Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The “Umbrella revolution”: when social media empower democracy

Given the recent events in Hong Kong, I would like to dedicate this post to the role that social media have been increasingly playing in protests and in politics in general.

Only four years ago, I had the chance to watch from close the power of social media when in Tunisia and Egypt protests started online ignited what later became known as the “Arab Spring”: a series of mass protests in North Africa and the Middle East that shook the political systems of several countries in the region. Today, the same is happening in Hong Kong.

From September 26 to 30, more than 1.3 million tweets were posted about the protests. The government, of course, understands this power and filters communications from Hong Kong to the mainland. It cannot do much, however, to stop the protesters communicating within the special region. In one day, 100,000 people downloaded the app Firechat, which does not require cell connection to send messages.

In 1989, the image of a lone man standing in front of tanks in Tienanmen square was broadcasted on hundreds of World televisions during the following day. Today, the image of a protester shielding from tear gas with an umbrella was shared on Twitter thousands of times in the next hour.

Social networks have become more and more prominent as a digital marketing tool, in business as well as to politics, and the current events are just a new evidence of this trends, Events that I encourage everybody to follow with interest.

To know more, see http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/09/29/hong-kong-protests-social-media/16444213/ 


The 5 Digital Marketing Strategies Businesses Say Work Best

A recent study based on surveys of 333 marketing, sales and business professionals around the world revealed that email is still very much king when it comes to digital marketing but there are other ways to find success. 54% of business agree that email is the most effective form of Internet marketing but this article takes a look at the other successful strategies.

In addition to email, optimized websites and blogs, SEO and social media all help companies drive sales and revenues.

90% of businesses surveyed find digital marketing to be “successful” and >25% find it to be “very successful”. ‘Success is relative and different companies seek to achieve different results, including: increased customer engagement, sales revenue, leads for sales teams and brand awareness. 

Digital Marketing results are also far from plateauing, with 70% of companies agreeing that effectiveness is still improving.



Changing the currency in display advertising

Building on Teal Black’s post, which I found extremely interesting, I think that is really worth it to analyze the implications of the change and the main support and resistance that this change will find.

Spending on digital-display ads in the US was  $13 bn last year (30% of the $43 bn spent in digital advertising). This is a fast changing industry with several changes each year. Teal Black’s post argues that maybe one of the biggest changes in the industry will be the change in the currency. Nowadays, the standard currency is CPC (cost-per-click) but there is a trend, far from irrelevant, that is moving toward CPH (cost-per-hour).

The main idea of charging based on CPH is that this is an attention metric, publishers pay based on the number of hours their ads appear in front of targeted groups of readers. Another advantage of CPH for the publishers is the creation of scarcity. Llike in TV there are only so many 30-second slots during a half-hour sitcom, you have only got 24 hours a day per person, so you have a constrained resource: time.

This radical rethinking of ad rates would have heavy implications:
  • Marketers would change budgets due to the certainty that people are spending time with their messages.
  • The analytics of the industry would change.
  • Creatives would change the way they create digital-display ads.
  • Media agencies would change how they buy ads.
The main supporters of the CPH are digital newspapers: The Financial Times will roll out ad rates based on time rather than impressions (FT is adopting the new metric because its web and mobile websites attract a relatively small audience but that it is mighty in terms of affluence and the time readers spend on the site). The Economist is guaranteeing time for its in-app ads. The Wall Street Journal is using attention metrics to analyze and adjust ad campaigns.
But there's also plenty of resistance to the CPH. With so much money spent in display ads, there are a number of players that would prefer to keep the status quo. For example, agencies are good at buying ads, they know how to do it and it is probably scary to change the mode of how they do business. Publishers that attract huge audiences aren't eager to see a shift either. Additionally there's also the question of whether more time on a screen would do an advertiser any good.
Will CPH be the new standard metric for display ads?

Sources: Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?
           Why CTR may not be the digital future


Monday, September 29, 2014

Why CTR may not be the digital future

This weeks interesting article that caught my eye was an interested piece in Ad Age around changing how digital marketeers currently measure digital.

The article noted that in March 2013, Jon Slade, commercial director of digital advertising and insight at the Financial Times,  presented the idea that the London-based paper will roll out ad rates based on time rather than impressions, charging some advertisers by the number of hours their ads appear in front of targeted groups of readers. The measurement "cost per hour", or CPH, would shatter decades-old media pricing model that values volume aka "Clicks" above all else.

