Apple Prepares to Core, Halve, and Quarter the Zuckbook

September 21, 2022

Last year Apple smugly changed its privacy policy so iOS users now choose whether to allow their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to be tracked. Naturally, most say no. This is an expensive problem for Meta, which has historically made a lot of money targeting users via their IDFA on Facebook and Instagram. Now Apple is preparing another blow to its rival, according to MarketWatch‘s piece, “Apple Already Decimated Meta’s Ad-Tech Empire. Now, It’s Homing In on Facebook’s Advertisers, Too.” Reporter Shoshana Wodinsky points to a pair of virtual help-wanted signs to support her assertion:

“MarketWatch found two recent job postings by Apple that suggest the company is looking to build out its burgeoning ad-tech team with folks who specialize in working with small businesses. Specifically, the company says it’s looking for two product managers who are ‘inspired to make a difference in how digital advertising will work in a privacy-centric world’ and who want to ‘design and build consumer advertising experiences.’ An ideal candidate, Apple said, won’t only be savvy in advertising and mobile tech, and advertising on mobile tech, but will also have experience with ‘performance marketing, local ads or enabling small businesses.’ The listings also state that Apple’s looking for a manager who can ‘drive multi-year strategy and execution,’ which suggests that Apple isn’t just tailing local advertisers but will likely be tailing those advertisers for a while. And considering how some of those small brands are already looking to jump ship from Facebook following Apple’s privacy changes, luring them off the platform might be enough to hamper Meta’s entire business structure for good, ad-tech analysts said.”

If true, this move is the second jab in a one-two punch for advertisers. Cutting off their IDFA-based user data is believed to have hurt small businesses—not just the many that advertised on Facebook, but those advertising on other platforms too, from Google to Pinterest. This left the door wide open for Apple to come sauntering to the rescue—after creating the problem in the first place. Many advertisers will surely accept the deliverance anyway; Facebook has conditioned them to tolerate the whims of a digital despot as inescapable, however detrimental they may be.

Analyst Eric Seufert suspects Apple’s moves are about more than money. He tells Wodinsky:

“I think the revenue piece [of the ad market] is less important to Apple than just breaking up Facebook’s total ownership of distribution on mobile. Ads are a revenue opportunity, but, more importantly, they’re a discovery mechanic. And suddenly Facebook was determining which apps got downloaded, not Apple. My sense with all this is that they care about the revenue, but I don’t think that was the primary driver. I think it was about the power.”

Ah yes, a good old power struggle. With advertisers large and small playing the pawns. Who will come out on top? Well, A is for Apple and Z is for … losers?

Cynthia Murrell, September 21, 2022

Ad Duopoly: Missing Some Points?

September 19, 2022

The newspaper disguised as a magazine published “The $300B Google Meta Advertising Duopoly Is Under Attack” is interesting. The write up is what I would expect from a couple of MBAs beavering away a blue chip consulting firm. If you are curious, read the story for which you will have to pay. The story sparked some comments on HackerNews. These are interesting and some of the comments contain more insightful information than the Under Attack write up itself. Here’s a few comments to illustrate this point:

  • Sam Willis: To some extent I disagree with this, not that Google+Meta are under attack, but that the threat is coming from competitors. I’ve spent most of the last 10 years earning my living from an e-commerce business I own. The online advertising industry is unrecognisable from when we started. My thesis, in beef, is that the industries excessive uses of personalised data and tracking lead to increased regulation, and then a massive pivot to even more “AI” as a means to circumvent that (to some extent). The AI in the ad industry now, I believe, is detrimental to the advertiser. It’s now just one big black box, you put money in one side and get traffic out the other. The control and useful tracking (what actual search terms people are using, proper visible conversion tracking of an ad) is now almost non-existent. As an advertiser your livelihood is dependent on an algorithm, not skill, not intuition, not experience, not even track record. Facebook, Google and the rest of the industry were so driven by profit at all cost, and at the expense of long term thinking, they shot themselves in the foot. Advertisers are searching for alternatives, but they are all the same.
  • Justin Baker 84: Usually people need to get ripped off a few times before they accept that fact that Google is no longer a good actor.
  • Missedthecue: I get billed for so many accidental clicks.
  • Heavyset: Google Knows Best™ and lack of real competition or regulation means they can do whatever they want.
  • Prepend: I remember talking to some friends in Google and but estimated their error/fraud rate to be about 1/3 of ad revenue. But they have no motivation to fix it and no one outside Google has the data to tell.
  • MichaelCollins: Organizations that are trying to do something disreputable or shameful (or just something that could be construed that way by a nontrivial portion of the population) often come up with sweet little lies about their motives that help their employees sleep better at night. It’s not about making money by serving ads, it’s about “organizing the world’s data”. It’s not about winning defense contracts to put military hardware into space, it’s about “colonizing mars to save humanity”. It’s not about printing money by getting poor people to sign up for 50,000% APR payday loans, it’s about “providing liquidity to undeserved communities”. Etc.
  • Addicted: If you don’t pay Google/Facebook you’re absolutely screwed. You will lose no matter how good the product is. What this actually means is that now companies have to pay a Google/Meta tax simply to enter the playing field. And once they enter the playing field. And once you enter the playing field, the only winners will be the ones who pay them the highest amount of money. So a smaller business, which in the past could potentially use some ingenuity, or target a specific niche audience to get some traction and then build word of mouth and let the product do the talking, doesn’t even stand a chance now because they simply cannot differentiate themselves as your exposure is entirely dependent on how much money you give Google/Meta.

