mfioretti: online advertising*

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  1. the advertiser has little or no control, as long as they distribute ads through eyeball-chasing adtech.

    But they do have control if they go back to sponsoring publications directly. As I suggest in Let’s get some things straight about publishing and advertising, we need a word, a symbol or a hashtag that says an ad is not tracking-based adtech. There I suggest #SafeAd.

    Programmatic at best can only blacklist a site like Breitbart, and program that blacklist into one or more of the thousands of systems that might aim an ad (and many may be in the supply chain between advertiser, agency and publication). But that’s not going to fix the problem. Advertisers need to fire adtech. Simple as that. This is what AdAge, the ANA, Sleeping Giants and everybody else who wants to save advertising’s ass should be urging.

    Adtech is a cancer on advertisers, publishers, and everybody it tracks.
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  2. None of this will be legal under the #GDPR. (See one reason why at Publishers and brands need to take care to stop using personal data in the RTB system. Data connections to sites (and apps) have to be carefully controlled by publishers.

    So far, #adtech’s trade body has been content to cover over this wholesale personal data leakage with meaningless gestures that purport to address the #GDPR (see my note on @IABEurope current actions here: It is time for a more practical position.

    And advertisers, who pay for all of this, must start to demand that safe, non-personal data take over in online RTB targeting. RTB works without personal data. Brands need to demand this to protect themselves – and all Internet users too. @dwheld @stephan_lo @BobLiodice

    Websites need to control
    1. which data they release in to the RTB system
    2. whether ads render directly in visitors’ browsers (where DSPs JavaScript can drop trackers)
    3. what 3rd parties get to be on their page
    @jason_kint @epc_angela @vincentpeyregne @earljwilkinson 11/12

    Lets work together to fix this. 12/12

    Those last three recommendations are all good, but they also assume that websites, advertisers and their third party agents are the ones with the power to do something. Not readers.

    But there’s lots readers will be able to do. More about that shortly. Meanwhile, publishers can get right with readers by dropping #adtech and go back to publishing the kind of high-value brand advertising they’ve run since forever in the physical world.

    That advertising, as Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) and Don Marti (@dmarti) have been making clear for years, is actually worth a helluva lot more than adtech, because it delivers clear creative and economic signals and comes with no cognitive overhead (for example, wondering where the hell an ad comes from and what it’s doing right now).

    As I explain here, “Real advertising wants to be in a publication because it values the publication’s journalism and readership” while “adtech wants to push ads at readers anywhere it can find them.”

    Going back to real advertising is the easiest fix in the world, but so far it’s nearly unthinkable because we’ve been defaulted for more than twenty years to an asymmetric power relationship between people and publishers called client-server. I’ve been told that client-server was chosen as the name for this relationship because “slave-master” didn’t sound so good; but I think the best way to visualize it is calf-cow:

    As I put it at that link (way back in 2012), Client-server, by design, subordinates visitors to websites. It does this by putting nearly all responsibility on the server side, so visitors are just users or consumers, rather than participants with equal power and shared responsibility in a truly two-way relationship between equals.
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  3. Mark Zuckerberg also launched Facebook with a disdain for intrusive advertising, but it wasn’t long before the social network giant became Google’s biggest competitor for ad dollars. After going public with 845 million users in 2012, Facebook became a multibillion-dollar company and Zuckerberg one of the richest men on Earth, but with only a promise that the company would figure out how to monetize its platform.

    Facebook ultimately sold companies on its platform by promising “brand awareness” and the best possible data on what consumers actually liked. Brands could start their own Facebook pages, which people would actually “like” and interact with. This provided unparalleled information about what company each individual person wanted to interact with the most. By engaging with companies on Facebook, people gave corporate marketing departments more information than they could have ever dreamed of buying, but here it was offered up free.

    This was the “grand bargain,” as Columbia University law professor Tim Wu called it in his book, The Attention Merchants, that users struck with corporations. Wu wrote that Facebook’s “billions of users worldwide were simply handing over a treasure trove of detailed demographic data and exposing themselves to highly targeted advertising in return for what, exactly?”

    In other words: We will give you every detail of our lives and you will get rich by selling that information to advertisers.

