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

Big Tech Giants Not Bulletproof

February 22, 2018

It’s safe to say that the honeymoon is over for the big tech companies that use big data to the extreme. The likes of Facebook, Apple, Google, and Amazon had a rough 2017 and things aren’t looking up, according to Forbes story, “Big Trouble for Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple in 2018.”

According to the story 2017 was the year:

We realized that maybe, just maybe, FAGA (Facebook, Apple, Google, Amazon) were no different from car companies, real estate brokerages, banks, insurance companies, big pharma and other technology companies – those guys. When FAGA joined the family of “regular” companies they lost some appeal. In fact, if the trend continues, FAGA might even find themselves on the list of some of the most disrespected companies!

 

2017 made it clear that FAGA exists for their shareholders, partners, executives and customers, in that order. What an awakening for even the love-is-blind crowd: just say it ain’t so!  Just another company?

Things are not so rosy for tech companies that once claimed they would change the world. Net neutrality might cause them to drastically shift their business models, and a recent Vanity Fair story pulled back the curtain on Silicon Valley and revealed a hedonistic culture that is a drastic shift in our perception. Does this mean we are in for a tide shift in tech? Mmmmm, probably not. These giants are firmly planted, but it is proof they are not bulletproof.

Patrick Roland, February 22, 2018

Amazon and Google Voice Recognition Easily Fooled

January 31, 2018

Voice recognition technology has vastly improved over the past decade, but it still has a long way to go before it responds like a quick-thinking science-fiction computer.  CNET shares how funny and harmful voice recognition technology can be in the article, “Fooling Amazon and Googles’ Voice Recognition Isn’t Hard.”  What exactly is the problem with voice recognition technology?  If someone sounds like you, smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Echo with Alexa will allow that person to use your credit cards and access your personal information.

The smart speakers can be trained to recognize voices, so that they can respond according to an individual.  For example, families can program the smart speakers to recognize individual members so each person can access their personal information.  It is quite easy to fool Alexa and Googles’ voice recognition.  Purchases can be made vocally and personal information can be exposed.  There are ways to take precautions, such as disabling voice purchasing and there are features to turn of broadcasting your personal information.

In their defense, Google said voice recognition should not be used as a security feature:

Google warns you when you first set up voice recognition that a similar voice might be able to access your info. In response to this story, Kara Stockton on the Google Assistant team offered the following statement over email: Users shouldn’t rely upon Voice Match as a security feature. It is possible for a user to not be identified, or for a guest to be identified as a connected user. Those cases are rare, but they do exist and we’re continuing to work on making the product better.’

Maybe silence is golden after all.  It keeps credit cards and purchases free from vocal stealing.

Whitney Grace, January 31, 2018

Amazon and Google Voice Recognition Easily Fooled

January 25, 2018

Voice recognition technology has vastly improved over the past decade, but it still has a long way to go before it responds like a quick-thinking science-fiction computer.  CNET shares how funny and harmful voice recognition technology can be in the article, “Fooling Amazon and Googles’ Voice Recognition Isn’t Hard.”  What exactly is the problem with voice recognition technology?  If someone sounds like you, smart speakers like Google Home or Amazon Echo with Alexa will allow that person to use your credit cards and access your personal information.

The smart speakers can be trained to recognize voices so that they can respond according to an individual.  For example, families can program the smart speakers to recognize individual members so each person can access their personal information.  It is quite easy to fool Alexa and Googles’ voice recognition.  Purchases can be made vocally and personal information can be exposed.  There are ways to take precautions, such as disabling voice purchasing and there are features to turn of broadcasting your personal information.

In their defense, Google said voice recognition should not be used as a security feature:

Google warns you when you first set up voice recognition that a similar voice might be able to access your info. In response to this story, Kara Stockton on the Google Assistant team offered the following statement over email: Users shouldn’t rely upon Voice Match as a security feature. It is possible for a user to not be identified, or for a guest to be identified as a connected user. Those cases are rare, but they do exist and we’re continuing to work on making the product better.’

Maybe silence is golden after all.  It keeps credit cards and purchases free from vocal stealing.

Whitney Grace, January 25, 2018

Amazon Embraces a Sqrrl

January 24, 2018

I love names with no vowels. I read “Amazon’s Cloud Business Acquires Sqrrl, a Security Start-Up with NSA Roots.” Sqrrl is one of a number of cybersecurity vendors with interesting technology. The article sees the main point of the Amazon deal as part of the online giant’s effort to “pick up business from US intelligence agencies.”

Amazon has a “secret” region of data centers. Keep in mind that Ashburn, Virginia, may be the home to secret data centers. Some government agencies want their data housed in a secure manner.

