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Google Ads: And the Research Means…?

December 8, 2014

I read “5 Viewability Findings from Google.” Frankly I am not certain if the five results are good news or bad news.

Here’s an example:

56.1% of all display ad impressions never appeared on a screen, Google’s research found.

Does this mean that Google needs to do more to get ads viewed? One approach would be to use the incredibly annoying approach that displays an ad, hides the “skip” or “close” option, and uses flashing text to communicate its powerful message. Perhaps soon?

Another example:

Page position isn’t always the best indicator of viewability, Google’s research found. In fact, far from all above-the-fold ad impressions are viewable, and many below-the-fold ones are. The median viewability for ad units above-the-fold was 68%, Google said, compared with 40% below-the-fold. Perhaps counter intuitively, the most “viewable” ads were not placed at the top of publisher pages, but were actually located directly “above-the-fold,” at the bottom of the visible part of a webpage immediately after it loaded.

So ads can be anywhere to be viewed? I like the “counter intuitive angle” because it suggests that Google data are clarifying what users really do. Don’t users look for results that answer their question? I suppose that too is counter intuitive.

Please, work through the other three findings.

It seems to me that Google ads appear to be chugging along as long at the user is accessing search results using a desktop computer. Don’t most folks access Google and other online information via a mobile device? Less screen real estate, right?

Are there other source of revenue that will replace the difference between the ad power of a dinosaur type of access and the new breed of cat access?

Stephen E Arnold, December 8, 2014

Google: More Details on Mobile Devices

November 24, 2014

I read “Google Adds Detailed Info to Shopping Search Results on Mobile Devices.” Google has plenty of information about products if any of the Ramanathan Guha data structures have been put in place. The write up says:

Starting this week, mobile users searching for products on Google will see detailed information, specs, store availability and customer reviews. In addition, select products on Google Shopping will also have 360-degree views for a closer look.

Are these listings ads? I know that when I use my mobile devices to log into Google I often have to fiddle around to get what I call the classic desktop presentation. Google seems to have some difficulty figuring out what to put in front of users.

More on a mobile device can be problematic. I was looking for the street on which I lived in Brazil using my eye pad. I could not find a way to get around the information shoehorned on a limited viewing space.

Mobile is creating some online ad revenue challenges for Google. If more information crowds out ads, I ask, “Maybe the more information is a paid listing?” The write up does not provide any information to help me answer my questions.

I long for the good old days of Froogle and the catalog service. Call me a dinosaur.

Stephen E Arnold, November 24, 2014

Quote to Note: Users Want Relevant Results

October 6, 2014

I highlighted this remarkable, earth shaking statement from “Google+ Is Hurting the Internet.” Here’s the passage:

…they [users] prefer to get the most relevant results.

The information appears in a Web page presenting “objective study results” conducted for a European group.

The target is poor, old Google. The company has to pump up revenues and margins. Amazon and Facebook are embracing online advertising. The Google X moonshots have not delivered big bucks to the Mountain View redoubt. Mobile search behaves differently from the old fashioned pay to play content inspired by the GoTo, Overture, and Yahoo approach.

What to do?

One answer is or may be Google Plus and user produced content. Another may be to create new user experiences. Some Google users have spotted nesting, a method that creates a Google page with ads within search “experiences.”

Check out the “Hurting” write up. The page links to other content. Is the analysis on point? Well, for the EC crowd, the report just validates what the EC has believed for a few years. For those who root on Google, the report is a misinterpretation of the high value Google delivers for advertisers and the loyal and possible naive users.

Stephen E Arnold, October 6, 2014

Open Source AdDetector Flags Native Advertising

September 24, 2014

Though many news sites allow ads to more or less (depending on the site) blend in with their real articles, this native advertising is usually easy enough to spot if you know what you’re looking for. Still, it can put a crimp in one’s skimming speed. Now, Google engineer Ian Webster offers the open source AdDetector, a browser plug-in that makes such “stories” more obvious. The plug-in is currently available for Chrome and Firefox. The description states:

“AdDetector reveals articles with corporate sponsors. This browser plugin puts a red banner above articles that may appear unbiased but are actually ads or press releases. Its goal is to improve transparency in media and on the web. Trusted by 14,000+ people, AdDetector spots ads in over 100 top newspapers and online publications. More sites are being added daily. If you’d like to see a site added, tweet, email, or use this form.”

The page includes screenshots of its banners in action. The software works by detecting sponsor markings on these pages, many of which are not visible to readers. There is no word on the plug-in’s error rate, but it seems bound to smooth the path for news speed-readers like me.

Cynthia Murrell, September 24, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Paying for Online: How Would This Work?

August 17, 2014

I read “The Internet’s Original Sin.” Talk about an interesting idea. Quite an insight: Pay for online access. So original. I believe the write up is confident in this radical concept.

