Has Alexa Become Unstoppable?

August 8, 2018

But for 98 percent of Alexa users’ failure to buy stuff by talking to Alexa, the device looks like a successful one.

Some at Beyond Search believe that digital home assistants are basically spying on us. Perhaps conversations and requests are being cataloged, and in some cases used against some in court. Is it possible that Amazon’s intelligence services have access to the Alexified content.

One hopes Google and Amazon and the like aren’t aiming to be big brother, Perhaps a different objective is in play. The CNBC story, “Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home: Advertisers Weigh In.”

We learned:

“The most expensive ad space in the future will be Alexa…hey are really just integrated in the shopping platform…. This has also opened up the door for marketers to sell items through Alexa apps. VaynerMedia worked on converting popular mobile game “Heads Up!” for Alexa, and was the first to integrate a voice-activated one time payment functionality to buy add-ons.

This story is not alone in predicting this. The Wall Street Journal called your home assistant “the new battleground” for ad dollars. If that is the case, we predict the advertisers are right and Amazon will have the advantage. While it might be projecting, we wouldn’t be surprised if this is already the end of Google Home. Money talks and Amazon has a giant window into that world. But the intelligence angle continues to capture our attention.

Patrick Roland, August 8, 2018

Google DoubleClick Lowers Ad Revenue

June 2, 2018

Power outages happen, so you wait for them to be fixed. In the digital age, however, when there is a power outage a day’s entire profits can be lost. ZDNet shares a story about a recent outage with Google’s ad stack: “Google’s DoubleClick Outage Should Force Marketers To Ask Some Hard Questions.”

DoubleClick went dark in March 2018 and it demonstrated how much publishers rely on Google. The search giant did not really care, though. Google simply shrugged its shoulders and said to limit tracking and change over to text ads. As a result, publishers are probably going to depend on more transparency. Here are the reasons why, according to the write up:

  1. DoubleClick is the dominant display ad serving platform and there aren’t other options.
  2. Google is a near monopoly with DoubleClick and already struggling Web publishers get punched in the head again.
  3. The ad stack on the Web is integrated so DoubleClick’s reliability woes are enough to make sites crawl.
  4. Google has rightly been focused on mobile and its core search ad business. That reality makes you wonder how much Google has invested in DoubleClick over the years.

The bug was eventually fixed, but it does not offer much of a resolution for future problems. DoubleClick advertises itself as a reliable company that runs on Google Cloud, but it was not reliable in March. Google can takes its sweet time to fix the bug, but what are publishers supposed to do when they are not making a profit?

Next up for Google DoubleClick?


Whitney Grace, June 2, 2018

Google Bans Bail Bond Ads

May 28, 2018

Google is moving forward with its efforts to manage certain types of advertisements.

Google has placed bail-bond companies in the same category as payday lenders, ArsTechnica reports, “Google Slams ‘For-Profit Bail-Bond Providers,’ Won’t Let Them Advertise.” The brief write-up points to Google’s announcement that it will no longer allow these companies to advertise on its platform. The post also supplies a link refreshing us on the 2016 ban placed on payday lenders. Writer Cyrus Farivar tells us:

“In a blog post, the company suggested that such ads constitute a ‘deceptive or harmful product,’ citing a 2016 study concluding that minority and low-income communities are typically most affected by such services. ‘For-profit bail-bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low-income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years,’ Google wrote….“Also in 2016, another study found that ‘there are 646,000 people locked up in more than 3,000 local jails throughout the US,’ simply for their inability to pay a bond, which is what drives many people to the services of a bondsman.”

The post cites advocacy group Color of Change, which had called for this ban. The group’s director believes it is high time corporations are held accountable for enabling what he considers the predatory for-profit bail business, and encourages other corporations to follow Google’s lead. In the meantime, Google’s ban is scheduled to take effect in July 2018.


Cynthia Murrell, May 28, 2018

Google: Excellence Evolves to Good Enough

May 25, 2018

I read “YouTube’s Infamous Algorithm Is Now Breaking the Subscription Feed.” I assume the write up is accurate. I believe everything I read on the Internet.

The main point of the write up seems to me to be that good enough is the high water mark.

I noted this passage, allegedly output by a real, thinking Googler:

Just to clarify. We are currently experimenting with how to show content in the subs feed. We find that some viewers are able to more easily find the videos they want to watch when we order the subs feed in a personalized order vs always showing most recent video first.

I also found this statement interesting:

With chronological view thrown out, it’s going to become even more difficult to find new videos you haven’t seen — especially if you follow someone who uploads at a regular time each day.

I would like to mention that Google, along wit In-Q-Tel, invested in Recorded Future. That company has some pretty solid date and time stamping capabilities. Furthermore, my hunch is that the founders of the company know the importance of time metadata to some of the Recorded Future customers.

What would happen if Google integrated some of Recorded Future’s time capabilities into YouTube and into good old Google search results.

From my point of view, good enough means “sells ads.” But I am usually incorrect, and I expect to learn just how off base I am when I explain how one eCommerce giant is about to modify the landscape for industrial strength content analysis. Oh, that company’s technology does the date and time metadata pretty well.

