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 ArnoldIT.com, 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 Ixquick.com or DuckDuckGo.com 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.

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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, www.wsj.com 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

Branded Content at the New York Times

January 13, 2014

I did not think I would see the day. Bloomberg Businessweek informs us that the “New York Times Grudgingly Embraces Branded Content.” Though other news outfits have adopted the controversial money-making trend, it somehow seemed like the Times would prefer to shutter its doors before blurring the line between articles and ads. I guess not.

Reporter Felix Gillette describes the sneaky marketing trend:

“Branded content is a newish form of digital advertising in which marketers create story-like units that live among a publisher’s editorial products and share the same underlying aesthetic, tone, and technology. In recent years a growing number of online publishers and advertisers have embraced the change, in part because it allows brands to create ideas and messages specifically tailored for an audience, the sort of content that can live at the heart—rather than the periphery—of the publication. Brands are willing to pay higher rates for the opportunity to do just that. The downside of the format is that it comes with some risk of blurring the line between a publisher’s editorial voice and a brand’s—and, on occasion, has become the source of hand-wringing among journalistic watchdogs and ethicists who worry it can undermine integrity.”

Well, yes, those are the concerns. In an unenthusiastic memo to employees, the paper’s publisher insists it will be clear which content is advertising and which is real reporting. The branded-content pages will, after all, be surrounded by a blue border. See, it’s the essence of clarity. What could possibly go wrong?

Cynthia Murrell, January 13, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Ad Viewability Initiative Taking Off

December 24, 2013

An article posted on Business Insider titled Google Will Now Only Charge For Ads That People Can Actually See commented that this adjustment in advertisement policy by Google. The high number of online ads that aren’t being seen (high as in half) are often hidden at the bottom of the page or under other content.

The article spells out the changes:

“Google said its customers will now be able to make real-time display ad purchases that only include impressions that meet the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s viewability standard. The IAB designates a viewable ad as any impression where at least of half of the ad is viewable on the page for one second or more.”

Google’s viewability initiative also included the announcement of the sale of reservable inventory in April. They are the first large-scale ad network to take viewability into consideration, and will most likely be able to charge higher prices for their ad space. However, viewability “has been a controversial topic in online advertising” especially due to the lack of an industry standard for a viewable impression. This has not prevented the sale of ads. Of course it remains to be seen how revenue will be made up elsewhere.

Chelsea Kerwin, December 24, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Advice for Adwords

December 6, 2013

According to Eric Liu, chief custodial technician at Rocket Lease, people are using Google Adwords wrong. He offers advice on how to correctly use the advertising tool in his blog post: “How To Bid For CPC Campaigns (aka “Stop Doing Adwords Wrong”). Liu states that most Adwords advice suggest users play the guessing game with bidding. By grouping keywords together and applying a consistent bidding strategy users can rely on computers to manage their ad campaigns to make the biggest profit.

Liu calculated how to maximize profits with an algebraic formula and illustrates with sample scenarios. The formula is a bit complex to follow, but play around with few numbers and it should work out.

Liu notes that his formula is entirely experimental:

“It’s important to note again that you can’t look up the information to set your CPC bids or calculate it theoretically — it has to be determined experimentally. There’s nothing you can do to just start with the perfect campaign. You will make your best guesses, experiment, and then use the feedback to estimate the shape of the curve. That means you will start by running suboptimal campaigns, then use the information to get closer to optimal. The better your initial guesses, the less money you’ll spend in the “curve discovery/estimation” part of the process.”

Who says you do not use math outside of high school? By applying Liu’s formula you may be able to make a little more money out of your Web site’s ads and lower overhead costs.

Whitney Grace, December 06, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Google Surpasses Print Periodicals in Ad Revenue

December 3, 2013

Google has passed an ad-revenue milestone, Business Insider reveals in, “Google Is Now Bigger than Both the Magazine and Newspaper Industries.” Writer Jim Edwards tells us that Google is expected to rake in about $60 billion this year, mostly from advertising. The article includes a chart which compares Google’s U.S.-based ad revenue to that of U.S. magazines and newspapers since 2004. The graph shows Google pulling ahead last year.

Edwards writes:

“In part this is because the print media has suffered such a precipitous decline. But note that Google’s last full year results from 2012 are approaching the historic maximum that all magazines combined achieved back in 2007 before the crash. It’s won’t be long now, in other words, before Google not only eclipses magazines but also becomes bigger than magazines ever were — even when there was no Internet to compete with. That’s staggering.”

Is it? Personally, I don’t find this revelation that surprising, though the chart is worth a look if only to examine how the fortunes of newspapers have fallen over the last nine years. Is it really so surprising that Google is on track to dominate the information field?