Here is a passage I noted. The author recounts his experience at He recalls:

At the end of the day, the business model that got us funded was advertising. The model that got us acquired was analyzing users’ personal homepages so we could better target ads to them. Along the way, we ended up creating one of the most hated tools in the advertiser’s toolkit: the pop-up ad. It was a way to associate an ad with a user’s page without putting it directly on the page, which advertisers worried would imply an association between their brand and the page’s content. Specifically, we came up with it when a major car company freaked out that they’d bought a banner ad on a page that celebrated anal sex. I wrote the code to launch the window and run an ad in it. I’m sorry. Our intentions were good.

Intentions that were good. Hmmm. Flash forward a lifetime in the zippy world of the Internet. I learn:

I have come to believe that advertising is the original sin of the web. The fallen state of our Internet is a direct, if unintentional, consequence of choosing advertising as the default model to support online content and services. Through successive rounds of innovation and investor story time, we’ve trained Internet users to expect that everything they say and do online will be aggregated into profiles (which they cannot review, challenge, or change) that shape both what ads and what content they see.

So what’s the fix?

One simple way forward is to charge for services and protect users’ privacy…Users will pay for services that they love.


I recall that the for fee online services charged their users for information. This worked reasonably well, but the number of customers was modest. Dialog Information Services was the Big Dog. LexisNexis had the law firms whose employees would spend when clients paid the bill. SDC Orbit survived with some must have specialty files. Similarly there was success in a few other commercial shops.

But these services reached only those who met certain criteria:

  1. Money to spend
  2. Interest/motivation to learn the ins and outs of the systems
  3. Expertise to figure out what the systems were outputting.

Consumer services did come along, but these did not capture the markets which the innovators sought. Remember CompuServe? The Source? Prodigy? Dialcom?

Charging for information, in my experience, trims the number of people using a service significantly. My rule of thumb is that only three to five percent of a free service’s users will pay for the service. Those who have to use the for fee service look for ways of reducing the cost of online access.

I am confident that the whiz kids at the Atlantic have better data. Their approach might be able to show the old, panting dogs like Cambridge Scientific (Dialog), Reed Elsevier (LexisNexis), Dow Jones (Factiva), and Ebsco (bunches of confusingly named services) how to make online information generate substantial dough. Thomson Reuters and Bloomberg have a formula, but the general population is not too keen on these services.

Good enough is the cultural hook today. If one has to pay for “better”, I think there will be quite a few innovators who go back to business models that produce substantial revenue.

Like it or not, advertising is the go to solution. Oh, don’t forget to subscribe to the Atlantic in hard copy. You don’t get the good stuff for free. What’s ad supported are analyses that call for Google to walk away from $60-$65 billion in revenue this year.

I bet that is an idea that Messrs Brin and Page will embrace.

Stephen E Arnold, August 17, 2014

Xoogler Under Pressure: The Yahoo Soap Opera Renews for Another Quarter

July 16, 2014

When Chris Kitze and I started The Point (Top 5% of the Internet), we admired the Yahoo Directory. Our goal was much narrowed than Yahoo’s. We focused on putting Web sites in the Point directory that meet our criteria for family friendly and young student friendly sites. That was in 1993 or 1994. The site was a hit and we sold the company to CMGI, and the Point ended up at Lycos. That deal was pretty successful for me, and I learned three things in the wild and wooly, pre crash Internet era 20 years ago.

First, selling ads was difficult. In the early days, there were no solid guidelines for how big an ad could be. Blinking and flashing were annoying, but there was not user backlash with these lame attempts to attract attention. Proving from log data who clicked and other details required scripts and machine resources to grind through the huge files our Sparcs happily pumped out. I learned that ads were indeed good money. But the 1993 Internet required our team to be the digital equivalent of Roman trireme rowers. I don’t recall much time off, and it was hard work.

Selling ads is hard work. The landscape is altered by the process. There’s no guarantee there’s gold in them thar riverbeds. Source:

Second, advertisers were reluctant to pay up front. A problem Google solved with its “account” method. We were stupid. We sent an invoice, the usage data, and waited for the check to come in the mail. Basic lesson: collecting for any online service can be difficult. When times are tough, advertisers shuffle priorities and our invoices filtered to the bottom of the stack. Collections were painful.

Third, making pages in 1993 was a time consuming affair. We experimented with many technologies, toolkits, and even systems like the incredibly sluggish Cold Fusion were tested in 1995. We learned that the best way to create Web pages in the early 90s was to code ‘em up, shake ‘em out, and let ‘em loose. I repeatedly asked myself, “Why did I agree to put resources into a family friendly online service?”

