Pandora Introduces Promoted Stations

Pandora logoIt was only a matter of time, I suppose. Pandora has announced that it will be including Promoted Stations. They are described as “native ad units designed to help advertisers drive Pandora listeners into custom content”.

This is the first time that Pandora has natively integrated ad product within a listener’s station list. Those who are currently using Pandora can expect to see some of the Promoted Stations appear in their “Stations You Might Like” list.

Right now, the Promoted Stations are in a “beta launch”. They include playlists from: Kleenex Brand, SKETCHERS USA Inc., StubHub, Taco Bell, and Toyota Motor Sales. More companies may be added as the year goes on.

Obviously, the companies involved are hoping that people will check out their playlist. They hope this will cause people to look favorably upon their products, and that this will lead them to make more purchases. I am skeptical that this is how things will actually work.

For example, as an allergic person, I might decide to take a look at the Kleenex playlist. I buy plenty of Kleenex and like their product. I won’t be buying any more of it just because they have a Promoted Station on Pandora, though. My purchases will be about the same as they were before.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of Taco Bell (in part because my many food allergies mean that I cannot safely eat their food). I’m not the slightest bit motivated to check out their playlist. If I stumbled upon it, I can guarantee that it will not influence me to start eating at Taco Bell.

It seems to me that the majority of people who use Pandora are seeking out music from bands that they already like and are familiar with. They might decide to give a listen to a suggested band that sounds very similar to one they like. I highly doubt that anyone goes to Pandora to seek out a playlist of random bands selected by a corporation that is trying to sell the listener a product that does not even remotely relate to music.

Groups Ask the FTC to Investigate the WhatsApp Deal

WhatsApp logoThe Electronic Privacy Information Center and the Center for Digital Democracy are asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how the WhatsApp deal will impact the privacy of its users. Facebook acquired WhatsApp just a few weeks ago.

The concern is that Facebook will use the personal information of WhatsApp’s more than 450 million users to target advertising. Those who started using WhatsApp before it was acquired by Facebook were told that WhatsApp would not collect user data for advertising revenue. The complaint states:

Facebook routinely makes use of user information for advertising purposes and has made clear that it intends to incorporate the data of WhatsApp users into the user profiling business model. The proposed acquisition will therefore violate WhatsApp users’ understanding of their exposure to online advertising and constitutes an unfair and deceptive trade practice, subject to investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

On June 18, 2012, WhatsApp posted a blog titled “Why we don’t sell ads”. Perhaps the key point is this sentence: “Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.”

WhatsApp also posted a blog on February 19, 2014, titled “Facebook”. It is about the acquisition. The key point from that blog might be this sentence: “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.” The blog promises that users can still count on absolutely no ads interrupting their communication through WhatsApp. Facebook has issued a statement indicating that they will honor WhatsApps commitments to privacy and security.

This situation reminds me of some words of wisdom that gets passed around. You cannot be certain that anything posted on “the internet” (on a blog, in a chat, or through social media) will be kept private forever. That being said, I can understand why users of WhatsApp feel betrayed. WhatsApp promised not to sell their data for adverting purposes. Will Facebook keep that promise? It will be very interesting to see what the FTC thinks about this situation.

Nintendo Goes After Player’s YouTube Profits

NintendoNintendo has started doing something that is not making gamers very happy. The company has started taking the ad revenue from videos that players post on YouTube of themselves playing one of Nintendo’s games. These are referred to as “Let’s Play” videos, and people make them about all kinds of different video games (not just the ones from Nintendo).

Have you ever watched a YouTube video that showed a portion of a video game? People make them all the time. For gamers, it is a good way to learn how to beat a “boss”, to check out end-game content before their characters are big enough to get there, and to discover techniques that they may not have figured out for themselves. Other people will stream themselves playing a game so people can watch “in real time”. The player might record what he or she is streaming and post it on YouTube.

When a new game comes out that looks interesting to me, I will go to YouTube in the hopes of finding videos that show what the actual game play is like. I’ve also watched live streamed games for the same reason. It’s a good way to find out more about the game than the official ad shows. If I can’t find any further information about the game from these type of sources, it is highly unlikely that I will end up buying it.

Nintendo is using YouTube’s Content-ID to identify the videos that contain content from their games. One of the options that the Content-ID system allows is for the content owner to block that video from YouTube. Another option is for the content owner to make money from the videos that include their content but were posted by someone else.

In this case, Nintendo is placing ads that generate revenue onto the videos that were posted by gamers that showed them playing one of Nintendo’s games. Effectively, what happens is that the gamer is now unable to make any revenue from those videos. Instead, that money goes directly to Nintendo.

This can be problematic for people who have a YouTube channel that is filled with gameplay videos that have been generating ad revenue for the gamer. GameFront posted a statement from Nintendo:

As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.

I believe that Nintendo is “shooting themselves in the foot” with this choice. Gamers who make “Let’s Play” videos, and who have a YouTube channel that is making them a profit in ad revenue now have good reason to stop making videos of Nintendo’s games. They are going to choose games from other companies instead. The result will be less “Nintendo content shared across social media channels”, not more.