More on this mythical “revolution” on June 5th and June 6th. In the meantime, try and find live feeds of the Hawaii volcano event using YouTube search. Helpful, no?

Stephen E Arnold, May 25, 2018

Apple and Google: Beacons Beckon and Inform

May 17, 2018

I read “Apple News Officially Lets Publishers Use Google’s DoubleClick to Serve Ads.” The main idea is that a couple of large companies are teaming up in a way that matters: Advertising or at least keeping some folks happy. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but the news, if accurate, reminded me that making money is a goal which makes bad experiences like appointing some individuals to a company’s Board of Directors go away.

The write up asserts:

The ad-targeting options break down into two categories: context-based targeting and audience-based targeting. Contextual ads can be aimed based on the article’s publisher, its content category within Apple News and the tags a publisher appends to the individual article as well as according to whether it appears on an iPhone or iPad. Audience-wise, the ads can be targeted by a person’s location (though only at the designated market area level), their gender and their age group.

What’s this mean? A partial answer can be excavated from the glorious prose of these public documents:

  • US7039599, Method and apparatus for automatic placement of advertising
  • US7085682, System and method for analyzing website activity
  • US7349827, System and method for reporting website activity based on inferred attribution methodology
  • US7844488, Method of delivery, targeting, and measuring advertising over networks.

These documents can be downloaded from the USPTO. Think of the link as a beacon which is a heck of a lot less effective than the inventions disclosed in these patents.

Stephen E Arnold, May 17, 2018

Amazon Beats Google for Holiday Advertising

February 28, 2018

When Google first started out, it earned the majority of its income from online ads.  Online advertising used to be a surefire way for a regular income, but ad blockers, private browsing, and changes in the Internet of things have made Internet ad profits dwindle from dollars to cents.  Google used to be on top, but now Amazon might be angling its way to the top.  AdTechDaily published the article, “Amazon Leads The Crowd For Holiday Paid Search Advertising” how who dominated the 2017 holiday advertising market.

The data in the article is about Amazon UK, but the UK usually bears a strong resemblance to its American counterpart.  Kantar Media conducted a survey about click rates for UK retailers in the 2017 holiday season.  Amazon captured 8.8% of mobile ad clicks and 7.5% of desktop clicks.  The data collection for the survey was quite enlightening:

Kantar Media found that 4,259 advertisers sponsored the keywords via text ads on mobile search, compared with 3,798 advertisers sponsoring the same keywords via desktop search. Of these, only seven retailers generated a click share higher than 1% for both desktop and mobile search text advertising. Together, these retailers captured a combined 26% share of all desktop clicks and 28% of mobile clicks on the 990 retail keywords studied.Online giant Amazon.co.uk held a significant lead ahead of Argos, the retailer in second place for both desktop and mobile search ad clicks. Currys, John Lewis and online marketplace AO.com completed the top five in the list.

Google is a competitive advertising marketplace, but large retailers have the deep pockets and large inventories to give them a run or a “click” for their money  The retailers sponsor a higher number of keywords based on their inventories, so they can have bigger ad campaigns with bigger budgets.  It also does not hurt to have well-known brands in their inventories.  Luxury brands are always reliable.

Google is struggling with its online ads, shall we call this the Froogle Fumble?

Whitney Grace, February 28, 2018

Another Tale of Googzilla: The Browser Discontinuity

September 5, 2017

I read “My Friends at Google: It Is Time to Return to Not Being Evil.” The write up is a gentle, polite first person narrative about one browsers brush with the Google. Who knows if the narrative reflects the GOOG’s side of the story. I found these statements interesting. You, gentle reader, will have to consult the original and make your own decision.


Google increased their proximity with the Mozilla foundation. They [Google] also introduced new services such as Google Docs. These services were great, gained quick popularity, but also exposed the darker side of Google. Not only were these services made to be incompatible with Opera, but also encouraged users to switch their browsers.


Recently, our Google AdWords campaigns were suspended without warning [for the Vivaldi browser]


Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our [Vivaldi’s] Google AdWords account were suspended – without prior warning…When we reached out to Google to resolve the issue, we got a clarification masqueraded in the form of vague terms and conditions… In exchange for being reinstated in Google’s ad network, their in-house specialists dictated how we should arrange content on our own website and how we should communicate information to our users.


A monopoly both in search and advertising, Google, unfortunately, shows that they are not able to resist the misuse of power.

Intriguing if the information is accurate. Is the Google not the lovable, friendly outfit we love so much in Harrods Creek? Nah, as the write up explains:

After almost three months of back-and-forth, the suspension to our account has been lifted, but only when we bent to their requirements.

No problemo, right?

Stephen E Arnold, September 5, 2017


Online Ad Fraud? You Must Be Joking

July 25, 2017

Years ago a New York conference organizer who specialized in early morning breakfast meetings asked me, “Will you do an exposé about online advertising fraud?” My response to this question was, “No.”