    European regulators are now saying that bargain was a bad deal. The big question that remains is whether their counterparts in the U.S. will follow their lead.
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  4. Last spring, I wrote a piece attempting to apply professor Clayton Christensen’s disruption theory to digital publishing. Using that lens, the theory predicted that a tipping point was near, and the days of publishers chasing advertising scale were over. Instead, journalism was entering a new phase: the SaaS or Stories as a Service era.

    If news organizations want to regroup, mobilize, and capitalize, its leaders, myself included, need to re-educate investors about how we will achieve meaningful returns by “pivoting to readers,” as so eloquently phrased by Thompson, instead of chasing the ghosts of scale.

    By having readers pay for their journalism, and by using the corresponding readership data, publishers will have to listen to what their readers really want. Instead of catering to advertisers and the scale they demand, news organizations can focus on accountability metrics like loyalty, retention, and churn that closely resemble SaaS businesses instead of having a singular focus on CPM-driven ad businesses.

    Investors are quite willing to fund SaaS-based companies.
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  5. Digital advertising has many, many problems. You can blame ad tech. You can blame agencies. Or the Russians. Or maybe AI. But it's really all Chris Anderson's fault.

    Anderson of course is the author of the seminal 2004 Wired article-turned-book "The Long Tail," which among many themes celebrated a web driven utopian time when every single niche interest would be well served, on a gazillion different websites.

    Almost immediately, the ad industry co-opted the long tail concept, and saw it as a way to target people with super relevant ads all over the web, super cheaply. Right around that time, the concept of audience-based buying took hold. Using digital data (mostly cookies back then), you could target people with ads, wherever they went on the web, regardless of content environment or content.

    You no longer had to pay high prices to reach car-shoppers on car magazine websites. You could buy 'auto intenders' (people looking to buy cars soon) wherever they were online. For way less cash.

    Soon, ad agencies opened up 'trading desks' to buy ads this way. And programmatic advertising ushered in all sorts of ways to buy ads on thousands of sites at once using software. Advertising would become like Wall Street.

    Except it never made sense.

    People (marketers and agencies) who buy into the long tail concept just aren't honest with themselves about how they use the internet. There are numerous pieces of research on how even as people accumulate hundreds of TV channels, they only watch seven. It's rather commonly accepted that in a sea of millions of mobile apps, most people stick to half a dozen.

    unnamed 2People tend to linger on the same websites and apps.comScore

    Yet somehow the vision of the 'world wide web' is that we're all nurturing our souls on cupcake blogs and hobby sites and kitesurfing communities. Rather than just checking out Aunt Sally's Facebook posts and then reading something on Daily Mail.
    Let's be real

    To be sure, there's no doubt that there are niche publishers with passionate followings, like sites for hardcore sneaker lovers. And of course, it's remarkably easy to end up down weird internet ratholes in search of the name of the guy who played Skippy on "Family Ties," or trying to determine what happened to that person you dated 10 years ago.

    And certainly, we all spend some time on some weird dark corners of the web. You like whatever you like, I like what I like, and we'd don't need to spend a lot of time talking about it.

    The common thread with all of these internet use cases is, they're probably not the right moment for you to hear about some fun new recipes from Kraft, or how great you'd look in a 2018 Suburu. Yet marketers are sold on right audience, right time, environment be damned.

    Regardless, this isn't the kind of site you find selling ads through various programmatic channels. Have you checked out what sites are on ad exchanges lately? Mostly, they're just random at best, or obfuscated at worst.
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  6. Quando Facebook dichiara un miliardo di utenti, il mondo non sarà mai più come prima: ogni azienda deve esserci, attratta dall’idea di poter mandare messaggi gratis ai propri fan. Ben presto non più gratis, bensì pagando, per la gioia degli investitori.

    Il confine fra contenuti e pubblicità sembra ormai un ricordo del passato.
    Il futuro è la televisione

    Google e Facebook continuano la propria corsa, all’apparenza inarrestabili. Negli Stati Uniti, il duopolio porta a casa 3 dollari su 4 della “pubblicità” (si fa per dire: è direct marketing) su Internet, e addirittura il 99% dei nuovi investimenti sul web.

