once wrote, The consumer is not a moron, she is your wife. If retargeting is something that you can explain in a blog post, users who see it every day already have it figured out.

Users still aren't morons.

Following a user around the Internet with an ad creates the impression of following a user around the Internet with an ad. And that's about it.

Too often, adtech overcomplicates the technical side, but oversimplifies the human side. People who participate in markets are good applied behavioral economists, because they have to be. That goes for buyers as well as sellers.

The adtech scene assumes that we're in some kind of controlled experiment, where adtech people are the experimenters and users are the subjects. In fact, we're all market participants, everyone is an active player, and ignoring or blocking potentially deceptive information like retargeting is a reasonable move.

Related: Why users will have a L.E.A.N. beef with adtech

Posted Sun 18 Oct 2015 07:00:50 AM PDT
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Watering the data lawn

News from California: Big month for conservation: Californians cut water use by 31% in July.

Governor Brown said to cut back by 25%, and people did 31%.

Why? We were watering and maintaining lawns because we were expected to, because everyone else was doing it. As soon as we had a good excuse to cut back, a lot of us did, even if we overshot the 25% target.

Today, advertising on the web has its own version of lawn care. Ad people have the opportunity to collect excess data. Everyone is stuck watering the data lawn and running the data mower. So the ad-supported web is getting mixed up with surveillance marketing, failing to build any new brands, and getting less and less valuable for everyone.

Clearly, the optimum amount of data to collect is not "as much as possible". If an advertiser is able to collect enough data to target an ad too specifically, that ad loses its power to communicate the advertiser's intentions in the market, and becomes just like spam or a cold call. By enabling users to confidently reduce the amount of information they share, advertisers make their own signal stronger. (Good explanation of signaling and advertising from Eaon Pritchard.)

Where's a good reason to justify a shift to higher-value advertising? Everybody wants to get out of the race to collect more and more, less and less useful, data. So what's a good excuse to start?

Could a good news frenzy do it? No IT company is better at kicking off a news frenzy than Apple, and now Apple is doing Content Blocking. Doc Searls covers Content Blocking's interaction with Apple's own ad business, and adds:

Apple also appears to be taking sides against adtech with its privacy policy, which has lately become more public and positioned clearly against the big tracking-based advertising companies (notably Google and Facebook).

It's a start, but unfortunately, Big Marketing tends to take Apple's guidance remarkably slowly. Steve Jobs wrote Thoughts on Flash in 2010, and today, more than five years later, battery-sucking Flash ads are still a thing.

So even if Apple clobbers adtech companies over the head with a "Thoughts on Tracking" piece, expect a lot of inertia. (People who can move fast are already moving out of adtech to other things.)

Bob Hoffman writes:

The era of creepy tracking, maddening pop-ups and auto-play, and horrible banners may be drawing to its rightful conclusion.

But things don't just happen on the Internet. Someone builds an alternative. It looks obvious later, but somebody had to take the first whack at it. Tracking protection is great, but someone has to build the tools, check that they don't break web sites, and spread the word to regular users.

So why just look at tracking protection and say, wow, won't it be cool if this catches on?

Individuals, sites, and brands can help make tracking protection happen..

And if you really think about it, tracking protection tools are just products that users install. If only there were some way to get the attention of a bunch of people at once to persuade them to try things.

Posted Sat 29 Aug 2015 07:28:16 AM PDT
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Web advertising link dump

In case you missed these the first time.

Corey Weiner: The Real Victims of Ad Fraud Might Surprise You

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: Native advertising is killing ad creativity (via Digiday)

Michael Sebastian: Publishers Stare Down an 'Oh Sh*t' Mobile Moment

cks: Web ads considered as a security exposure

Alex Kantrowitz: Tensions Run High as Advertisers, Publishers Discuss Fraud at IAB Meeting

Sell! Sell!: Advertisers Are Like Prison Cafeteria Cooks

Hacker News: The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs

Alex Kantrowitz: Ad Tech's Rough Ride on Wall Street Continues With Latest IPO

Mathew: Thoughts on media business models

jbat: A Few Questions For Publishers Contemplating Facebook As A Platform

Brendon Lynch: An update on Microsoft’s approach to Do Not Track

MediaPost | RTB Insider: How Agencies Can Win The Battle Against Ad-Tech Companies

Sell! Sell!: TellUsYourStoryItis

BOB HOFFMAN: Bob's Keynote To NAB Radio Show

Christian Sandvig: The Facebook “It’s Not Our Fault” Study

John Herrman: Notes on the Surrender at Menlo Park

Jason Kint, CEO—DCN: Bad Ads: Research Shows They May Cost More Than They’re Worth

