Call to legislate internet privacy and Google’s new interest based advertising

After my Advertising and marketing meets Johnny Law post, two interesting things have emerged on internet privacy. Check out the news from the NY times blog and the Google public policy blog (one of my favourite blogs to read).

I’ve copied some of the more pertinent parts of the article below. 

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Call to Legislate Internet Privacy

The debate on Internet privacy has begun in Congress.

Rick Boucher
Phil McCarten/Reuters
Representative Rick Boucher

I had a chance to sit down recently with Representative Rick Boucher, the long-serving Virginia Democrat, who has just replaced Ed Markey, the Democrat from Massachusetts, as the chairman of the House Subcommittee looking after telecommunications, technology and the Internet. Mr. Boucher is widely regarded as one of the most technologically savvy members of Congress……..

But high on his list is a topic that is very much under his discretion: passing a bill to regulate the privacy of Internet users.

“Internet users should be able to know what information is collected about them and have the opportunity to opt out,” he said.

While he hasn’t written the bill yet, Mr. Boucher said that he, working with Representative Cliff Stearns, the Florida Republican who is the ranking minority member on the subcommittee, wants to require Web sites to disclose how they collect and use data, and give users the option to opt out of any data collection. That’s not a big change from what happens now, at least on most big sites.

But in what could be a big change from current practice, Mr. Boucher wants sites to get explicit permission from users — an “opt in” — if they are going to share information with other companies.

“I think that strikes the right balance,” he said. “Web site operators are very concerned that if they have an opt-in regime for the internal marketing of the Web site themselves it would be very disruptive. The default position of most Internet users will be not to check any boxes at all. It is a very different matter if the site takes the information and sells it to gain revenue.”

I spoke to Mr. Boucher on the day that Google announced its new plan to track data about customers for advertising. And I asked him about such behavioral targeting, which presents an ad based on what you did on other sites.

For the rest of it here

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Google’s announcement on interest based advertising


 Check out this article on Google’s new privacy controls here and Google’s take on it via their public policy blog. This is exactly the point I was making in my post about relevancy of advertising v privacy of information:

“In her post to the Official Google Blog this morning, Susan Wojcicki, VP of Product Management, announced that we are making interest-based advertising available in beta for our AdSense partner sites and YouTube. Interest-based advertising uses information about the web pages people visit to make the online ads they see more relevant. Relevant advertising, in turn, has fueled the content, products and services available on the Internet today.

Providing such advertising has proven to be a challenging policy issue for advertisers, publishers, internet companies and regulators over the last decade. On the one hand, well-tailored ads benefit consumers, advertisers, and publishers alike. On the other hand, the industry has long struggled with how to deliver relevant ads while respecting users’ privacy.”

 

I will discuss it in more detail when I get my head around all this information. 

When advertising & marketing meets Johnny Law

Last night I watched American Gangster (again!) featuring Denzel Washington, one of my favourite actors. I’ve seen it before when I was visiting New York in a Times Square movie theatre. Denzel, uses the “johnny law” phrase a few times when talking about paying off “Johnny Law” i.e. paying cops to turn a blind eye to his nefarious activities.

I’ve always been curious about technology and the law. And now more so. Technology is an evolving beast, where the business models are constantly changing and new competitors, trends, viral campaigns emerge overnight. Whilst the law is seen as conservative, slow to adapt, and very traditional. Generalisations yes, but ask any lawyer or laymen and they’ll agree with these perceptions. Evidently, these two are at opposite ends of the spectrum. The law seeks to maintain order and protect society, yet also to enable the creation of new ideas and businesses. The internet is disruptive, fast moving, changing and global in its reach. Law is often seen as jursidictional, often applying to only member states (i.e on country by country basis) unless treaties are ratified by Member states.

On Wednesday morning, I attended an Advertising and Marketing law CLE. What is a CLE? It means “continuing legal education”. For those that are unaware, I’m still a qualified lawyer (amongst other things) and to maintain your status as a lawyer, you need undertake ongoing education. It might involve some lectures, preparing presenting a lecture, or watching some videos.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this lecture but went with an open mind. I heard the following lectures:

1. New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 
2. Comparative advertising 101
3. Copyright in advertising
4. Children & the law

Topic 1: New commercial models in advertising and marketing using the internet 

They were well presented, but the most useful to me was probably Internet Business models by Peter Leonard. Peter is a partner at Gilbert & Tobin, and counts Google amongst his clients. He described some basics about adwords and how it worked – I knew most of this stuff since I do some work on adwords. However, he had some really interesting points on whitelisting v blacklisting of keywords, something which I was not aware of. 