"We're definitely challenging the status quo," Mr. Slade said. "No one has come up with a new currency in digital advertising in -- a while."

Other companies are following suit measuring things such as view-ability and time rather than standard clicks.. The Economist, which is part-owned by Pearson, is guaranteeing time for its in-app ads. While it doesn't currently charge advertisers based on attention, Upworthy measures "attention minutes." Gawker is holding internal discussions about ways to make ad viewability and attention a new standard, according to one person involved in those meetings. The Wall Street Journal is using attention metrics to analyze and adjust ad campaigns. And a slew of other publishers are working to ensure their ads meet a viewability standard established earlier this year.

I think this is interesting food for thought for modern advertising as they are thinking about their digital media buy and measurement metrics. With digital being so easy to measure compared to traditional advertising, I believe advertisers should work, more than ever, to ensure their ads are being engaged with in the optimal fashion. 


Ello.co - social media revolution or just a hype ...?

The social media world has recently been buzzing about Ello.co, a social media network claiming to be a "simple, beautiful and ad-free social network".

What does it stand for?
One of its first messages to its users is "Your social network is owned by advertisers". Ello.co's differentiates itself from the social network giants such as Facebook and Twitter from a data collection perspective: It doesn't track personal data used for advertising purposes and it doesn't have ads. Launched in March 2014, the social network initially got traction from the LGBT community because Facebook refused a few drag artists to have both a real name and a performance name on their profile. Refusing that us consumers become "products" of websites such as Facebook that track personal data to help advertisers reach their target customers better.

Should the tech giants be worried?
The VC fund FreshTracks Capital trusts Ello.co's founder Paul Baudnitz and has injected close to half a million dollars in his start-up. According to the betabeat.com, Ello.co is clearly gaining in popularity: Its hourly sign-up requests has jumped from 4,000 to 31,000 in just about a week. Because Ello.co won't have any advertising, the companies earning most of their revenue from advertising shouldn't be too worried from a demand side - advertisers will still use those platforms to advertise their products or services. However, the supply side is more worry some. What if the supply side, i.e. us the consumers, leave these networks? In a point in time where Twitter redefined its "users" definition to show investors that it was still growing, a simple stagnation of number of users could be a threat to the tech giants.

(How) Can it be sustained?
It is required to be referred to be able to join the site. While such an "exclusive" feeling can generate attraction, its purpose is diluted as soon as the website reaches a critical mass. There is no revenue model as such for now. It has been mentioned that some add-on features might be purchased by users, but the current quality level of both the design and the functionality of the website doesn't seem to be good enough to overthrow the current offerings out there. Upgrading on that front as well as figuring out a differentiated way of generating revenues should allow Ello.co to become more than just a "Yo" type of hype






Tricking Google for Good

Last week's class discussion went into great detail about how Google has optimized its algorithms / "pigeons" over the years to bring us the most relevant content possible. It has done so not just in a passive manner, but has also gone as far as to punish websites for trying to trick Google search into getting a higher page rank for their site.
This opens up 2 key issues for me, with the first tying into the second:
  1. How do we make sure we don't live in a "information bubble" but still get relevant results?
  2. Where do we stand on specific cases in which online activists use unauthorized tactics to further their cause?
The first issue is coined as the "filter bubble" and is best summarized as follows: A filter bubble is a result of a personalized search in which a website algorithm selectively guesses what information a user would like to see based on information about the user (such as location, past click behavior and search history) and, as a result, users become separated from information that disagrees with their viewpoints, effectively isolating them in their own cultural or ideological bubbles.

For the second issue, I'd like to point out to this blog post from 2013 - which makes it a very very old post in terms of Google's "weather updates". One great example is as follows:

So what if we used Google to find popular search phrases that lend themselves to feminist lessons? The #1 autocomplete for “Why Do Women” is the phrase “Why Do Women Cheat?”. It’s something people desperately want to know and, currently, many have tried to answer. And as you might imagine, many of the results for this search are pretty sexist. But what if a feminist blog wrote a response to this question (light on the feminist jargon, heavy on feminist ideals) and, using all the appropriate Search Engine Optimization techniques, managed to climb the ranks of the search results? Quite a few non-feminists could be reached by progressive messages.

