Advertising

Facebook Will Introduce Ads As Videos Start Playing (recode.net) 55

Facebook is going to start running pre-roll ads on its "Watch" videos next year. While you won't see your News Feed full of video ads, you will start to see pre-rolls, which will run for up to six seconds, on videos in Facebook's "Watch" hub. Recode reports: Facebook launched its Watch hub earlier this year, using "mid-roll" ads (another ad format Facebook tried to avoid for a long time). The fact that they have added pre-rolls -- the format used around the web and the one advertisers are most comfortable with -- should be read as an admission that the mid-roll ads aren't generating significant revenue for Facebook or the publishers putting video into Watch. Speaking of those mid-roll ads: Facebook now says they won't appear until later in videos and they'll only run on longer videos. It says the ads (it calls them "ad breaks") can't run until a minute into a video, and they can only run if the video is at least three minutes long. At first, the ads could run after 20 seconds and on videos as short as 90 seconds.
Books

San Diego Comic-Con Wins Trademark Suit Against 'Salt Lake Comic Con' (deseretnews.com) 116

The Deseret News reports: A jury has found that Salt Lake Comic Con founders Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg, along with their company, violated a trademark when they named their fan convention a "comic con." However, the jury decided that the trademark was not willfully violated, and only awarded $20,000 of the $12 million that San Diego Comic-Con had asked for in damages. The decision came at the end of an eight-day jury trial and three years of legal maneuvering... And with an estimated 140 other fan conventions across the country calling themselves comic cons, the impact of the decision could be felt nationwide...

The Salt Lake group also has an ongoing action with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office seeking to invalidate San Diego's "comic-con" trademark... San Diego Comic-Con, which has been holding events since 1970, has a trademark on "comic-con" with a hyphen, but was unsuccessful in its 1995 bid to trademark "comic con," with a space. The unhyphenated name "Comic Con International," as well as the event's iconic "eye logo," are also protected by trademark. The event maintains that its trademarks cover the term "comic con" in all its forms...

San Diego Comic-Con wanted more than $12 million in damages from Salt Lake, including over $9 million for a three-month "corrective advertising campaign" to dispel confusion... In his closing arguments, Michael Katz, an attorney for Salt Lake Comic Con, questioned the amount San Diego was seeking, noting that San Diego authorities said during trial the organization generally spends between $20,000 and $30,000 for a month of advertising.

Slashdot reader AlanBDee writes: When I attended the Salt Lake City Comic Con I did assume it was the same organization that put on San Diego Comic-Con... But now I have to wonder how that will affect other Comic Cons around the nation? What should these comic based fan conventions be called if not Comic Con?
The Almighty Buck

Contributors To Prominent Publications Have Taken Payments in Exchange For Positive Coverage (theoutline.com) 130

Jon Christian, reporting for The Outline: Interviews with more than two dozen marketers, journalists, and others familiar with similar pay-for-play offers revealed a dubious corner of online publishing in which publicists blur traditional lines between advertising and public relations, quietly pay off journalists to promote their clients in articles that make no mention of the financial arrangement. People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands. One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name.
Businesses

Prepare for the New Paywall Era (theatlantic.com) 263

Alexis C. Madrigal, writing for The Atlantic: If the recent numbers are any indication, there is a bloodbath in digital media this year. Publishers big and small are coming up short on advertising revenue, even if they are long on traffic. [...] In a print newspaper or a broadcast television station, the content and the distribution of that content are integrated. The big tech platforms split this marriage, doing the distribution for most digital content through Google searches and the Facebook News Feed. And they've taken most of the money: They've "captured the value" of the content at the distribution level. Media companies have no real alternative, nor do they have competitive advertising products to the targeting and scale that Facebook and Google can offer. Facebook and Google need content, but it's all fungible. The recap of a huge investigative blockbuster is just as valuable to Google News as an investigative blockbuster itself. The former might have taken months and costs tens of thousands of dollars, the latter a few hours and the cost of a young journalist's time. That's led many people to the conclusion that supporting rigorous journalism requires some sort of direct financial relationship between publications and readers. Right now, the preferred method is the paywall. The New York Times has one. The Washington Post has one. The Financial Times has one. The Wall Street Journal has one. The New Yorker has one. Wired just announced they'd be building one. (Editor's note: CNN is building a paywall, too.) Many of these efforts have been successful. Publications have figured out how to create the right kinds of porosity for their sites, allowing enough people in to drive scale, but extracting more revenue per reader than advertising could provide.
Youtube