Dozens of useful comments appear in the HackerNews post. Worth scanning them in my opinion.

Stephen E Arnold, September 19, 2022

The UK and EU Demonstrate an Inability to Be Googley

September 15, 2022

In the grand scheme of operating a revolving door, the Google is probably going to adjudicate and apologize / explain. I call this “explagize,” an art form perfected at the GOOG. But what’s a revolving door? Visualize a busy pre-Covid building in midtown Manhattan. To enter, one pushes a panel of glass and the force spins a wagon wheel of similar doors. Now imagine that one pays every time one goes around. That’s how the Google online ad business works? Banner adds, pay. Pay to play, pay. Pay for AdWords, caching. Want analytics about those ads? Pay. The conceptual revolving door, however, does not allow the humanoid to escape either without fear of missing out on a sale or allowing a competitor to get clicks and leads and sales.

The BBC article “Google Faces €25bn Legal Action in UK and the EU” states:

The European Commission and its UK equivalent are investigating whether Google’s dominance in the ad tech business gives it an unfair advantage over rivals and advertisers.

This is old news, right? What’s different is this statement:

Damien Geradin, of the Belgian law firm Geradin Partners – which is involved in the Dutch case – said, “Publishers, including local and national news media, who play a vital role in our society, have long been harmed by Google’s anti-competitive conduct. “It is time that Google owns up to its responsibilities and pays back the damages it has caused to this important industry. “That is why today we are announcing these actions across two jurisdictions to obtain compensation for EU and UK publishers.”

Do you think “pay back” means a painful procedure capped with a big number fine? I do.

What’s not being considered, in my opinion, are these factors:

  • The barristers, avocets, and legal eagles trying to wrest big bucks from Googzilla are unlikely to find the alleged monopolist eager to retain their firms’ services or look favorably on hiring the progeny of these high fliers
  • Will the UK and EU spark counter measures; for example, prices may rise and some ad services not offered to outfits in the UK and EU?
  • Will the UK and EU grasp the fact that ad options may not be able to fill any gap or service pull out from the Google?
  • The high value data which Google allegedly has and under some circumstances makes available to government authorities may go missing because Google either suffered a machine failure or curtailed investment in infrastructure so that the data are disappeared.

More than money? Yep. Consequences after decades of hand waving and chicken salad fines may cause some governments to realize that their power, influence, and degrees of freedom are constrained by a certain firm’s walled garden.

The money for the fine? Too little and too late as I try to make sense of the situation. The spinning revolving door can be difficult to escape and trying may cause dizziness, injury, or company death. Yikes.

Stephen E Arnold, September 15, 2022

Apple: Setting Up to Core Alphabet and Meta Ad Revenue

September 13, 2022

I read somewhere that in the land of the free and home of the brave, half of the mobile phone users tote around Apple iPhones. Why? I will leave answering that question to TikTok and YouTube gizmo experts. (I use a cheap and outdated Essential some times; other times I used an outdated One Plus device. Why? I am a cheap dinobaby.)

I thought about this iPhone market share when I picked up the weird orange newspaper and read “Apple Plans to Double Its Digital Advertising Business Workforce.” The main idea is:

The digital ads industry has been on edge about Apple’s advertising ambitions since it launched privacy rules last year that disrupted the $400bn digital ads market, making it difficult to tailor ads to Apple’s 1bn-plus iPhone users. Since the policy was introduced, Facebook parent Meta, Snap and Twitter have lost billions of dollars in revenue — and far more in market valuation, although there have been additional contributing factors.