As internet activist Eli Pariser pointed out, "a world constructed from the familiar is a world in which there’s nothing to learn ... (since there is) invisible autopropaganda, indoctrinating us with our own ideas." So maybe we should pressure Google to engage in positive discrimination for select causes (as above) to help reverse the well-meaning monster it created?


“Learned Behavior” - IPhone 6 and Apple Pay further disrupting traditional business, opportunities for digital marketing

“Learned Behavior”

IPhone 6 and Apple Pay further disrupting traditional business, opportunities for digital marketing

The lines wrapped around every Apple store street corner last week following the launch of the iPhone 6 is evidence that Apple’s team continues to thrive and draw in its loyal consumer base, iteration after iteration. The Apple customer loyalty is what marketer’s dream of, which is what makes the iPhone such a valuable tool for marketers in this age of digital. 

Forbes recently ran an article discussing this very topic, focusing on the soon to be launched feature, Apple Pay. Apple Pay, the contactless payment system will have an immediate customer base -- the 10 million plus owners of the new iPhone, which means marketers, have an immediate opportunity to use this system to draw in more customers. According to expert Jack Philbin “Apple Pay is that moment when marketers really have to pay attention to mobile… “They become a living, breathing loyalty card.”

Notifications by companies with promotional offers, reminders, and information using data collected from the iPhone’s Passbook and Apple Pay will become the newest area to explore for marketers. Trying to tap into, and capture loyalty through the strength of the Apple customer’s loyalty.

The opportunity for success and making a lot of money is possible, but only time will tell whether the consumer will actually enjoy an even deeper connection and tie with companies. I believe the biggest issue for digital marketers in the future is not about discovering new ways to market to consumers using technology, but to find the appropriate balance and personalization of how to market to customers. I do not believe today’s consumer is ready to trade every sliver or feeling of independence from online tracking for convenience, but with each technological advancement I believe the customer will become more comfortable with the idea, I just wouldn’t expect it to happen overnight. I can’t see users rushing to use Apple Pay the same way they rush to sign up to social media platforms like Instagram. This elephant will have to be eaten one bite at a time, it’s important for digital marketers to remember that.


Is Digital Advertising Ready to Ditch the Click?

The Financial Times is looking to innovate the pricing metrics moving from price per click, to price per time viewed.  This is especially interesting given that these metrics marry more closely with traditional metrics (think commercial time). 

I am interested to see how this strategy works.  There are a few disadvantages that I see:
1) It is a passive metric, and nearly impossible to measure.  The biggest advantage of the CPC method is that it is very easy to measure.
2) There is a high up front cost.  FT is working to play up scarcity.  Along with this, they must be looking to command a premium.  This is a risky endeavor.  In comparing price that is only expensive if effective, with something that is expensive in either case, it is difficult to argue for the latter.
3) Traditional media firms are just not as desirable currently.  They seem to be coming from a place of weakness, rather than strength.  Strategically, it seems difficult to shift the paradigm and charge more.

For more on this topic see the AdAge article below. 

For more details, see AdAge's article here.


Ello, the anti-Facebook Social Network.

I guess there have been many attempts to build new social networks aiming to avoid Facebook privacy issues. None of them have been successful enough that I know.
Ello is different. The company, which was launched in early August 2014, is currently receiving more than 10,000-invitation request every hour.

What is Ello and what does it make it so attractive?
It is a very minimalistic-style web where anonymous users can mainly exchange pictures and messages. It is kind of a mix between Instagram and Twitter.

The singularity of this new network is its free-add policy. The company promise they will not track or use your personal data for any purpose. They feel so strongly about that idea that they have even written a manifesto:


The web also allows its users to remain anonymous. Actually the company was launched in response to the new and controversial FB policy that forces users to display their real names.

However, this privacy features do not seem to me the key of its success. I believe its design is a very important reason. The website is very good-looking, extremely neat and minimalistic. The users and their content are the focus.

Signing up is not easy. The same way FB started, Ello is trying to create an exclusivity feeling by allowing users to join only by invitation.

Ello has not any innovative feature. As opposed to Google+ they did not try to change the way people interact in current social networks. Actually it does not even have a like button. Simplicity seems to be their priority.
Journalists are skeptic about Ello’s promise to remain add-free forever. The company claims they will be able to make money by selling enhanced features and services.

We need to wait to have a better understanding of this new model but it already represents a significant threat for facebook.