Brands Pull YouTube Ads Over Images of Children (reuters.com) 125

An anonymous reader shares a report: Lidl, Cadbury maker Mondelez, Mars and other companies have pulled advertising from YouTube after the Times newspaper found the video sharing site was showing clips of scantily clad children alongside the ads of major brands. Comments from hundreds of pedophiles were posted alongside the videos, which appeared to have been uploaded by the children themselves, according to a Times investigation. One clip of a pre-teenage girl in a nightie drew 6.5 million views. The paper said YouTube, a unit of Alphabet subsidiary Google, had allowed sexualized imagery of children to be easily searchable and not lived up to promises to better monitor and police its services to protect children. In response, a YouTube spokesman said: "There shouldn't be any ads running on this content and we are working urgently to fix this."
Communications

Broadband Firms in UK Must Ditch 'Misleading' Speed Ads (bbc.com) 69

An anonymous reader shares a report: Broadband firms will no longer be able to advertise their fast net services based on the speeds just a few customers get, from May next year. Currently ISPs are allowed to use headline speeds that only 10% of customers will actually receive. In future, adverts must be based on what is available to at least half of customers at peak times. It follows research that suggested broadband advertising can be misleading for consumers. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) looked into consumers' understanding of broadband speed claims and found that many were confused by headline speeds that they would never actually get in their own homes. The concerns were passed on to the Committees of Advertising Practice (Cap) which consulted with ISPs, consumer groups and Ofcom to find a better way to advertise fast net services. Most argued that the fairest and clearest way would be to use the average speeds achieved at peak time by 50% of customers.
Social Networks

Facebook Still Lets Housing Advertisers Exclude Users By Race (arstechnica.com) 197

AmiMoJo writes: In February, Facebook said it would step up enforcement of its prohibition against discrimination in advertising for housing, employment, or credit. Last week, ProPublica bought dozens of rental housing ads on Facebook but asked that they not be shown to certain categories of users, such as African-Americans,mothers of high school kids, people interested in wheelchair ramps, Jews, expats from Argentina, and Spanish speakers. All of these groups are protected under the federal Fair Housing Act. Violators can face tens of thousands of dollars in fines. Every single ad was approved within minutes. The only ad that took longer than three minutes to be approved by Facebook sought to exclude potential renters 'interested in Islam, Sunni Islam, and Shia Islam.' It was approved after 22 minutes.
Google

Eric Schmidt Says Google News Will 'Engineer' Russian Propaganda Out of the Feed (vice.com) 356

Justin Ling, writing for Motherboard: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chariman of Alphabet, says the company is working to ferret out Russian propaganda from Google News after facing criticism that Kremlin-owned media sites had been given plum placement on the search giant's news and advertising platforms. "We're well aware of this one, and we're working on detecting this kind of scenario you're describing and deranking those kinds of sites," Schmidt said, after being asked why the world's largest search company continued to classify the Russian sites as news. Schmidt, in an interview at the Halifax International Security Forum over the weekend, name-checked two state-owned enterprises. "It's basically RT and Sputnik," Schmidt added. "We're well aware and we're trying to engineer the systems to prevent it."
The Media

Net Neutrality is Essentially Unassailable, Argues Billionaire Barry Diller (broadcastingcable.com) 82

An anonymous reader quotes Yahoo Finance: The billionaire media mogul behind such popular sites as Expedia, Match.com and HomeAdvisor has a one-word forecast for traditional media conglomerates concerned about being replaced by tech giants: serfdom. "They, like everyone else, are kind of going to be serfs on the land of the large tech companies," IAC chairman Barry Diller said... That's because Google and Facebook not only have such massive user bases but also dominate online advertising. "Google and Facebook are consolidating," Diller said. "They are the only mass advertising mediums we have..." He expects Facebook, Google and maybe Amazon to face government regulation, simply because of their immense size. "At a certain point in size, you must," he said. "It's inevitable."

He did, however, outline one positive for Big Tech getting so gargantuan. Big Telecom no longer has the economic leverage to roll back today's net-neutrality norms, in which internet providers don't try to charge sites extra for access to their subscribers. "I think it's hard to overturn practically," he said. "It is the accepted system."