I read two “real” news stories this morning. Neither has been connected in the blog posts and news streams flowing into my Oversight service. Let me point to each and then offer a handful of observations. I would suggest you keep the three factoids I learned from the Point (Top 5% of the Internet) start up.

The first item is “Yahoo Misses In Q2 With Revenue Of $1.04B, EPS Of $0.37.” At a time when newspapers and magazines are gasping for oxygen, Yahoo seems to have no turbocharger to activate. One Alibaba follows its dream, Yahoo has only its in hand properties and acquisition opportunities to produce another Klondike Gold Rush. The write up said:

Yahoo reported its second-quarter financial performance, including revenue (excluding traffic acquisition costs, or TAC) of $1.04 billion and non-GAAP earnings per share of $0.37. Revenue including TAC was $1.08. Analysts had expected the company to earn $0.38 on revenue of ex-TAC of $1.08 billion.

The quote to note about Yahoo earnings is:

The company stated in its release that revenue growth is its “top priority,” and that it is “not satisfied with [its] Q2 results” in that context.

The second reports presents some good news for Microsoft. True, the write up does not mention the impending layoffs or the dismal device market share that this former monopoly now has. “Microsoft to Surpass Yahoo in Global Digital Ad Market Share This Year.”

Unlike some “experts” I view information about online advertising with considerable skepticism. I don’t think the individual numbers presented an “facts” are important. What struck me as important is this statement:

Yahoo’s push to maintain its position as a top global ad seller will take another hit in 2014, according to new projections from eMarketer. Though Yahoo’s ad revenues will be back in the black this year, increasing its global digital ad revenues by 2.7% after a decline of 2.1% in 2013 to reach $3.53 billion, the company’s share of the $140.15 billion digital advertising market will fall from 2.86% to 2.52%.

Microsoft—believe it or not—appears to be doing better than Yahoo in the ad battle.

The big point in my opinion is that Yahoo has racked up falling ad revenue and will continue to lost online advertising market share, not because other vendors like Microsoft are doing a bang up job. I seem to recall that the Xoogler running Yahoo saw only happy faces in the revenue a few months ago. Like IBM’s slowing arcing down numbers, Yahoo appears to be riding a fading wave.

Several observations:

  1. Xooglers do not automatically generate money. In fact, Google’s revenue comes from its magical online search results ad system. (Anyone remember and Overture?) I bet Yahoo does.
  2. Selling online advertising is as difficult today as it was in the era of The Point (Top 5% of the Internet). Google’s approach relies on advertisers who will deposit money to be spent, so some of the collection hassle is ameliorated.
  3. Yahoo has been in turn around mode for a long time. Maybe AOL and Yahoo should get married and produce fat, happy revenue.

Now about the Yahoo search system. I find the results less than satisfying. I can’t figure out how to look at Louisville-related news. I continue to have difficulty logging into my for fee Yahoo mail account when I am out of the country. I suppose I am the Lone Ranger in my view of Yahoo. That’s okay but I see declines as due to more users than myself.

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2014

The Rise of Internet Ad Revenue Continues

May 16, 2014

The article titled US Internet Ad Revenue Surpasses Broadcast on SFGate announced the tipping point for TV and print advertising has arrived. This may not come as a huge surprise to Generations X and Y who have watched with increasing annoyance as ads increased on internet videos across the board. Gone are the days when a Hulu-aired episode had just one commercial, or a Youtube video began right away, rather than pausing for an ad. The article states,

“For the first time, U.S. Internet advertising revenue has surpassed that of broadcast television thanks to sharp growth in mobile and digital video ads.

That’s according to a report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which said Thursday that Internet advertising revenue rose 17 percent to a record $42.8 billion in 2013. Broadcast TV ad revenue, in comparison, was $40.1 billion in 2013.

Mobile advertising revenue more than doubled to $7.1 billion from $3.4 billion in 2012…”

The article credits the alteration to companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook and their augmented attendance to mobile ads. The survey was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The article does not comment on the future of Internet advertising revenue, but it is easy to imagine that the numbers will only continue to rise.

Chelsea Kerwin, May 16, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Fetopolis Find Fault with Facebook Marketing

March 16, 2014

The article titled This $US600,000 Facebook Ad Disaster Is A Warning Small Business Owners on Business Insider Australia tells the story of Kapur Brar, CEO of small business Fetopolis. Fetopolis is a compendium of online fashion magazines with a healthy online following. Until recently, Brar relied heavily on marketing through Facebook, spending $100,000 a day. The article explains why Brar has “fallen out of love with Facebook,”

“He discovered…that his Facebook fanbase was becoming polluted with thousands of fake likes from bogus accounts. He can no longer tell the difference between his real fans and the fake ones. Many appear fake because the users have so few friends, are based in developing countries, or have generic profile pictures. At one point, he had a budget of more than $US600,000 for Facebook ad campaigns, he tells us. Now he believes those ads were a waste of time.”