Why did I drag my feet? Three reasons:

In the research for my first Google book “The Google Legacy,” which is now out of print but I sell pre-publication versions 13 years after I wrote it, I realized that online ads were easy to manipulate. Here’s one example. Write a script which visits a page and clicks on an ad. The poor advertiser’s account can be consumed in a nonce. No one paid much attention to this “feature,” and I had zero desire to get involved with ad types. Who wanted hassles when I was still working? Not me.

Second, explaining the who, what, why, and how involved imparting technical information to decidedly non tech type people. Sorry, that’s not for me. Leave that work to those who have the patience and personality to deal with jazzed Madison Avenue types.

Third, none of my contacts wanted to reveal that click fraud was a problem. The approach was similar to the memorable statement, “Android fragmentation? There’s no Android fragmentation.” Yeah, right.

Now there are some brave souls stepping forward in what may become a darned interesting interpersonal, intercompany, and legal battle. This possible dust up is one which I will watch far from the fray.,

To get a sense of what’s about the become either “real” or “fake” news, navigate to “Online Ad Fraud Is a Widespread Problem, Google and Other Big Ad Platforms Admit.” Now the “big” online ad platforms boil down to a two horse race. I suppose the smaller folks like the vendors of annoying weird links, annoying pop ups, and looped videos with raucous sound tracks may be keeping some secrets under a rock, there are people who just want to see those online ad accounts depleted by a software robot. Click, click, click, and the pre paid ad accounts goes down, down, down.

The write up points out:

Google-run tests found evidence of fake ad spaces sold on Google and Oath-owned programmatic ad platforms, as well as well as on PubMatic and AppNexus.

The point, I think, is that the vendors of online ads want to “prove” and “remove doubt” that online ads work. One should keep in mind that almost everything online is an ad. Amazon, for example, is one giant Sears catalog with manufacturers and sellers desperate for positive reviews and placement on the first page of Amazon’s result pages. Do you every look at page 14 when searching for cufflinks which hide USB drives?

The write up focuses on spoofing, offering:

The method is used to trick ad buyers into purchasing advertising space on websites that don’t exist, or that the sellers don’t have access to. Because of the speed and volume of advertising online when bought programmatically, it’s virtually impossible to check if an ad ran where sellers say it was supposed to run.

As long ago as 2003, i noticed that there are many ways and many reasons for fiddling with online ads.

Perhaps Facebook and Google, among others, will share their knowledge, concerns, and ideas. The thrill of losing ad revenue should make for some interesting PR and, possibly, legal activity.

Stephen E Arnold, July 25, 2017

Google and Hate Speech: None of This I Know It When I See It

June 7, 2017

I read “YouTube Clarifies “Hate Speech” Definition and Which Videos Won’t Be Monetized.” I don’t know much about defining abstractions because I live in rural Kentucky. Our governor just recommended prayer patrols to curb violence in Louisville, home of the Derby and lots of murders on weekends.

Google has nailed down the abstraction “hate speech.” According to the write up, Google’s definition is:

[content which] “promotes discrimination or disparages or humiliates an individual or group of people on the basis of the individual’s or group’s race, ethnicity, or ethnic origin, nationality, religion, disability, age, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other characteristic associated with systematic discrimination or marginalization.”


“inappropriate use of family entertainment characters,” which means content showing kid-friendly characters in “violent, sexual, vile, or otherwise inappropriate behavior,” no matter if the content is satirical or a parody. The final category is somewhat broad: “incendiary and demeaning content” means that anything “gratuitously” demeaning or shameful toward an individual or group is prohibited.”


“controversial issues or sensitive events,” which YouTube defines as “video content that features or focuses on sensitive topics or events including, but not limited to, war, political conflicts, terrorism or extremism, death and tragedies, sexual abuse, even if graphic imagery is not shown… For example, videos about recent tragedies, even if presented for news or documentary purposes, may not be eligible for advertising given the subject matter.”

This is good to know for three reasons:

  1. Google can define abstractions. No disambiguation subroutines are required.
  2. Google could run ads against this type of content and make money, but Google will not do that. (Did Google run ads against these types of content in the past? Nah, “do not evil” shuts the door on that question.)
  3. Facebook can process Google’s definitions and craft even more functional guidelines. (Me too is the basic process for innovation or becoming a publisher with editorial guidelines.)

Next up for Google to define are “love,” “truth,” justice,” and “salary data.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 7, 2017

About.com Still Running Google Adwords

May 18, 2017

I read “After 18 Years, About.com Is Changing Its Name and Shutting Down Its Website — Its CEO Reveals How It All Went Down.” The main idea is that About.com, a weird list of curated sites by topics, is dead. However, I noted this ad on May 15, 13 days after the struggling About.com took a bullet for the good of current information.


The ad appeared in a list of search results for sentiment analysis, not market sentiment analysis, but when someone is spending money to promote a terminated Web information service, that someone either is [a] blessed with oodles of cash, [b] oversees a crew of with it managers, or [c] does not know how to turn off Adwords.

Perhaps this approach to fiscal and marketing methods provides some insight into why the About.com Web site slumped to the moist early summer earth? Definitely a plus for the Google sales professional handling the dead company’s account.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2017

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