Even if the U.S. government takes moves to fight net neutrality, Diller told CNBC that "I think it is over... It is [the] practice of the world... You're still going to be able to push a button and publish to the world, without anybody in between asking you for tribute. I think that is now just the way things are done. I don't think it can be violated no matter what laws are back."
Businesses

Tim Berners-Lee on the Future of the Web: 'The System is Failing' (theguardian.com) 165

Olivia Solon, writing for The Guardian: The inventor of the world wide web always maintained his creation was a reflection of humanity -- the good, the bad and the ugly. But Berners-Lee's vision for an "open platform that allows anyone to share information, access opportunities and collaborate across geographical boundaries" has been challenged by increasingly powerful digital gatekeepers whose algorithms can be weaponised by master manipulators. "I'm still an optimist, but an optimist standing at the top of the hill with a nasty storm blowing in my face, hanging on to a fence," said the British computer scientist. "We have to grit our teeth and hang on to the fence and not take it for granted that the web will lead us to wonderful things," he said. The spread of misinformation and propaganda online has exploded partly because of the way the advertising systems of large digital platforms such as Google or Facebook have been designed to hold people's attention. "People are being distorted by very finely trained AIs that figure out how to distract them," said Berners-Lee. In some cases, these platforms offer users who create content a cut of advertising revenue. The financial incentive drove Macedonian teenagers with "no political skin in the game" to generate political clickbait fake news that was distributed on Facebook and funded by revenue from Google's automated advertising engine AdSense. "The system is failing. The way ad revenue works with clickbait is not fulfilling the goal of helping humanity promote truth and democracy. So I am concerned," said Berners-Lee, who in March called for the regulation of online political advertising to prevent it from being used in "unethical ways."
Privacy

Why is this Company Tracking Where You Are on Thanksgiving? (theoutline.com) 98

Earlier this week, several publications published a holiday-themed data study about how families that voted for opposite parties spent less time together on Thanksgiving, especially in areas that saw heavy political advertising. The data came from a company called SafeGraph that supplied publications with 17 trillion location markets for 10 million smartphones. A report looks at the bigger picture: The data wasn't just staggering in sheer quantity. It also appears to be extremely granular. Researchers "used this data to identify individuals' home locations, which they defined as the places people were most often located between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m.," wrote The Washington Post. The researchers also looked at where people were between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day in order to see if they spent that time at home or traveled, presumably to be with friends or family. "Even better, the cellphone data shows you exactly when those travelers arrived at a Thanksgiving location and when they left," the Post story says. To be clear: This means SafeGraph is looking at an individual device and tracking where its owner is going throughout their day. A common defense from companies that creepily collect massive amounts of data is that the data is only analyzed in aggregate; for example, Google's database BigQuery, which allows organizations to upload big data sets and then query them quickly, promises that all its public data sets are "fully anonymized" and "contain no personally-identifying information." In multiple press releases from SafeGraph's partners, the company's location data is referred to as "anonymized," but in this case they seem to be interpreting the concept of anonymity quite liberally given the specificity of the data.
Businesses

The Brutal Fight To Mine Your Data and Sell It To Your Boss (bloomberg.com) 75

An anonymous reader shares a report from Bloomberg, explaining how Silicon Valley makes billions of dollars peddling personal information, supported by an ecosystem of bit players. Editor Drake Bennett highlights the battle between an upstart called HiQ and LinkedIn, who are fighting for your lucrative professional identity. Here's an excerpt from the report: A small number of the world's most valuable companies collect, control, parse, and sell billions of dollars' worth of personal information voluntarily surrendered by their users. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft -- which bought LinkedIn for $26.2 billion in 2016 -- have in turn spawned dependent economies consisting of advertising and marketing companies, designers, consultants, and app developers. Some operate on the tech giants' platforms; some customize special digital tools; some help people attract more friends and likes and followers. Some, including HiQ, feed off the torrents of information that social networks produce, using software bots to scrape data from profiles. The services of the smaller companies can augment the offerings of the bigger ones, but the power dynamic is deeply asymmetrical, reminiscent of pilot fish picking food from between the teeth of sharks. The terms of that relationship are set by technology, economics, and the vagaries of consumer choice, but also by the law. LinkedIn's May 23 letter to HiQ wasn't the first time the company had taken legal action to prevent the perceived hijacking of its data, and Facebook and Craigslist, among others, have brought similar actions. But even more than its predecessors, this case, because of who's involved and how it's unfolded, has spoken to the thorniest issues surrounding speech and competition on the internet.
Youtube

YouTube Says It Will Crack Down On Bizarre Videos Targeting Children (theverge.com) 109