Blacklisting of keywords

Apparently, some brandnames are “blacklisted” on google, so advertisers can’t use them. For example, “Toyota” can only be used by Toyota. A car reseller, wholesaler, etc… can’t use that term. People are very careful which words they blacklist since it does not enable to aforementioned parties to advertise on google. And google applies this policy on a global basis. So if Toyota actually had a reseller in china under a distribution arrangement, they could not buy that keyword to sell a Toyota car.

Contextual and behavioural advertising

The other relevant thing he discussed was contexutal and behavioural advertising, which is becoming quite a big area in the online marketing world. Advertising has always been about relevancy and recency. Erwin Ephron developed the recency theory which is about showing someone an ad when they are in the mood to purchase. The idea of “top of mind”. It’s not about showing them an ad 3 times to get it to stick, rather at the right time when they want to buy. I believe that is what behavioural advertising and contextual advertising seeks to do as well – tying relevancy and recency together. 

 Behavioural looks at your past behaviour on the internet – which websites you’ve been to, how you use the internet. Contextual advertising is 3rd party advertising based on the content on the website (i.e. your current session on the web).  The whole idea is to serve you more relevant ads. Websites now, may reserve a space on their site for advertising local content to you based on your IP address – you’ve probabaly seen it! Look at an American website, yet its giving you ads for Australian flights or credit cards. Online advertising has gotten smarter. It was really insightful because at ad:tech and even in my work, these are topics which people are talking about. third party advertising, serving of ads, affiliate marketing, etc… On the flip side, there are privacy concerns, because your ISP tracks where you’ve been and keeps all the information about each individiual user. To me, this is also two competing concerns – serving you more relevant ads v capturing your private information.

It enhances the user experience and the advertising by having geographically and behavioural based ads, but aren’t you worried that someone is keeping tabs on you?

Other interesting points he discussed was how keywords get bought, and the difficulty of proving trademark infringement for keywords. Since the prices and the allocation of paid ads on Google was constantly changing, its hard to prove in such a dynamic environment. 

I must admit the other seminars weren’t as relevant to me or as interesting, hence my interest did drop off. Copyright issues in advertising were ok, about database compliation and the rights attached to that. Children and the law & comparative advertising was extremely boring, but still handy to know. I learnt that advertising needs to get clearance from legals, very important so you don’t get sued (!) and meets all legal and regulatory requirements. Also, there’s so many various regulatory codes for each type of media (radio, tv, outdoor) and legislation. 

I’m out like Johnny Law, 

Matthew Ho.

Free download of SEO Book

Came across this via twitter:

“RT @divinewrite: For next 12hrs, u can download my SEO ebook FREE. No strings. http://snipr.com/dp0z3

I’ve just downloaded the book, it looks ok. There’s no strings attached – you don’t have to give any of your details. They’re just looking for people that like the book to become affiliate resellers. 

seo-book

Stop reading, and check it out! It’s only available for another 12 hours.

Download it from here.

I’m out like SEO secrets, 

Matthew Ho

Top 150 Media & Marketing Blogs

Just came across this useful list from Adage. Check it out here. Good to know who the online influencers are. Not surprised that Seth Godin’s blog is #1, he’s considered king amongst online marketers.

Also, high up there are Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch, which I occassionally read as well to stay on top of the search game. Problogger is up there too, one of the top authorities on blogging and its Australian too!

Speaking of search, I’m going to be doing a few things to get up to speed on the search industry:

– I’m doing the google adwords webinars. They have these web seminars about various topics. It’s like 1 or two a week. There’s one on tomorrow at 11am for Quality Scores. This is free.

– I’m also attending the Yahoo search Masterclass at ad:tech. It’s on the 11 – 12 March at 12pm. Next Digital is actually speaking straight after at 1pm on Digital Marketing Strategy.Free.