Audi Presents: Spock vs. Spock

Audi LogoIf you are like me, then you probably do whatever you can to avoid having to watch commercials. Once in a while, though, it is worth taking a few minutes to check out an exceptionally well done ad. Such is the case with Audi’s new commercial, which features Mr. Spock vs. Mr. Spock… sort of.

Most people would recognize that Leonard Nimoy played the role of Spock in Star Trek the Original Series, (as well as in several Star Trek movies). The newly rebooted version of the Star Trek movies features Zachary Quinto as a young Spock. The Audi commercial has each actor playing himself, with the actor’s version of Spock overlapping him.

Basically, the two agree to have a race to the country club. Whoever gets there last has to buy lunch. The entire ad is sprinkled with subtle (and more obvious) things that Star Trek fans will immediately recognize. At the start, the two Spocks are playing a game of 3 Dimensional Chess against each other.

What might not be as obvious to viewers is the song that Leonard Nimoy sings in the commercial. It is called “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins” which appears on the “Two Sides of Leonard Nimoy” album. Yes, he really did record that song!

My system crash revealed the one piece left in the Google ads puzzle

For the most part I don’t find that Google ads are such a bad thing. They are relatively unobtrusive and they are generally based on such information as location and web history. Let’s leave alone the privacy implications of those two facts and look more at where I recently noticed that it falls short – although, I confess that this will lead to even more of a privacy nightmare for those who are a part of the tinfoil hat brigade.

It all begins with a sad story. You see, although I have purchased Windows 8, I have procrastinated about installing it and have stubbornly continued to run the Release Preview. Well, last night Microsoft reached out and touched my trusty laptop with an update that rendered the system unbootable. Despite several different approaches to fixing this I came up with no solution other than a re-install.

Don’t cry for me – everything is backed up with redundancy. This is more hassle than anything else.

A reinstall was the approach I took this morning, although it did provide me with the chance to finally move to the RTM. After finishing the setup I moved on to installing my usual apps like Chrome, Firefox, Office, 7-zip and a couple of others. The final step was my document backup which is stored on CrashPlan servers.

After visiting the CrashPlan site and initiating the restore I began browsing the web. What I found was that every site I visited that utilized Google Adsense was now displaying an ad for CrashPlan. Yes, they know my location and my browsing history, but what they don’t know, yet at least, is what services with which I already have an account.

That is the missing piece in this whole puzzle. Google earns nothing by displaying an ad that is rendered irrelevant because, already having the product or service, you have no reason to click.

So, how long before the search and advertising giant finds a way pull in this information as well? It’s certainly in their interest to display ads that make you want to click. It will happen at some point and it will certainly set off alarms with privacy advocates everywhere, but is it really such a bad thing to see something that is more relevant to you? That is the real question that needs to be debated here.

Image: Computer Security by BigStock

Sources Confirming Kindle Fire Ads will Have an Opt-out

There has been lot of controversy the past couple of days surrounding the line of Kindle Fire tablets that Amazon announced on Thursday.  If you haven’t heard, the talk has been around the ads that Amazon will be displaying on the lock screen.  It was widely believed that there would be no way to prevent these ads from showing up, regardless of how intrusive some users seemed to think they would be.

Now, multiple sources, including very reliable ones like Ars Technica and Engadget, are reporting that Amazon has contacted them and explained that users would, in fact, be able to opt out of these ads.  The option isn’t free, however.  Users will be able to turn off the ads for a small one-time fee of $15.  In a message sent to Ars Technica, Amazon stated that “With Kindle Fire HD there will be a special offers opt-out option for $15. We know from our Kindle reader line that customers love our special offers and very few people choose to opt out. We’re happy to offer customers the choice.”

Will many users take advantage of this opt-out?  My guess would be no.  After all, we all shop on Amazon and having the chance to get a deal is a pretty good trade-off for having to see an ad.

Sticker Munch Make Logos Fun at The Gadget Show

Geek booksNovelty sticker company Sticker Munch launched at last week’s The Gadget Show Live and I was able to grab an interview with MD and founder, Sufian Hassan. Sticker Munch offer a range of novelty stickers that put the fun back into technology by incorporating the logo as part of the design or by trading on the geekiness of it all.

The stickers themselves are high quality vinyl decals and can be stuck to almost anything, from laptops to books, skateboards to vehicles. Some of the decals will be for particular models or devices, e.g. iPad, especially when the logo is integral to the design, but others can be stuck anywhere!

Prices range from an astonishingly low 50p up to £10.

 

Mind the Gap – Your Site May Have a Secret Ad

Let’s say that you have a website that is entirely your own. Maybe it is your blog where you write about your favorite video game. Or, it could be the website where people can stream or download episodes of your podcast, check out your show notes, and leave you comments. One way to make money from your work is to connect with a company that wants to place ads on your website.

This doesn’t magically happen all by itself. Instead, content creators have to take the time to figure out which companies will pay to have their ads placed in a banner across the top of your page. Next, they have to contact someone from one of those companies, and negotiate a deal. It takes work to make this happen.