The digital advertising market is big, and I am skeptical about the numbers bandied about by the 20 somethings. From my vantage point in a damp hollow in rural Kentucky, I have formulated some hypotheses:

  1. Apple will explain its move to suck in advertising revenue in gentle terms, including references to dignity, privacy, security, and meeting user needs. I think the truth is that the new revenue will meet Apple’s needs, but you will probably touch your iPhone and say, “Heresy. This dinobaby is from another era. Yep, I am.)
  2. Amazon, Facebook, and Google will have to adjust. My hunch is that Amazon has some wiggle room with the online store and digital content. If you want to be found when I search for mesh sneakers, you better buy Amazon preferred and sponsored slots. The Facebook has lots of users, but it is a bit like Milton’s Beelzebub. The Google has the search thing and lots of content and eyeballs, so it can offer bundles at a very attractive price no matter what the Tim Apple outfit does. Other outfits? Yeah, good luck.
  3. Regulators in the US will lag behind their EU counterparts. This means that a new Wild West is about to open up. Forget the metaverse. Think renting land in the Apple-verse.

Interesting play in a mostly unregulated service space.

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2022

Forget Data Vacuum Cleaners. Think Amazon Ads

August 18, 2022

I do not read on a regular basis the online publication called “Hustle.” I made an exception for the write up “Amazon’s Ad Biz Is Growing Faster Than Its Rivals.” The write up states:

What is surprising is that Amazon’s digital ad revenue grew 18% YoY to $8.76B in Q2 — more than analysts expected and outpacing Google and Facebook. In fact, Facebook’s revenue shrank for the first time ever by 1.5%.

The Hustle article adds an interesting factoid, which I assume is 100 percent rock solid:

Amazon also has a virtual product placement tool, meaning it can insert brands into its TV shows and movies in postproduction.

I noticed that the nifty chart with a towering growth bar for the Bezos bulldozer noted ad performance for a number of outfits. There was one, in my opinion, glaring omission: TikTok.

I wonder why.

Stephen E Arnold, August 18, 2022

Is Google a Giving Outfit? One Possible Example

July 9, 2022

I believe everything I read whilst loafing along the info highway. Here’s an example of a real news item which seems plausible, but is the information accurate? Who knows? Let’s consider that a tittle of truth lies therein. The article is “Google Allowed a Sanctioned Russian Ad Company to Harvest User Data for Months.” The write up asserts:

…As recently as June 23, Google was sharing potentially sensitive user data with a sanctioned Russian ad tech company owned by Russia’s largest state bank

The info comes from an outfit called Adalytics. The article continues:

Adalytics identified close to 700 examples of RuTarget receiving user data from Google after the company was added to a U.S. Treasury list of sanctioned entities on Feb. 24. The data sharing between Google and RuTarget stopped four months later on June 23, the day ProPublica contacted Google about the activity.

I believe in coincidences, particularly when real media, the Google, and the special action are inter-twined.

My thoughts this morning (July 2, 2022):

  1. I will probably hear on CSPAN at some point in the future: “Senator, thank you for the question. I don’t have knowledge of that. I will get back to you with the information you request.”
  2. Google is sufficiently disorganized, involved with personnel management issues, and dealing with media inquiries about it’s smart software become alive that the Googlers downstream did not get the memo.
  3. Google’s incentive plans reward benchmarks and upticks. Downticks like cutting off a revenue stream are not high on a Googler’s to do list.

Net net: I believe everything I read on the Internet. In this case, maybe this report from a firm of which I have never heard is an arrow in Googzilla’s eye. Maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, July 9, 2022

Apple: Intense Surveillance? The Core of the Ad Business

June 28, 2022

I read “US Senators Urge FTC to Investigate Apple for Transforming Online Advertising into an Intense System of Surveillance.” The write up reports:

Apple and Google “knowingly facilitated harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems,” said the letter, which was signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), as well as U.S. Representative Sara Jacobs (D-California).

There are references to Tracking IDs, “confusing phone settings, and monitoring a user when that user visits non-Apple sites and services. Mais oui! Surveillance yields data. Data allows ad targeting. Selling targeted ads generates money. Isn’t that what the game is about? Trillion dollar companies have to generate revenue to do good deeds, make TV shows, and make hundreds of thousands of devices obsolete with a single demo. Well, that’s my view.

Will something cause Apple to change?

Sure. TikTok maybe?

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 21022

Spicing Up Possibly Biased Algorithms with Wiener Math

June 27, 2022

Let’s assume that the model described in “The Mathematics of Human Behavior: How My New Model Can Spot Liars and Counter Disinformation” is excellent. Let’s further assume that it generates “reliable” outputs which correspond to what humanoids do in real life. A final building block is to use additional predictive analytics to process the outputs of the Wiener-esque model and pipe them into an online advertising system like Apple’s, Facebook’s, Google’s, or TikTok’s.

This sounds like a useful thought experiment.