My first customised digg result: Building a blog cheatsheet

I mentioned previously that I had subscribed to the Digg’s RSS feeds. I now get updates on my twitter account by the minute and also in my Google reader account. The other interesting RSS feed i subscribed to was a customised search on “social media”. The purpose was to find out what people were “digging” or recommending as interesting social media websites.

Initially I was quite disappointed, because nothing came in over several days. I kept checking back into my Google reader account and there was nothing. However, this result came in and its a beauty. It’s about how to find the top blogs and the top posts within those blogs. Then on a systematic basis, you only subscribe to those top posts. Basically, it a social media cheat sheet.

It’s looks incredibly useful. I probably do some of the steps in trawling for new blogs and adding the feeds, but this directs you to the top posts within those blogs. I also probably haven’t fully exploited the usage of social bookmarking and readers.

I’m out like blog cheat sheets,

Matthew Ho.

The Wisdom of Crowds (with bookmarks)

You’ve probably seen these symbols at the bottom of a webpage and you’ve wondered what they were:

social_bookmarking_icons

Well they are social bookmarks and reader feeds. It enables you to share the items with other people and to also subscribe to the website for updates. Lately, I’ve been really into bookmarks and I don’t mean the kind you put into books.  I’ve previously written about social bookmarking, tagging, taxonomies and folksonomies.

But essentially, for the uninitiated, social bookmarking is a way to publicly share bookmarks (i.e. websites). So instead of just saving it to your internet brower in “book marks”, your letting the world know what your interested in.

Initially, I thought it was pretty cool because I get to access my bookmarks wherever I am. Whether I’m using firefox or IE, at home or a work, on my desktop or laptop, in Australia or overseas. I was saving all my websites onto a webpage for all to see and for me to refer back to. But that was just for my own benefit. However, social bookmarking was wider benefits:

1. Quickly see what websites / newstories / trends are popular

I’m starting to on a regular basis scan the top ranked stories on Digg and Delicious to see what’s happening. With Digg and other social bookmarking websites, the more people that “digg” the article (recommend it) or save the article, the higher it moves up the ranking. It’s very useful to seeing pop culture trends.

digg

For example Digg was able to call the US election well before the opinion polls with credible evidence. It had an option where you could “digg” whether you voted for Obama or McCain. Of course, it was a little bit skewed since people like me voted in the Digg election, but it had a basis for calling the election in Obama’s favour given his popularity on being recommended on Digg. Another skewing factor is that a proportion of Obama voters tended to be younger and more technologically savvy than McCain voters.

2. Results in finding more interesting articles that are relevant to you

There’s a team of thousands if not millions of people on Digg, Delicious, Slashdot, Stumbleupon trawling the web, so more people are going to find more interesting content. The web is an enormous place, kinda like a massive goldfield. When someone finds something, by bookmarking, they are letting the world know that this is interesting to them and they want to share it with other people. By bringing attention to it, they are drawing other people to their discovery and if they find it interesting, they’ll share it with even more people creating a multipler effect. So more interesting discoveries are found.

It becomes more relevant because users can apply tags, categories, and comments to the things they save. Essentially, its like trawling the web with a team of people that are cataloging it into a library. The benefit of a social bookmark like Delicious is that users can write their own tags (similar to labels) for websites. For example, I might come across a website with a DVD review of the TV series Entourage. So I will label it as “Entourage”, “HBO”, “DVD review”, and other relevant labels.  So when you browse categories for TV shows or Entourage or DVD reviews, that website would come up. You can funnel the search so your only looking at stuff in that category. If I am only interested in Entourage, then only search results labelled as “Entourage” by users would come up.

You can also follow the bookmarks of like minded people and also share them with groups. Say for example, you and your friend have similar interests such as hip hop, basketball, travel and instead of sending the websites back and forth, you can see the websites that he or she is saving. Or if you are working in a team on an academic project, everyone in the team can see the collective links that are being saved.

Which leads to……..

