Cynthia on AwesomeCast 212: “Commercial Weeds”


Please enjoy another fast-paced and super-informative episode of AwesomeCast with Cynthia joining the panel:

Topics include:

  • An app that can help you with your to-do list; Timeful. – 2:40
  • A roku built right into a TV. – 5:15
  • The WWE Supercard app. – 10:20
  • The Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS. – 15:15
  • A replacement for…! – 26:30
  • HP building a $199 Windows laptop. – 31:20
  • A discussion on the usefulness of a laptop like that.
  • Google releasing another app for iOS; the Photo Sphere Camera. – 37:15
  • The role of social media in the situation in Ferguson. – 45:40
  • Changes to Facebook Likes and what information gets filtered on social media. – 57:00

Is Facebook suppressing views of free posts?

I recently tried a little experiment. I paid Facebook $7 to promote my column to my friends using the company’s sponsored advertising tool.

To my surprise, I saw a 1,000 percent increase in the interaction on a link I posted, which had 130 likes and 30 reshares in just a few hours. It seems as if Facebook is not only promoting my links on news feeds when I pay for them, but also possibly suppressing the ones I do not pay for.

Disruptions: As User Interaction on Facebook Drops, Sharing Comes at a Cost,”  by Nick Bilton, New York Times.

Buying online success

Buying online success


Seth Godin looks at retail promotion in the real world and online (“Powerful (and powerless) merchants“) and says that promotion techniques that we have become used to  in offline retail don’t transfer well online.

When we shop in the real world, we take it for granted that end caps and promotions and speed tables and other interactions will not be there because they are in the direct interest of us the shopper, but because they were placed there by the retailer to help generate income. It’s a store, for goodness sake, of course they’re trying to maximize their income. … Online, where stores are more like tools than like stores, this behavior rarely transfers successfully. You bristle when Twitter starts inserting irrelevant tweets in the stream you see, because you didn’t ask for them.

One area online where this isn’t the case is search results. Search for “website design Butler PA” in Google, Bing, or Yahoo and the first results you’ll see on the page are paid results: ads. For many searches, you’re shown more paid results than organic results — that is, results that aren’t ads but are links to pages that are ranked as relevant to your search. Continue reading

Google’s interest-based advertising: what it means for advertisers


I wrote yesterday about what Google’s Interest-Based Advertising will mean for web users, particularly as regards the ads people will see, the information that will be collected, and the privacy implications. But what does it mean for advertisers?

AdWords Help includes a few help questions and answers about interest-based advertising, to help advertisers get up to speed. Here’s the key info (with sources linked).

Interest-Based Advertising hasn’t launched yet; it’s in limited beta (source).

It won’t cost any more than regular AdWords (source). Presumably it will be available to everyone.

SPECULATION: Even though there’s no specific fee, I would guess that these more targeted ads would cost more, simply because advertisers should be willing to pay more to communicate with a more targeted audience. Or perhaps they’ll cost the same, but you can choose to advertise only using interest-based advertising and not using the scattershot content-targeting. I would think that interest-based ad placements would be set in a separate section (just as content ad placements are currently selected separately from search ad placements).

Back to the published facts:

Users will be identified with “anonymous user cookies” that will associate each user with “interest categories” — like “sports” or “baseball.” Ads will be shown based on these cookies (source). Personal information won’t be tracked, nor will it be made available to advertisers (source). Users can set their own interest categories through the Ads Preferences Manager, which is already available (source).

Google plans to generate interest categories much as it currently generates keywords from content, but it’s still working out the categories (source).

Advertisers can ask to join the beta (source), or they can wait until the system is finalized. You’ll be automatically enrolled if you use AdWords.

Google’s new interest-based advertising: what it means for consumers


Google is adding a new kind of advertising to its ad network: Interest-Based Advertising, also sometimes known as “behavioral targeting.”

Other companies like Yahoo and AOL already offer similar systems. Google says that advertisers have been requesting interest-based ads for some time, and that this system allows advertisers to more effectively target people who want the items and services offered in ads.

It’s true that behavioral targeting means that ads are shown only to those who have demonstrated interest and are therefore more likely to buy. As an advertiser it’s good to know how this system works. I’ll write more about that tomorrow.

At the same time that behavioral ads are likely to be more effective, they also raise concerns about privacy and user control. Google acknowledges these concerns on its official blog, and attempts to address them:

This kind of tailored advertising does raise questions about user choice and privacy, questions the whole online ad industry has a responsibility to answer. Many companies already provide interest-based advertising and they address these issues in different ways. For our part, we’re launching interest-based advertising with three important features that demonstrate our commitment to transparency and user choice.

  • Transparency – We already clearly label most of the ads provided by Google on the AdSense partner network and on YouTube. You can click on the labels to get more information about how we serve ads, and the information we use to show you ads. This year we will expand the range of ad formats and publishers that display labels that provide a way to learn more and make choices about Google’s ad serving.
  • Choice – We have built a tool called Ads Preferences Manager, which lets you view, delete, or add interest categories associated with your browser so that you can receive ads that are more interesting to you.
  • Control – You can always opt out of the advertising cookie for the AdSense partner network here. To make sure that your opt-out decision is respected (and isn’t deleted if you clear the cookies from your browser), we have designed a plug-in for your browser that maintains your opt-out choice.

To find out more about what Google is doing in this important area, please visit our Public Policy blog and Privacy Center.

These are pretty reasonable options. Scott Gilbertson of Wired points out that they are not ideal, and that the whole thing is pretty intrusive:

In short, Google plans to track your online moves and build a collection of “interests” based on which websites you visit. For example, if you start your day on the Major League Baseball homepage everyday, Google will know that you’re more likely to respond to ads for baseball paraphernalia.

Along similar lines are the “previous interaction” ads that will allow Google to show ads based on demonstrated behaviors. For example, if you put a shiny new Nikon D700 in your shopping cart, but never actually purchase it, Google will offer advertisers a way to place ads for the D700. Think of it as a way of constantly reminding you of the things you’re lusting after.

In a perfect world Google’s new ad system would be opt-in. Unfortunately in our world it’s opt-out, perhaps not ideal, but at least you can turn it off.

Don’t expect it to be easy to opt out though. Google is using a cookie to turn off the tracking, which means you’ll need to opt out on each and every PC you use and every browser you use on those PCs. Worse, should you ever delete Google’s opt-out cookie, you’ll need to opt out again…

As a consumer and user of the internet, you now need to decide whether it’s OK for Google to keep track of what you see and do online and to show you ads based on it. If you choose “yes,” then you’ll start to see ads that are more applicable to you, and a big pile of information will be stored.

If you’re using a loyalty card to get discounts at your local grocer, like Giant Eagle’s Advantage Card, you’ve already made that decision elsewhere. If you share a computer with others and you don’t each log in separately, your collected information will be based on the pages that all of you visit.

If you choose “no,” then you’ll continue to see ads based only on the search words you just typed or the content of the page you’re currently visiting. They might be less useful to you.

But most importantly, keep in mind that if you do nothing, you’ve effectively chosen “yes.”

Photo credit: “Spy Cam” by PhoebeJ