Ken Doctor: Newsonomics: Razor-thin profits are cutting into newspapers’ chances at innovation

BOB HOFFMAN: Take The Refrigerator Test

Owen Williams: You should be using these browser extensions to keep yourself safe online

Alex Kantrowitz: Inside Google's Secret War Against Ad Fraud (via Google Online Security Blog)

Jack Marshall: Major Advertisers Are Still Funding Online Piracy

Friedrich Geiger: Facebook Like Button Lands German Sites in Hot Water

Monica Chew: Tracking Protection for Firefox at Web 2.0 Security and Privacy 2015

Research Team—DCN: Content Pirates and Ad Hijackers Earn $200 million a Year

MediaPost | Online Media Daily: Useful Vs. Creepy: The Jury Is Still Out

Internal exile: Quantifying quislings

Cog Blog: Contracts and Enquiries; Rebates and Dark Pools

Rick Waghorn: Wall Street and it’s minions set their sights on a media futures market where the hedge funds get to play with advertising’s future. Cost + Complexity = Collapse

Frederic Lardinois: Chrome Now Automatically Pauses Flash Content That Isn’t ‘Central’ To A Web Page

Baldur Bjarnason: iOS 9 content blocking extensions are not a mobile advertising armageddon

Massimo: The Problem With Targeting

Alex Hern: I read all the small print on the internet and it made me want to die

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: It’s time to kill Cannes

Joshua Benton: How big a deal will adblocking on iPhones and iPads be for publishers?

Martin Beck: Snapchat CEO Promises Better, Non-“Creepy” Digital Advertising

SamuelScott: The Alleged $7.5 Billion Fraud in Online Advertising

SC Magazine: Study: Click-fraud malware often leads to more dire infections

Reuters: Business News: Ad executives cautious about growth, gear up for contract battle

Eric Picard: Fixing online advertising's privacy woes

Mark Duffy: Copyranter: Everybody’s definition of ‘branded content’ is wrong

Deeplinks: XKeyscore Exposé Reaffirms the Need to Rid the Web of Tracking Cookies (via WhiteHat Security Blog)

Mindi Chahal: Consumers are ‘dirtying’ databases with false details

Dean Takahashi: Facebook’s planned customer-data change called ‘land grab’ by publishers (via Marketing Land » Marketing Day)

Jason Cooper, Integral Ad Science: Mobile advertisers need a cookie-crumb trail to follow

Jim Edwards: I used the software that people are worrying will destroy the web — and now I think they might be right

The Tech Block: Google’s ad system has become too big to control

Frédéric Filloux: News Sites Are Fatter and Slower Than Ever (via Digital Content Next)

Alexander Hanff: Why CTO’s should enforce adblocking on their networks

David Barton: Should Parents Adblock to Protect Kids?

Google Security PR: More Visible Protection Against Unwanted Software (via Marketing Land » Marketing Day)

yan: lessons from the ad blocker trenches

Ben Thompson: Why Web Pages Suck

Felix Salmon: Ad tech is killing the online experience (via CMO Today)

Meenaskshi Mittal: Trustworthy Accountability Group (TAG) and Digital Ad Leaders Announce New Program to Block Fraudulent Data Center Traffic

Darren: The “oh shit” moment for the web

Posted Sat 25 Jul 2015 07:14:40 AM PDT
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Broadcasters, fighting, and data leakage

Bob Hoffman wants to see broadcasters standing up against adtech. He writes,

They are being taken to the cleaners by hyper-motivated digital evangelists who understand what predatory thinking means.

Here's a screenshot of a radio station site.

The purple bar on the right is a Ghostery list of all the trackers that are data-leaking the KFOG audience to the "adtech ecosystem."

So if a media buyer wants to reach radio listeners in the Bay Area, he or she can buy a radio commercial on KFOG (good for KFOG), buy an ad or sponsorship on the KFOG site (also good for KFOG), or just leech off the data leakage and use adtech to reach the same listeners on another site entirely (not so good for KFOG).

The radio station builds an audience, and the third-party trackers leak it away.

At the same time, a radio station can't unilaterally drop all the third-party trackers from the site. Protecting the audience is hard. That's where a radio station can use a tracking protection plan. Get the audience protected, stop data leakage, get more advertisers coming to you instead of sneaking around.

On air, when someone interferes with your signal you can call the FCC. On the Internet, well, this is getting too long, so just call Bob.

Related: news sites and the tracking game

Posted Mon 29 Jun 2015 07:07:54 AM PDT
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NIMBY + ISDS = Profit?

Random idea for how to make some cash from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Step 1: Buy a piece of real estate in a city with a severe NIMBY problem. (See How Strong Property Rights Promote Social Equality for more info.) Sell an ownership interest in the property to a foreign company.