3.  Better search results, creating a more perfect search engine

Some proponents like myself think that having more chefs in the kitchen, will over time generate better tagging (labelling), offerring a more refined search engine. This is because users can elect to search exclusively within Delicious, Digg or other social bookmarks, and find things that actual users have tagged as opposed to Google’s web crawl agent which uses mathematical algorithims. Actual users will decide what category a website belongs in and what keywords to associate with it.

delicious

The problem is that this system of taxonomy (the science of classification) relies on the individual user and there are often no rules around it. Going back to our previous example, I might label the above website as “tv series” or even mistakely as another tv show. Different people will apply different tags according to their views, perspectives, and tagging patterns. Some people are more comprehensive in their tagging while others might tag at a minimal level.

HOWEVER…………..

If there are enough users, over time and through the collective wisdom of a group of people, more popular tags will rise to the top. If 1,000 people tagged the website, then more likely than not, they will develop a set of tags which have consensus. For example, Delicious will recommend to users certain keywords to tag, assisting in developing group consensus. Again, a lot of this will depend on how many users they are in the social bookmarking network.

Catch me if you can

For me, the main thing now is sharing with other people the websites that I am interested in and having a reference to go back to websites that are interesting to me.  You can find me on:

http://delicious.com/Inspiredworlds

I also have a Stumbleupon account but I don’t use it much. And I’m starting to get into the subculture of Digg. Check it out here.  What I have also done is added Digg to my twitter account. So I get frequent updates on the top stories on Digg with over 2,000 Diggs – its basically my way to keep my pulse on what’s hot. I also subscribe to an RSS feed for the top results for “Social Media” for Digg.

I’m out like saving bookmarks,

Matthew Ho.

p.s. Check out the music on Delicious! You can listen to hip hop music feeds.

Ad Age Search Fact Pack 2008

Here is the link for the ad age search fact pack 2008. It covers SEO / SEM and is packed full of pie charts, stats and short stories on Google, Microsoft, Yahoo. Took me about 20 mins to go through it – nice overview of what’s happening in search. Covers industries like travel, politics, entertainment, what are the top search terms in these industries. Also lists the top 25 search firms.

Oh and yes we can! Obama becomes president – congrats.

Matt Ho.

Too much coke…..

Just drank too much coke.

Two things I’ve come across in the past 24 hrs:

Confluence. I’ve spoken to two friends about creating a wiki, and I’ve been recommended Confluence made by Atlassian, a company specialising in collaboration software. It’s also got a sharepoint extender which could come in handy as my company uses it. Sharepoint seems more useful for document management as opposed to using it for wiki’s and blogs. Twiki is also available as free open source.

– Yahoo and Google merger deal: This has been going on for a while, looks like its closer to happening subject to anti trust and regulatory review.

I’m out like too much coke.

Dialing into the future with Xummi and Google Android

Mobile Mondays

Mobile Mondays

MoMo – Mobile Mondays

I turned up to my first Mobile Monday event tonite in Sydney. Mobile Mondays are chapters or societies in different cities dedicated to learning more about mobiles, mobile marketing and for networking opportunites for those in the mobile industry.

The event began by talking about general industry trends relating to mobile and internet. The most interesting fact was that China has now overtaken the US as the greatest number of internet users. Which is suprising given that the U.S has 70% penetration of its population using internet, while China only has a fraction at 19%. Kinda scary numbers as the internet hasn’t been fully adopted in China yet.

Xumii – Mobile Social Networking

The warmup act was Xumii, which is a company from San Francisco. It is developing a platform to use across existing social networking applications for mobiles. It’s great little application where you can chat to all your friends across different instant messenger platforms like MSN, AIM, googletalk, etc.., check the status of your friends, have RSS sent to your mobile, access facebook, myspace, etc… Consider it like a friendfeed for mobiles. It doesn’t really create anything new, it just lets your social networking applications talk to your mobile.

Friendfeed is brilliant in this way, and Xumii‘s use is quite similar. It allows you to keep track of your social applications and gives you a single access point from your mobile. They have worked together with Facebook, youtube, etc.. to use their existing features and security log ins.

You can drag all your contacts from online to your mobile and it lets you have private conversations with different groups of people. Instead of sending an SMS to all your friends to find out where they are, consider this scenario: check the status of your friends to see whether they are on the computer or on their mobile Xumii’s. Message the group of people that’s out and about telling them where to go and also upload a gif image of a map to direct them.