    Il problema è che questo filone aureo (si fa per dire) si è ormai esaurito.

    Google e Facebook hanno un rapporto price per earning che è il doppio di quello di altre aziende media americane, ma non hanno più praterie davanti a sé da conquistare e facili e prevedibili guadagni futuri che possano giustificare un elevato rapporto P/E.

    Per difendere il proprio titolo in Borsa, devono attaccare la pubblicità di tipo brand.
    E la pubblicità di tipo brand non va sui banner, non va sui social e non va sui video delle Mentos, bensì in televisione, su programmi come serie TV, film e sport.

    Google o Facebook dovranno reinventarsi come produttori di contenuti di qualità, come ha già iniziato a fare Netflix. Ma che vantaggio competitivo possono vantare Google o Facebook su Disney (ABC), Comcast (NBC), Viacom (CBS) o Time Warner (HBO)?
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  7. For years publishers have held onto the hope that all their investments in Facebook will, at some point, pay dividends when it comes to revenue. But a new report from WAN-IFRA suggests that, for most publishers, that’s still far from the case — and they’re not happy about it.

    Surveying nearly 50 WAN-IFRA members, University of Oxford researcher (and 2016 Nieman Fellow) Grzegorz Piechota found that Facebook was responsible for an average of seven percent of digital revenue, with a median of just three percent, across all of its revenue programs. A quarter of publishers said they received no direct revenue from Facebook at all.

    In Piechota’s estimate, this puts Facebook lower than Google, YouTube, and Spotify in terms of how much revenue is shared back with publishers, though the lack of complete data makes it difficult to draw direct comparisons. Piechota concludes that, overall, “revenue shared by the leading platforms is too low to fully fund editorial operations,” even for the largest organizations.
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  8. Pressed by investigators in Congress, Facebook said Wednesday that it has found evidence that a pro-Kremlin Russian “troll farm” bought $100,000 worth of ads targeted at U.S. voters between 2015 and 2017. The finding was first reported by the Washington Post, and Facebook published its own statement Wednesday afternoon.

    A few of the roughly 3,000 ads that Facebook traced to the Russian company mentioned presidential candidates Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton directly, according to the Post’s sources. The majority focused on stoking people’s emotions around divisive issues such as “gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

    Facebook wouldn’t disclose the ads in question, nor exactly how the scheme worked.
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  9. Gli editori si sono resi conto, dopo un periodo esaustivo di sperimentazione e verifica, che il gioco non valeva la candela. Con Instant Articles si lasciano nelle mani di Facebook non solo importanti ricavi pubblicitari ma anche “doti” di valore come i dati e metadati degli utenti che oggi sono l’unica moneta di scambio per il mercato dell’informazione. Certo la migliore esperienza di un caricamento rapido delle pagine aveva una sua logica per fornire un servizio più efficace ma, probabilmente, anche il progressivo miglioramento della qualità e velocità delle connessioni hanno posto la questione in secondo piano.

    La pubblicità è ancora la maggiore fonte di entrata per l’informazione online, ma le grandi testate internazionali stanno svoltando, in maniera decisa, verso entrate più sicure e meno dipendenti da fattori terzi, come l’instabilità ed il monopolio del mercato pubblicitario online.

    Gli abbonamenti in primis ma anche il modello delle memberships, adottato tra i primi proprio dal “The Guardian”, sono gli obiettivi a cui puntare e, per fare questo, è necessaria, come afferma la testata britannica, “la costruzione di rapporti più profondi con i lettori”.

    Ma la distribuzione resta nei social

    Restano comunque le piattaforme social, Facebook in primis, il luogo dove le persone leggono le notizie, e quindi invariato il rapporto di dipendenza delle testate da queste.