Step 2: Get an architect to design a building for the site that is technically 100% legal, but that will provoke a severe NIMBY reaction. Something like "Section 8 housing for TaskRabbit workers and tech bus drivers." Put up posters and buy some newspaper ads, to get the local NIMBYs fired up.

Step 3: When the local government starts giving you grief about the building plans, don't even go to the City Council meeting. Take it straight to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, and get the US Federal government to pay the foreign company for its investment loss.

Buy back the foreign company's share of the property and repeat. Do this enough times and a vacant lot could be more profitable than a luxury condo development. (Sucks to be a person actually looking for an apartment, but hey, are we going to do Free Trade or what?)

Posted Wed 24 Jun 2015 07:25:36 PM PDT
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One dad's FREE weight loss tip will blow your mind!

"Don, it looks like you lost weight," someone said to me last week.

That is true. Since December 2013 I have lost about 15% of my body weight.

Not a rapid decrease, but sustainable so far. I'm not at my ideal weight yet, but I have made some progress, including having to buy new pants.

The main change that I had to make was to get some kind of personal Hawthorne effect going. If I keep track of how much food I eat, and make rules for myself about when I eat food, then I'm more likely to eat the right amount.

Think of it as a kind of mindful consumption thing.

I have zero claim to be an expert on this subject. I just think of it like IT spending within a company. If my "inner CIO" is doing his job, the overall level of stuff coming in the door should be manageable, even as the users keep asking for more. Sometimes, some extra stuff will get in, over the CIO's objections, but in general, the IT department can handle it and things keep working.

So let's look at today's surveillance marketing news.

40 kcal of rogue IT

Can Mondelez, Facebook Sell More Cookies Online?

The new arrangement also covers 52 countries and will "focus on creating and delivering creative video content and driving impulse snack purchasing online," according to a statement issued on Tuesday.

Hold on a minute.

"impulse snack purchasing"

?

I'm not allowed to do impulse snack purchasing.

My inner CIO has a snack approval policy, and my inner impulsive cookie-eater has to fill out a form and wait.

So, if you want to sell me food, you have to come in the front door and pitch the mindful eating department. Or my inner CIO will set up the filters to block you.

If you want to rely on Facebook's power to manipulate emotions instead, and try to get around the CIO, you just lost your access.

David Ogilvy once wrote, The customer is not a moron. She's your wife. That's being generous. The customer is a little of both. An inner moron and an inner non-moron who comes home and yells, What the hell did you eat all those cookies for, you moron?

In an environment where advertisers are trying to "engage" my inner moron, information diet is a prerequisite for food diet. I don't have Facebook on my phone, and I have the web site as a mostly write-only medium (thanks to dlvr.it for gatewaying this blog). But Facebook does have an online behavioral advertising operation. In order to protect myself from that kind of thing, I have tracking protection turned on in my browser.

So if you're reading this blog for the weight loss tip, here it is. Take the tracking protection test and get protected. Bonus tip: How can I break the Facebook habit?

I'm fortunate. For me, the consequences of impulse buying are low. Yes, I like Oreo cookies, and no, I don't trust myself not to be manipulated into eating more Oreo cookies than are good for me. But it's not that big of a deal. I'm not being targeted for predatory lending or gambling. My inner CIO could have a lot worse problems.

(If anyone has a blog about mindful eating, I should probably read it to learn more about this stuff, so let me know where to find it, please.)

Photo: Balfabio for Wikimedia Commons

Posted Tue 23 Jun 2015 07:50:55 PM PDT
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5 five-minute steps up

Jason Kint writes, in "5 Ways Industry Leaders Need To Step Up",

Needless to say I found myself shaking my head at a recent publisher event where sites were discussing how they could block Facebook from tracking their users. How on earth did this become a responsibility of the publisher to hack together a short-term solution?

It's not all the publisher's responsibility, but it's a fact of the Internet that (1) stuff keeps getting broken, often on purpose, and (2) in order for things to keep working, everyone has to keep his or her own piece safe. If you want to run a mailing list or email newsletter, you have to understand the current state of spam filtering and work on deliverability. And if you want to be on the web, you have to think about protecting your users from the problem of third-party tracking.

Do the short-term solutions right, and they don't take too much effort individually, but they turn into continuous improvement. And nobody has to wait for big, slow-moving companies to change, or worse, cooperate.

So here are five, count'em, five, quick ways to step up and make a difference in the problems of tracking-based fraud, users seeing ads as untrustworthy and blocking them, and data leakage. Should take five minutes each on a basic site, longer if you have a big hairy professional CMS.

It's not the responsibility of an individual site to fix the whole problem, but there are plenty of small tweaks that can help slow down data leaks, encourage users to adopt site-friendly alternatives to ad blocking, and otherwise push things in the right direction.