Strangely, this story isn’t really being told, in spite of Facebook having 25 million small businesses using Facebook for marketing at varying levels of sophistication.

Did the purchase of WhatsApp cause this interesting story to slip into oblivion? The article offers some defense of Facebook- the majority of customers are happy, the payment of Brar’s bill is disputed, and yet it is also true that Facebook does not allow for third party “click audits,” which is standard practice.

Chelsea Kerwin, March 16, 2014

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Inflation or Desperation: Pricing Free Online Services

March 14, 2014

Yep, it’s illogical. How can a free online service get a price tag. Easy as Amazon’s boosting the fee for Prime and Facebook’s cooking up whizzy new types of advertising. But the big news is tucked between the lines of “Desktop Search to Decline $1.4 Billion as Google Users Shift to Mobile.”

Here’s a tasty factoid:

In the scope of Google’s overall ad revenues, mobile search is gaining significant share. Up from 19.4% in 2013, mobile search will comprise an estimated 26.7% of the company’s total ad revenues this year. Desktop search declined to 63.0% of Google’s ad revenues in 2013, having already fallen from 72.7% in 2012.

You may have noticed how lousy the search results are from Bing, Google, and Yahoo. Even the metasearch engines are struggling. Just run some queries on or and do some results comparisons.

Because most of the world’s Internet users rely on Google to deliver comprehensive and accurate results, users are unaware of the information that is not easily findable. Investigators and professional researchers are increasingly aware that finding information is getting harder, a log harder if our research is on the beam.

As users shift from desktops to mobile the GoTo/Overture advertising model loses efficiency. There are a number of reasons, including the difficulty of entering queries while riding a crowded bus to the small screens to the dorky big type interfaces that are gaining popularity to the need to provide a brain dead single / limited function app to help a person locate pizza.

For Google and other desktop centric companies, the shift has implications for advertising revenue. Smaller screens and changing behavior means the old GoTo / Overture model won’t work. The impact on traditional Web sites is not good. Here’s a report for a company that did the search engine optimization thing, the redesign thing, and the new marketing “experts” thing. Looks grim, doesn’t it.


I won’t name the owner of this set of red arrows, but you can check out your own Web site and blog usage stats and compare your “performance” to this outfit’s.

Read more

Google Is Yesterday: Apps, Not Search, the Future

March 10, 2014

I read “Google Searches for role in App Age.” This is a for fee item, so you will need to pony up money or buy a copy of the dead tree edition of the March 10, 2014, Wall Street Journal. If you have a WSJ account, here’s your link, gentle reader, and click on the “Top Stories in Tech” by Rolfe Winkler. You may want to try this link too. Great name, Rolfe.

The point of the write up for those who have not been watching Google with Murdochesque eye wear is that mobile users use apps. Mobile users are not too hip to the Web search thing.

According the the write up:

On a phone, links to apps often are more useful than Web links. The apps may be tuned for the smaller screen, and tap features of the phone, like knowing a user’s location, to provide more relevant information: the Open Table app can automatically show restaurants nearby.

Be still my heart. The write up points out:

Speaking at a conference last week, Nikesh Arora, Google’s chief business officer, said that while mobile ads are less lucrative than desktop ones today, he believes in the long-term mobile ad revenue “will be a multiple” of desktop ads due to all the extra information smartphones can capture about their users.

Was the WSJ expecting Google to watch as Facebook wormed into the global social app opportunity?

Several observations:

  1. Google is based on doing a better job of Web search than Fast Search & Transfer did
  2. Google is based on an idea developed by GoTo, implemented by Overture, and a once opportunity rich play by Yahoo
  3. The Google train has been chugging down the Web search path for more than a decade. Trains age.

Just as the automobile put the nose lock on trains, Google is working overtime to make sure its momentum does not abate. But an airplane-like breakthrough may be looming.

Will Google be able to generate revenue from its many side ventures so that top line revenue does not suffer erosion? Will Google be able to deal with a business model built on the missteps of Alta Vista, Fast Search’s vision that enterprise search was its future, and Yahoo’s stumbles?

These are interesting questions. Just as Amazon struggles to put lipstick on the pig of its soaring costs, Google seems to be frantically rummaging through its cosmetics drawer and “searching” for a plastic surgeon to make sure it is one compelling creature.

Barges, balloons, bio-engineering—perhaps these are the future of Google or not. Even the WSJ closes its somewhat shallow write up with a nod to Facebook’s “mobile app ads for engagement.” No matter. Search is not dead, but it is increasingly marginalized.

Stephen E Arnold, March 10, 2014

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