Is there another angle to the deal?

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we asked: “Has Amazon’s AWS system been the target of individuals or groups looking to harvest data stored with what might be called casual procedures.”

Leaving data on some cloud services publicly accessible servers is a bit like leaving a hot and juicy hamburger on a picnic table on a warm summer day.

Sqrrl, without vowels of course, has some interesting technology which may have more utility than offering a dot point in response to an RFP.

Stephen E Arnold, January 24, 2018

Amazon Cloud Injected with AI Steroids

January 17, 2018

Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are huge cloud computing rivals.  Amazon wants to keep up with the competition, says Fortune, in the article, “Amazon Reportedly Beefing Up Cloud Capabilities In The Cloud.”  Amazon is “beefing up” its cloud performance by injecting it with more machine learning and artificial intelligence.   The world’s biggest retailer is doing this by teaming up with AI-based startups Domino Data Lab and DataRobot.

Cloud computing is mostly used by individuals as computer backups and the ability to access their files from anywhere.  Businesses use it to run their applications and store data, but as cloud computing becomes more standard they want to run machine learning tasks and big data analysis.

Amazon’s new effort is code-named Ironman and is aimed at completing tasks for companies focused on insurance, energy, fraud detection, and drug discovery, The Information reported. The services will be offered to run on graphic processing chips made by Nvidia as well as so-called field programmable gate array chips, which can be reprogrammed as needed for different kinds of software.

Nvidia and other high-performing chip manufacturers such as Advanced Micro Devices and Intel are ecstatic about the competition because it means more cloud operators will purchase their products.  Amazon Web Services is one of the company’s fastest growing areas and continues to bring in the profits.

Whitney Grace, January 17, 2018

Google Just Caught the Amazon Ad Disease

January 3, 2018

The ideas are good. Build up revenue from online sales. Diversity revenue and offset infrastructure costs, the bane of Alphabet Google. Open new channels with consumer hardware. Then look around for a competitor with a back injury or a wobbly knee and run plays at that weak spot.

Football American style?

Nope. Just Amazon’s apparent 2018 game plan.

I read “What It Means That Amazon Is Bringing Ads to Alexa.” (I must admit the working of the title was interesting with the phrase “means that”.)

The point of the write up focuses on the consumer “experience.” Sigh. I learned from the write up:

Amazon is reportedly testing out various ad types, including videos and promoted paid search results (a la Google). CNBC reports that Amazon is preparing for a “serious run at the ad market” that could begin as soon as this year.

I understand the counter argument: Google’s ad revenue is “safe.” See, for example, the analyst think in “Amazon’s Advertising Push Will Not Threaten Google’s Search Business, Analyst Says.”

My view is that Google is dependent upon online advertising. In the company’s two decades of making relevance irrelevant, Google lacks Amazon’s revenue diversity.

I may be a simplistic hick living in rural Kentucky, but it seems to be that the cost to Amazon to probe online ad revenues poses few risks and comparatively cost-free opportunities for the digital behemoth.

Let’s assume that Amazon is only partially successful; that is, the company lands a few big advertisers and confines its efforts to ads in Amazon search results and to Alexa outputs.

Google will have to spend big or cost costs in order to make up for the loss of a handful of big advertisers. The problem is similar to that Westlaw and LexisNexis face when a big law firm dies or merges with another firm. The revenues are expensive, time consuming, and difficult to replace.

Assume that Amazon is quite successful. The erosion of Google revenue may be modest at first and then map into one of those nifty diagrams for the spread of cancer. My recollection is that Sartwell’s Law may be germane. See “Sartwell’s Incubation Period Model Revisited in the Light of Dynamic Modeling.”

Amazon advertising may be a form of cancer. If it gains traction, the cancer will spread. Unpleasant metaphor, but it illustrates how Amazon can undermine Google and either [a] force Alphabet Google to spend more to remain healthy, [b] weaken Google so that it cannot resist other “infectious” incursions like governmental actions related to taxes and allegations of  unfair practices, or [c] set Google up for gradual stagnation followed by a phase change (collapse).

In short, whether one is pro or anti Amazon, the testing of Amazon ads warrants watching.