For me, what we are seeing, is a mobile being used as a greater social tool to organise and keep in contact with your friends. We don’t have to talk to them to know what they are up to. That is the beauty of facebook, its allows you to voyueristically see what your friends are up to by looking at their status, what’s going on in their lives by checking the messages on their walls and perusing their photos. Xumii brings that mindset and capability to the mobile.

The biggest question facing Xumii and its competitors is how to monetise this platform – because Xumii is free. The presenters mentioned having wall or profile page where advertisers could display current events coming up that the user is interested in – like local concerts, discounted offers, etc… They also mentioned revenue share with the carriers and so on. But as a business proposition, one really has to wonder how they will make money off Xumii. It is the same problem facing other social media like Facebook, Youtube, etc…

Overall, I thought it was cool application bordering on a product pitch to VC’s in Silicon Valley. My other concern besides monetisation is competition. Because of the similarities to Friendfeed, if Friendfeed developed a mobile application, would Xumii have trouble competiting? That remains to be seen, despite this, I think this is a step in the right direction for the future of mobile.

However, do people want to be contactable by their 400 friends on Facebook, so they can see what they are up to all times via their mobiles? For someone like me, who is really into web 2.0 products like RSS, social bookmarking, folksonomies, facebook, etc… I think its pretty cool. But they are times where you just dont want to be bothered by other people, I can understand if people simply switch off their phones to escape from the madness of the world.

Future of Mobile – Google Android

The main event of the night, was Google’s presenter Justin Baird on the future of mobile. He started off by presenting some interesting stats such as there being 1.3Billion people having internet access versus 3.3Billion having mobile phones. Obviously, mobile presents a wealth of untapped opportunites. there are more people sending SMS than using search engines. Everyone in the developed world has a mobile – if not one, than two!

Justin talked about a bunch of other stuff, but the only stuff which I remember was what we had all been waiting for – The Andriod – Google’s answer to the Apple Iphone. A very cool device I must say. Again, this bordered on being a product pitch, but that’s what happens when you attend a marketing event.

The Android is really different to any other phone because it an open source product, which I found rather interesting. The Apple Iphone or any other phone, is a static device because you only use the applications already found on your mobile i.e. they have already been preprogrammed on there. Being capable of open source, means that new developments and applications can be constantly added. Google is adopting a similar practice to its igoogle portal which has open source for its applications. I’ve got a igoogle portal, and I’m fascinated by the amount of widgets they have developed for it. You name it, and they’ve got it. If they dont have it, you can develop it, if you have the necessary know how. That is one of the reasons facebook is so popular, because new apps are constantly being developed by the user community.

I think we will see a lot more mashup apps involving google maps. What the phone does is triangulate your position using cell towers, giving you a fairly good idea of where you are. The thing that really blew me away was compass function using google maps. Imagine having a screen showing you where you want to go. When you move, the phone acts like a compass and adjusts the picture based on where you have moved, giving you a real picture. Very cool.

In addition, because Google is behind it, you know that search has to be incorporated somehow. the stats really surprised me. The click through rate for display ads on google typically is 0.2%. However, on mobiles, that rate is 2%. That’s a 10 fold increase. I tell you why – because the ads become even more relevant based on your location. If your current location is say Parramatta, and you search for restaurants and ads come up for that area, you are more inclined to click on those ads on your mobile. With the unleashing of True Local, we will really see the power of geographic based ads.

From the presentation and my own experience overseas, Australia is really behind globally in the mobile experience. But we are catching up. I remember friends of mine in New York, using blackberries to search for places using google maps. In the U.S they also have unlimited data ability for their phones. Phone data charges here are quite prohibitive – the carriers have to work together to find a way to somehow get to the level of unlimited data downloads. But its probably not going to happen because we can’t get enough people onto the network to make that feasible.

After this presentation, I really do think there are lot more marketing and innovative opportunites we can use with mobiles. I mean more people have mobiles than computers. A mobile is our social currency and keeps us attuned with our friends and family. It is only natural that it becomes even more extended into our lives. Once we can get full internet functionability on our phones, we will really see the true power of mobiles. And there really won’t be a distinction between online and offline. We’ll always be connected.

I’m out like dial up phones.

Matt Ho.