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Google Allegedly Just Gets a Good Idea: A Data Platform

April 24, 2015

Wow. I read some interesting and often crazy stuff. But this is a keeper. Navigate to “Google Builds a Data Platform That’s the Last Piece of Its Ad Empire. Connects Dots for Marketers and Challenges Facebook.” Never mind that the Google has been working on the data platform thing for advertising for what is it now, 12 or 13 years. Never mind that the guts of the ad system’s interfaces have been a project at the Google for more than a decade. Never mind that the guts of the data platform idea originated before Google hired Drs. Halevy and Guha along with hundreds of other scientists and engineers eager to knit together data from Google’s various repositories. But, hey, it is an advertising Web site, and I assume advertising experts are a heck of a lot more informed than little old me.

I read:

Of course, Google faces regulatory scrutiny for any move it makes, as well as talk of anti-competitive practices. In fact, the company was charged in Europe last week with behaving like a monopoly in search. The ad tech community has been concerned that Google is offering all the services that lock advertisers into its ecosystem and squeeze out rivals.

What the write is about is the “lead” which Facebook has over Google. The problem is not technology, in my humble opinion. The problem is that Google is focused on technology and Facebook was built to allow a person to get a date. Facebook followed its social-human thing, and the GOOG has been embracing the ever lovable zeros and ones. There are Googlers at Facebook, but Facebook will not become a Google. I would argue that Google cannot become a Facebook.

The data platform is secondary to the source of the information fueling the respective systems. Facebook users are the content sources. Google’s content comes from other places. Both companies face significant challenges and neither is likely to morph into another.

Why not merge into a Googbook or Facegle? If it works for Comcast and Time Warner, it might work for Google and Facebook. Ad buys just become easier. Ad people often prefer the easy approach.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2015

A Former Googler Reflects

April 10, 2015

After a year away from Google, blogger and former Googler Tim Bray (now at Amazon) reflects on what he does and does not miss about the company in his post, “Google + 1yr.” Anyone who follows his blog, ongoing, knows Bray has been outspoken about some of his problems with his former employer: First, he really dislikes “highly-overprivileged” Silicon Valley and its surrounds, where Google is based. Secondly, he found it unsettling  to never communicate with the “actual customers paying the bills,” the advertisers.

What does Bray miss about Google? Their advanced bug tracking system tops the list, followed closely by the slick and efficient, highly collaborative internal apps deployment. He was also pretty keen on being paid partially in Google stock between 2010 and 2014. The food on campus is everything it’s cracked up to be, he admits, but as a remote worker, he rarely got to sample it.

It was a passage in Bray’s “neutral” section that most caught my eye, though. He writes:

“The number one popular gripe against Google is that they’re watching everything we do online and using it to monetize us. That one doesn’t bother me in the slightest. The services are free so someone’s gotta pay the rent, and that’s the advertisers.

“Are you worried about Google (or Facebook or Twitter or your telephone company or Microsoft or Amazon) misusing the data they collect? That’s perfectly reasonable. And it’s also a policy problem, nothing to do with technology; the solutions lie in the domains of politics and law.

“I’m actually pretty optimistic that existing legislation and common law might suffice to whack anyone who really went off the rails in this domain.

“Also, I have trouble getting exercised about it when we’re facing a wave of horrible, toxic, pervasive privacy attacks from abusive governments and actual criminals.”

Everything is relative, I suppose. Still, I think it understandable for non-insiders to remain a leery about these companies’ data habits. After all, the distinction between “abusive government” and businesses is not always so clear these days.

Cynthia Murrell, April 10, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at


The Cost of a Click Through Bing Ads

April 9, 2015

Wow. As an outsider to the world of marketing, I find these figures rather astounding. MarketingProfs shares an infographic titled, “The 20 Most Expensive Bing Ads Keywords.” The data comes from a recent analysis by WordStream of 10 million English keywords, grouped into categories. Writer Vahe Habeshian tells us:

“WordStream analyzed some 10 million English keywords and grouped the them into categories to determine the most expensive types of keywords (see infographic, below).

“(Also see a similar analysis of the most expensive keywords in Google AdWords advertising from 2011.)

“The most expensive keyword on Bing Ads is ‘lawyer,’ which would cost advertisers seeking the top ad spot a whopping $109.21 per click. Not surprisingly, the top 5 keywords are related to the legal world, indicating how lucrative clients can be.”

Yes, almost $110 per click whether legitimate, a human error, or a robot script. That’s a lot of fruitless clicks. It seems irrational, but it must be working if companies keep spending the dough. Right?

The word in second place, “attorney,” comes to $101.77 per click, and “DUI” is a comparative bargain at $68.56. After the top five, law-related words, there are such valuable terms as “annuity,” “rehab,”  and “exterminator.” See the infographic for more examples.

Cynthia Murrell, April 09, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

Google Altered Search Results?!  

April 8, 2015

If you know anything about search results, search engine optimization, and search algorithms, you probably wondered if Google ever changed its search results so they would be favor one search result over another.  Google already alters results with Google AdWords, the Right to Forgotten, and removing results if they break rules.

The FTC revealed via The Wall Street Journal that Google has been altering its search results for profit: “Inside The US Antitrust Probe Of Google.”  The FTC found that Google was using its monopoly on search to harm Internet users and its rivals.  FTC recommended a lawsuit be brought against Google for three of its practices.  The FTC voted to end the investigation in 2013, which is strange, but they did so because they had competing recommendations.

Google continues to stand by its own innocence, citing that the case closed two years ago and that people continue to use its services.  There is one big thing that the Wall Street Journal points out:

“On one issue—whether Google used anticompetitive tactics for its search engine—the competition staff recommended against a lawsuit, although it said Google’s actions resulted in “significant harm” to rivals. In three other areas, the report found evidence the company used its monopoly behavior to help its own business and hurt its rivals.”

Can this be considered part of their “do not evil” bylaw?

Whitney Grace, April 8, 2015

Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

Pooling the Pangaea Ad Pool

April 2, 2015

In order to capitalize more on Internet ads, some of the biggest news published have pooled their resources to form the Pangaea Alliance, says Media Post in the article, “Premium Publishers Including Guardian, Reuters, FT Launch Programmatic Alliance.”  The Pangaea Alliance includes CNN International, the Financial Times, The Guardian, Reuters, and The Economist.  Combined all these publishers have an audience over 110 million users.  The Pangaea will make ad inventory available to advertisers using programmatic buying.

All participating members will pool their audiences and share their data with each.  This is very big news, considering most companies keep their customer list a secret.

“ ‘We know that trust is the biggest driver of brand advocacy, so we have come together to scale the benefits of advertising within trusted media environments,’ stated Tim Gentry, global revenue director at Guardian News and media and Pangaea Alliance project lead.”

Rubicon Project will power the Pangaea Alliance.  The alliance feeds into the demand for premium programmatic advertising venues on a massive scale.  The biggest problem it faces will be the customers.  They might have a large combined clientele, but will they actually want to pay for these outfits’ information?

Whitney Grace, April 2, 2015
Stephen E Arnold, Publisher of CyberOSINT at

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

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