Cynthia Murrell, December 03, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Mobile Advertising Still Leaves Much to Be Desired

November 27, 2013

At least there is plenty of room for improvement. Business Insider tells us that “Execs from Criteo and the Weather Channel Both Agree: Mobile Ads Still Kinda Suck.” Hmm, we predict more fancy dancing around ad pricing in the future. In the meantime, The Weather Company‘s chief money man sums up the current state of affairs; writer Aaron Taube reports:

“Though Curt Hecht, chief global revenue officer for The Weather Company, had a more explicitly positive view of the creative offerings available on mobile platforms, he said that as it stands now, the mechanisms used to buy and sell ads on smartphones and tablets are a ‘complete mess.’”

Taube notes that Hecht knows what he is talking about, considering that his company’s Weather Channel app is extremely popular. What will it take to create better advertising systems for mobile devices? Greg Coleman, president of ad serving platform Criteo, points out that new technology calls for new expertise. The article informs us:

“In order for ads to improve, Coleman said, the industry would need to see advertising made by creatives who had come up with a mobile background and who possess what Coleman calls the mobile DNA. ‘If you go back to the late 90s when the digital world started to crop up, every editor-in-chief wanted to be in charge of their website,’ Coleman said. ‘They’re the last people who should have been allowed to tinker with the new medium. A new skillset is going to emerge that doesn’t exist to a large degree today.’”

Coleman goes on to observe that mobile ad exchanges that fail to build or embrace that skillset quickly will be in trouble in a few years. Marketers are impatient for new ways to leverage all this data they increasingly collect, and will become more choosy as better options emerge. Mobile ad folks who want to stay in the game had better be on their toes.

Cynthia Murrell, November 27, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Paris Holds The Next Criteo

November 17, 2013

Ads are how many companies make money using the Internet and startups are creating other ways to monetize the Internet. The Paris-based Criteo, a company that helps retailers make their ads more personal for users, recently went public and according to “5 Reasons The Next Criteo Will Also Come From Paris” from Rude Baguette says that Venture Capitalists are on the hunt for the next Criteo. Why Paris, you may ask?

Since the merger of Publicis and Omnicom advertising agencies co-headquarters have been established in both New York and Paris. Paris, however, is now considered the advertising center of the world, because Publicis has generated more revenue than Omnicom. Also since it started being traded publicly, Criteo has been buying up AdTech startups and the new IPO has allowed them to acquire new talent and money.

Paris has also surged ahead in the big data boom:

“As we noted last month, France has a bit of a Big Data mafia springing up right now. If not evident enough by events like Datajob, a Big Data recruitment event, the dozens of big data startups that have sprung out of ex-search giant Exalead may be a better indicator of how the number of Big Data startups will explode in Paris in the coming years. Whether it’s pre-, re-, or post-targeting, AdTech is powered by big data, and Paris has got the needed search expertise to create innovative solutions for AdTech startups.”

Paris is also Paris. People have flocked to the city for years for its centralized location in Europe as well as many of the major brands that already call it home. It is an economic epicenter that no one has paid attention to because of Europe’s recent financial crisis. Could it be that Paris is on its way to getting itself out of the red?

Whitney Grace, November 17, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Online Search: Ad Fraud and Relevance

November 13, 2013

Do you click on ads? Do you recognize ads? The dominance of Google translates to big money for capturing Google users’ attention.

How big of a problem is online fraud? There is a partial answer in the write up “Inside Ad Tech Fraud: Confessions of a Fake Web Traffic Buyer.” In addition to the revelations about online click fraud, the write up contains some fascinating quotations; for example:

Quality didn’t really matter to us, though.

I learned other things from the article as well. I know that the information in the story is accurate. Why would distorted or fraud-related information appear in a story about online? I underlined this statement:

I believe publishers are willing to do anything to make their economics work.

The word “anything” is an interesting one.

A few years ago, a colleague in New York City wanted my team to prepare a seminar about online ad fraud. I refused. Among the reasons was the simple fact that I wanted to avoid the pushback from “experts.”

As a result, I have avoided direct involvement in the methods that allegedly manipulate people like you, gentle reader. More recently, I have adopted the ostrich posture. I ignore what is now the norm. I prefer to live in a make believe world in which information is straight and true.

Life is simpler for me now. Online advertising is just so special. Online content benefits from the influence of advertising-supported information. Why pay for a commercial online service when the world is a click away. Ads make the content possible. In fact, ads are the point of content, right?

Stephen E Arnold, November 13, 2013

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