Consider this statement from the cited article:

In this new “information-based” approach, the behavior of a person – or group of people – over time is deduced by modeling the flow of information. So, for example, it is possible to ask what will happen to an election result (the likelihood of a percentage swing) if there is “fake news” of a given magnitude and frequency in circulation. But perhaps most unexpected are the deep insights we can glean into the human decision-making process. We now understand, for instance, that one of the key traits of the Bayes updating is that every alternative, whether it is the right one or not, can strongly influence the way we behave.

These statements suggest that the outputs can be used for different use cases.

Now how will this new model affect online advertising and in a larger context how will the model allows humanoid thoughts and actions to be shaped or weaponized. My initial ideas are:

  1. Feedback signals about content which does not advance an agenda. The idea is that that “flagged” content object never is available to an online user. Is this a more effective form of filtering? I think dynamic pre-filtering is a winner for some.
  2. Filtered content can be weaponized to advance a particular line of thought. The metaphor is that a protective mother does not allow the golden child to play outside at dusk without appropriate supervision. The golden child gleams in the gloaming and learns to avoid risky behaviors unless an appropriate guardian (maybe a Musk Optimus) is shadowing the golden child.
  3. Ads can be matched against what the Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and TikTok systems have identified as appropriate. The resulting ads generated by combining the proprietary methods with those described in the write up increase the close rate by a positive amount.
  4. Use cases for law enforcement exist as well.

Exciting opportunities abound. Once again, I am glad I am old. Were he alive, Norbert Wiener might share my “glad I am old” notion when confronted with applied Wiener math.

Stephen E Arnold, June 26, 2022

Google Implements Financial Ad Verification System: What Was Inadequate Before This Change?

June 23, 2022

One might think it obvious that ads for financial services should be confirmed as legit, but it seems to have taken the threat of legal action for Google to implement a screening system. TechCrunch reports, “Google Expands Ads Verification Program to Tackle Financial Scams.” The pilot program was launched in the UK last year after that country’s Financial Conduct Authority put pressure on the company. Google has declared the project a success but, we are told, has supplied no evidence to support that claim. Next the company plans to expand the program to Australia, Singapore, and Taiwan with other countries and regions to follow. Writer Natasha Lomas tells us:

“The verification layer sits atop Google’s financial products and services policy — looping in a local financial regulator that advertisers must demonstrate they are authorized by in order to have their financial services ads accepted by Google — thereby adding a layer of security against the adtech giant accepting and running ads for crypto investment scams and the like. In the U.K. the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is the regulatory body that financial services advertisers must demonstrate they are authorized by. Equivalent oversight bodies will come into play in the three new markets. Google said advertisers wanting to promote financial products and services in these markets will be able to apply for verification at the end of June — with the policy slated to go into effect on August 30, 2022.”

After that date, Google promises, any advertisers that have not gone through verification will be dropped. A director at the company asserted:

“We work tirelessly to make sure the ads we serve are safe and trustworthy, and we know that partnering and collaborating with government regulators is critical to our success. That’s why we’re closely coordinating with regulators in these three markets to make sure this program is effective at scale.”

Sure it is. It has nothing to do with the FCA threatening to haul Google into court. That timing must have been pure coincidence.

Cynthia Murrell, June 23, 2022

Lawyers Do Ads Just Like Everyone Else

June 22, 2022

A little known fact is that lawyers need to generate sales lead like other industries. Law might be a practice, but its foundation is similar to other fields. ReadWrite explores, “How Lawyers Use Digital Marketing To Generate Qualified Leads.” The article explains that it is necessary to create a sales funnel and use seven lead generation strategies to exploit the funnel for sales.

The seven lead strategies sound awfully generic for anyone attempting to start an online business: identify a niche, outline an ideal lead, develop a unique sales proposition, build a Web site, invest in SEO, launch a PPC campaign, and pay for lead generation services. The last subject heading is “Ready, Set, Grow’ and ends the article on this note:

“You can’t take a shotgun approach to lead generation. It simply doesn’t work in today’s marketplace. There’s far too much saturation in this industry. If you don’t have a disciplined and strategic approach to generating leads, you’ll consistently miss out on new clients at the hands of your competitors.

While no two lead generation strategies are identical, you can use some of the different tips outlined above to create a targeted approach that works for your law firm and your niche. It won’t always be easy, but the hard work of building out a sales funnel will produce fruit over the long run.”

It is a generic encouraging paragraph spliced with lawyer jargon. These sales techniques do work, but there should be an entire paragraph devoted to explaining they take a lot of time and need to be tended like a garden. The article also failed to mention one way to push leads was to publish articles about your expertise and niche services on “news” sites. Think Medium, similar blogs, or even a place like this.

Whitney Grace, June 22, 2022

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