Posted Tue 16 Jun 2015 05:46:30 PM PDT
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Team Targeting, Team Signal

Academics tend to put the conversation about the targeted advertising problem in terms of companies on one side, and users on the other. A good recent example is Turow et al:

New Annenberg survey results indicate that marketers are misrepresenting a large majority of Americans by claiming that Americans give out information about themselves as a tradeoff for benefits they receive. To the contrary, the survey reveals most Americans do not believe that ‘data for discounts’ is a square deal.

....

Our findings, instead, support a new explanation: a majority of Americans are resigned to giving up their data—and that is why many appear to be engaging in tradeoffs.

From that point of view, the privacy paradox has an almost-too-easy answer: privacy is hard. Most users aren't seeking privacy, for the same reason that they're not training for the World Series of Poker. They would prefer winning a large poker game to not winning, but they rationally expect that unless they get really good, poker playing will result in a net loss of time and money.

But the academic model that puts all businesses opposite all users is probably an oversimplification. Advertisers, agencies, publishers, and intermediaries all have different and competing interests. Businesses are not all on the same side.

In most cases, brand advertisers, high-reputation publishers, and users have a shared interest in signaling that tends to put them into an adversarial relationship with the surveillance marketing complex. The kinds of media that are good for direct response and behavioral techniques are terrible for signaling, and vice versa.

The natural dividing line is not between users and companies, but between Team Signal and Team Targeting. Team Signal includes users, legit publishers, and reputable brands—everyone who wins from honest signaling. Team Targeting is mostly adtech intermediaries, fraud hackers, low-reputation sites, and low-quality brands.

For the business members of Team Signal, the privacy poker game has a positive expected value. Which is why independent web sites can benefit by helping their users get started with tracking protection. Users, resigned or not, are not alone.

What about the agencies?

Required reading if you're into this stuff: Pitch Mania by Brian Jacobs.

Agency managers have been quick to herald this flood of pitches as proof positive that advertisers have finally recognised what they (the agencies) have been preaching for years. Their future-gazing is they say finally coming to pass. This they contend is the dawn of a new model, based around integration, joined-up thinking, big data analytics and the rest.

Are large advertisers really just looking to switch between brands of adtech/adfraud as usual? Or will an agency that wants to keep the prospective clients awake (instead of boring them with the same Big Data woo-woo as all the other agencies) do better with a tracking protection component to its pitch?

Posted Sat 06 Jun 2015 08:48:16 AM PDT
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News sites and the tracking game

Here's a screenshot of a recent story from The Nation. Click to see full size and check out the purple bar on the right.

Yes, Ghostery detects 54 trackers on a story about web tracking. Isn't that special?

But that's not the point.

First, go back to that story and read the whole thing. If your direct experience of adtech comes from inside Marketing, from the artisan-cheeseburger-eating point of view, you're not seeing the ads that the rest of the world sees. Not only do a lot of adtech and malware look the same to users, many of the real ads are deceptive. The ad blocking problem makes more sense when you see some of the actual hinky ads out there that are motivating people to block.

Second, The Nation is rational to let those 54 trackers raid its audience. Really, even though data leakage is a bigger problem for high-quality sites than ad blocking.

Henk Kox, Bas Straathof, and Gijsbert Zwart, at the CPB in the Netherlands, explain, in Targeted advertising, platform competition and privacy.

We find that more targeting increases competition and reduces the websites' profits, but yet in equilibrium websites choose maximum targeting as they cannot credibly commit to low targeting. [emphasis added] A privacy protection policy can be beneficial for both consumers and websites.

High-value content sites are participating in ad targeting systems, even though it would be in their interest to work more like the magazine business.

If websites could coordinate on targeting, proposition 1 suggests that they might want to agree to keep targeting to a minimum. However, we next show that individually, websites win by increasing the accuracy of targeting over that of their competitors, so that in the non- cooperative equilibrium, maximal targeting results.

An individual site can't become trustworthy in an untrustworthy medium.

So what can The Nation, or any other publisher in the same situation, do about the tracking problem? Regulation might work in the Netherlands, but in the USA, it would just be subject to regulatory capture by surveillance marketers. Sites need a workable fix, a way to turn users' state of creeped-out-itude into action.

Sites can help users get protected

That's where tracking alerts come in. A high-reputation site such as The Nation can help move users from more to less trackable without interfering with existing third-party services.

Helping users get started with tracking protection is one or two lines of JavaScript. Easier than adding a social button. Cut, paste, save Journalism, and still have time for that artisan cheeseburger.

Posted Mon 01 Jun 2015 09:36:26 PM PDT
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