So, let’s say you went ahead and put in the effort, and the hours. You found a company that wanted to place ads on your website, you worked out a deal with the company that you both find acceptable, you spent time to get their ads to appear in the correct places on your website.

Now, imagine that some other company, one that you have never made any contact with yourself, came to your website and removed the ads that you worked so hard to put there. In their place, this other company put completely different ads. They didn’t ask your permission to do it, and they are now gaining revenue from your website, (instead of you), off of the ads they stuck in there. How would that make you feel?

Unfortunately, this scenario is actually happening. The New York Times has a frightening article that describes how a web engineer name Justin Watt noticed what was going on. He was in his room at the Courtyard Marriott, in Midtown Manhattan, and browsing the web through the hotel’s internet. When he visited his own website, he noticed a strange gap at the top of the page that he did not put there.

There is a company called RG Nets, Inc. that is behind this nefarious, and sneaky, placement of ads. They sell a service to companies that offers “pervasive web page advertising injection through HTML payload rewriting”. In other words, RG Nets, Inc., goes onto websites that it doesn’t own, without permission, and rewrites the HTML code, in a way that generates revenue for whomever their client is, (and therefore, for themselves as well). I’m not a lawyer, but something about this seems less than legal to me.

UPDATE: Marriott has now told RG Nets, Inc., to cease and desist. You can use the internet at the hotel now without accidentally allowing RG Nets, Inc., to secretly make money from the website you visit.

How to Control Who Sends You Personalized Google Ads

 

I was reading my email this morning and I got curious and clicked on the Why this ad link and this is about where it led.   I thought it might be interesting to other readers, so I decided to post it.

Why this ad

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If you use Gmail you will notice there is a link that says Why this ad? at the bottom and on the side where the ads are.  If you hover over it, this box will pop up. To find out why the ad was chosen or to manage what ads you get click on the Ads Preference Manager.

Door to Ad Preference Page

Ads_Preferences_Manager-1.png

If you click on Ads Preference Manager on the first step it will take you to this page. You may have to sign into your Google account.  This is where you can block advertiser that were specific to the ads on that email. If you want to block advertisers that were not specific to that email, then click where it says click here

What Google has discovered about you

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If you clicked on Ads on the Web on step 2 it will bring you to this page. This is the page that Google has collected on you from both 1st and 3rd party cookies as you view the web. If you want to find out more about how it works click on where the a is. If you want to control who sends ads to you click on b. If you want to opt out of all personalized ads click on c.

How Ad Preferences Work

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If you clicked on A in step three, you will see this page. It tells you how ad preferences works.

Opting Out of Specific Advertisers

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If you click on b in step 3 then this page will come up. This is the page where you can opt out of specific advertiser. This does take some work on the user’s part since in order to know which advertisers you want to opt out of you need to know what ads they send out. I use an extension call Ghostery on Google Chrome, which shows the advertisers for a specific page. It is also available for Fire Fox, I am not sure if it is available for other browsers like Safari or Internet Explorer.  Finding the advertiser you want to block, may be a bit of trial and error.

Opting out of all Personalized Ads

Chrome_Web_Store_-_Keep_My_Opt-Outs.png

If you click on c in step 3 you will see the option to add this extension. This will opt you out from all personalized ads via cookies. Read the information carefully, before deciding what you want to do, there are both good and bad things about having personalized ads.

Final Thoughts

Finally, these steps only work on ads that are produced under the Google Network or Adwords Ads and where the advertiser has agreed to be a part of the Self-Regulatory Program for Online Behavioral Advertising.    This is only the tip of the iceberg on the issue of ads, privacy and Google. If you want to learn more I recommend clicking on the various links that say learn more on each page.

 

Prize Monkey

Prize Monkey We all like to get prizes, especially if we don’t have to do much. That is the concept behind Prize Monkey. Prize Monkey was being shown off at CES 2012, when Nick Dimeo, host of F5 Live stopped by to find out what it was all about.

Prize Monkey is a kiosk, but instead of working like a normal kiosk, it interacts with your phone. A monkey ask if you want to play, if you answer yes then it sends a message to your phone. Hit the right answer and the Prize Monkey kiosk produces a prize. There is no application to download or install. Each monkey acts a little differently and can be programmed for a specific demographic. It is being marketed toward social campaigns, promotional campaigns, loyalty programs, product sampling and more. Managers can build the campaign they want based on the demographic they are going for with the dynamic campaign tool provided. It has in-depth metrics and analytic tools built right in. Prize Monkey is an example of a product that is shown at CES that is being marketed toward businesses and not directly toward consumers.

I am curious to know if anyone has seen or used a Prize Monkey Kiosk? How well did it work, was it fun to use? If you are a business or social group who installed a Prize Monkey kiosk did it work for your business?

Interviewed by Nick Dimeo, Host of [F5 Live]((http://www.plughitzlive.com/radio/1-f5-live-refreshing-technology.html)

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