Stephen E Arnold, January 3, 2018

Neural Net Machine Translation May Increase Acceptance by Human Translators

January 2, 2018

Apparently, not all professional translators are fond of machine translation technology, with many feeling that it just gets in their way. A post from Trusted Translations’ blog examines, “Rage Against the Machine Translation: What’s All the Fuzz About?” Writer Cesarm thinks the big developers of MT tech, like Google and Amazon, have a blind spot—the emotional impact on all the humans involved in the process. From clients to linguists to end users, each has a stake in the results. Especially the linguists, who, after all, could theoretically lose their jobs altogether to the technology. We’re told, however, that (unspecified) studies indicate translators are more comfortable with software that incorporates neural networking/ deep learning technology. I seem such tools produce a better linguistic flow, even if some accuracy is sacrificed. Cesarm writes:

That’s why I mention emotional investment in machine translation as a key element to reinventing the concept for users.  Understanding the latest changes that have been implemented in the process can help MT-using linguists get over their fears. It seems the classic, more standardized way of MT, (based solely on statistical comparison rather than artificial intelligence) is much better perceived by heavy users, considering the latter to be more efficient and easier to ‘fix’ whenever a Post-Editing task is being conducted, while Post Editing pre-translated text, with more classical technology has proven to be much more problematic, erratic, and what has probably nurtured the anger against MT in the first place, giving it a bad name. Most users (if not all of them) will take on pre-translated material processed with statistical MT rather that rule based MT any day. It seems Neural MT could be the best tool to bridge the way to an increased degree of acceptance by heavy users.

Perhaps. I suppose we will see whether linguists’ prejudice against MT technology ultimately hinders the process.

Cynthia Murrell, January 2, 2018

Amazon Sends a Happy New Year Greeting to Google

December 28, 2017

I read “Amazon Is Planning a Push into Digital Advertising in 2018, Challenging Google and Facebook.” Let’s assume that this is “real” news, just for kicks.

The write up asserts:

The company [the Bezos machine called Amazon] is also looking to sell advertising beyond Amazon sites and products. For example, a source with knowledge about the situation says it is working with third-party mobile advertising companies such as Kargo to pair advertising on television and on mobile screens.

That seems clear.

Who cares?

I would suggest that Google may notice this New Year’s greeting.

I learned:

Although Amazon doesn’t break out revenues from its advertising business, eMarketer estimates Amazon was the fifth-largest digital advertiser in the U.S. in terms of revenue this year. Still, it makes up a little more than 2 percent of the market. It’s leagues below industry leaders Google and Facebook, which take home more than 70 percent combined, according to a recent estimate from analysts at Pivotal.

Because Amazon is a small advertising fish compared to the Facebook and Google whales, ramping up its ad sales will generate some cash for the Bezos machine.

Facebook will be on the watch, but my view is that the Google will be riveted to Amazon’s progress.

Why?

Google is largely dependent on online advertising. As Steve Ballmer observed before buying the thrills of a pro basketball team, “Google is a one trick pony.”

Mobile is not Google’s best trick. With desktop search declining, those ad revenues require Herculean strength to keep hoisted high. If the Amazon play is successful, Google may develop a Greek god scale headache from:

  • Loss of ad revenue to Amazon with no easy way to pump up the volume if Facebook stays the course while Amazon does some price cutting
  • The shift to the mobile search model makes it more difficult for Googzilla to burn off the fat in excess ad inventory
  • The Google search machine has lost product search to Amazon. Although the specific impact is tough to determine, catching up to the juggernaut in Seattle adds to the burden of the Internet’s go to search engine. Alphabet Google has to outperform and out maneuver Facebook and Amazon.

Life for the GOOG in 2018 will be tough enough because of anti monopoly hassles in Europe, struggles with wonky hardware trying to leapfrog Amazon’s home devices, and user grunts and snorts about search results relevance deteriorating.

Not even Google’s slick PR team can make Amazon’s New Year’s greeting into good news. The new year will be, as Google once said, “interesting.”

Yes, interesting if the story is almost like “real” news.

Stephen E Arnold, December 28, 2018

Machine Learning Becomes Major Battle Ground

December 14, 2017

It has been known for a while that machine learning is the next great platform for tech visionaries to master. While this ground level opportunity gives many a chance to make a mark, the big names in tech are catching up quick. We got a hint about this competition from the recent Recorded Future press release, “Recorded Future Expands Automated Threat Intelligence Solution With Analyst-Originated Intelligence.”

According to the story:

By adding current and finished threat intelligence to the broadest compilation of machine learning and natural language processing generated intelligence, only Recorded Future can provide organizations with the relevant expert insights and analysis they need for operational improvements and targeted risk reduction.

 

This new analyst-originated information provides customers with access to new insight as well as additional third-party intelligence research on threat actors, vulnerabilities, malware, and other indicators of compromise (IOCs). It is available in multiple formats to suit the diverse needs of customers.

Recorded Future has a bright future, no doubt about it. But we’d be leery of putting all our money on this horse. At this very moment, Amazon is gearing up to get a serious foothold in the world of machine learning. Seeing the merchandising giant getting into this arena is a terrifying threat to any startup. Be on the lookout.

Patrick Roland, December 14, 2017

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