    La notizia è solo una parte di un processo molto più ampio e coinvolgente che è la conversazione e l’interazione sociale e, al di là delle distorsioni cognitive, filter bubble, confirmation bias e algoritmi selezionatori, è oggi forse più importante della notizia stessa il parlarne, lo scambio dei punti di vista, il confronto e la socializzazione che ne deriva.
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  10. I have no illusions about what Facebook has figured out about me from my activity, pictures, likes, and posts. Friends have speculated about how algorithms might effectively predict hook-ups or dating patterns based on bursts of "Facebook stalking" activity (you know you are guilty of clicking through hundreds of tagged pictures of your latest crush). David Kilpatrick uncovered that Facebook "could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now." And based on extensive networks of gay friends, MIT's Gaydar claims to be able to out those who refrain from listing their sexual orientation on the network. When I first turned on Timeline, I discovered Facebook had correctly singled out that becoming friends with Nick was a significant event of 2007 (that's when we met and first started dating, and appropriately enough, part of why he joined Facebook).

    Since our engagement, there have been enough mentions of "engagement" and "wedding" in mine and my friends' comments littered throughout my profile to suggest to Facebook's keyword crawlers to deduce that we've got something big planned. The fact that he's tagged in my cover photo, we have numerous albums taken in remote locations where we're the only two people tagged, and that we both currently live in Chongqing, China, all should make it obvious to Facebook's relationship-weighing algorithms that we're pretty important to each other.

    friends 2007.png

    So shouldn't it also be obvious to Facebook that I "know him well" and he's "one of my best friends?" We wouldn't be tagged in so many pictures together (70) if it weren't true. And could there be any chance at all that "I don't know him" given these data points? Though Facebook isn't outright asking me if we're in a relationship, it sure sounds like that's what they are getting at. Moreover, why hasn't Facebook asked me the same question about someone like Jen Hudon? I share more mutual friends (121) and am tagged in almost as many photos (67) with Jen as I am with Nick, and her wall posts feature prominently in my Timeline. (Facebook might interpret these data points and suggest I choose her as one of my bridesmaids, which I have done). No, Facebook has us figured out: we went to High School together and she's "one of my best friends."

    Watson Hudon.png

    So why does Facebook care to know more about the nature of my relationship to Nick? The short answer is that Facebook wants to know as much as it can about my relationships, even though Facebook's current policy is not use information from user questions like this one for advertising.

    My response to the relationship question would act as an important input into the algorithms deciding what shows up in my feed. If I said Nick is "one of my best friends," Facebook might weight his posts more heavily than they already do. For example, my feed has recently been inundated with more posts about my cousins' wife's pregnancy now that I've confirmed him as a family member (though I hide it on my profile for security reasons).

    But what happens if I don't want these relationships to alter my feed? This is a "Filter Bubble" problem, where Facebook's personalization algorithm is opaque to us as users. I don't know what I'm missing, but I can tell that I'm seeing more of certain people as a result of declaring a certain kind of relationship to them. But there's no master switch board for us to tweak the dials on our social filters; if I'm seeing too many of a certain friend's posts, I have only the binary choice of turning them on or off, and I have to alter that detail on a person by person basis. Any other input into the algorithm requires a fair amount of proactive and clever gaming of the system (like declining family member requests to avoid filtration). And who wants to explain to Aunt Joan that's why you can't confirm she's your aunt?

    And if I did change my relationship status to engaged -- not just answer the question Facebook posed to me -- the company could then target ads based on that information. We've seen how pregnancies are a pivotal marketing opportunity for companies like Target. Marriage is another big life event where habits, loyalties, and purchasing behaviors change. And then there's the brief but highly lucrative wedding planning and purchasing period itself; it's a critical and fleeting moment that marketers are eager to pin down. It comes as no surprise that Facebook and its advertisers would want to know what stage of life I'm in right at this moment. They want to know if they could be making more money showing me engagement ring, registry, or mortgage advertisements. For the most part, that targeting is harmless, but it's gold to Facebook and advertisers to know that I've shifted demographic categories. I imagine that my literal value in terms of price per click might even go up as I enter into the "engaged" category.


    And even though the pairing of the carefully phrased question and advertising were coincidental, it's as if Facebook is saying, "I know you guys have been together for a while now, shouldn't you be thinking about getting engaged soon?" Hint hint, nudge nudge. And then it comes off as a sassy girlfriend shouting over martinis, "Girl, when's he gonna put a ring on it?" So Facebook isn't outright asking me if I'm engaged. But I find myself reading for subtext as I would an aunt's pointed but tactfully indirect question.
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