"Earlier this week, a report in The New York Times and a blog post on Medium drew a lot of attention to a world of strange and sometimes disturbing YouTube videos aimed at young children," reports The Verge. "The genre [...] makes use of popular characters from family-friendly entertainment, but it's often created with little care, and can quickly stray from innocent themes to scenes of violence or sexuality." YouTube is cracking down and will now age restrict videos that violate its policy. From the report: The first line of defense for YouTube Kids are algorithmic filters. After that, there is a team of humans that review videos which have been flagged. If a video with recognizable children's characters gets flagged in YouTube's main app, which is much larger than the Kids app, it will be sent to the policy review team. YouTube says it has thousands of people working around the clock in different time zones to review flagged content. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restricted, automatically blocking it from traveling to the Kids app. YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content. YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks. Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube's main service. Flagged content will be age restricted, and users won't be able to see those videos if they're not logged in on accounts registered to users 18 years or older. All age-gated content is also automatically exempt from advertising. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting strange kid's content.
China

China Spreads Propaganda to U.S. on Facebook, a Platform it Bans at Home (nytimes.com) 103

Paul Mozur, reporting for the New York Times: China does not allow its people to gain access to Facebook, a powerful tool for disseminating information and influencing opinion. As if to demonstrate the platform's effectiveness, outside its borders China uses it to spread state-produced propaganda around the world, including the United States (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). So much do China's government and companies value Facebook that the country is Facebook's biggest advertising market in Asia, even as it is the only major country in the region that blocks the social network. A look at the Facebook pages of China Central Television, the leading state-owned broadcast network better known as CCTV, and Xinhua, China's official news agency, reveals hundreds of English-language posts intended for an English-speaking audience. Each quarter China's government, through its state media agencies, spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy Facebook ads, according to a person with knowledge of those deals, who was unauthorized to talk publicly about the company's revenue streams. China's propaganda efforts are in the spotlight with President Trump visiting the country and American lawmakers investigating foreign powers's use of technology to sway voters in the United States.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Can Smart TVs Insert Ads Into Your Movies? (gigaom.com) 235

dryriver writes: Back in 2015, the owners of some Samsung smart TVs complained about their viewing of films and other content being constantly interrupted by a recurring Pepsi ad. It turned out that yes, the Samsung TV itself was inserting the ad into content.

Samsung said at the time that it was a software glitch that caused this. They left a function on by default that should have been off when they shipped the TVs. But it proves that Smart TVs have an unnerving capability built into them -- the ability to interrupt content playback with product ads actually stored on the TV itself.

So here's the question -- what if all Smart TV makers suddenly decide that having the ability to push custom ads to the owner of the TV is "fair game"? What if they decide "You want to own this model of TV for XXX Dollars? Well, you can have it, but we'll reserve the right to show you customized advertising as you are viewing stuff with it"? Are there any laws anywhere that would protect TV owners from such intrusive advertising?

Businesses

Pandora Loses 7 Million Listeners (siliconvalley.com) 115

An anonymous reader quotes the Bay Area Newsgroup: So many listeners have turned off Pandora that Friday could have been called the day the music died for the internet radio streaming pioneer. Late Thursday, Pandora said it ended its third quarter with 73.7 million active listeners, a decline of more than 7 million listeners from the 81 million it had in the same quarter a year ago. Declining listener numbers, along with weaker-than-expected advertising revenue and a disappointing fourth-quarter forecast, had investors tuning Pandora out on Friday, as the company's shares fell by almost 25 percent, to close at $5.59.

Pandora still has more listeners than Apple Music, which has 27 million paying subscribers. But the Oakland-based music streaming business trails its other major rival, Spotify, which has 140 million active listeners, including 60 million who pay a monthly fee for on-demand streaming and to avoid listening to commercials with their music.

For comparision, Pandora now has just 5.19 million paying subscribers for its two ad-free streaming music services.
Firefox

Firefox Borrows From Tor Browser Again, Blocks Canvas Fingerprinting (bleepingcomputer.com) 92

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla engineers have borrowed yet another feature from the Tor Browser and starting with version 58 Firefox will block attempts to fingerprint users using the HTML5 canvas element. The technique is widely used in the advertising industry to track users across sites. Firefox 58 is scheduled for release on January 16, 2018.

Canvas fingerprinting blocking is the second feature Mozilla engineers have borrowed from the Tor Project. Previously, Mozilla has added a mechanism to Firefox 52 that prevents websites from fingerprinting users via system fonts. Mozilla's efforts to harden Firefox are part of the Tor Uplift project, an initiative to import more privacy-focused feature from the Tor Browser into Firefox.

Facebook

Facebook Ends 'Dark Posts' -- All Ads Will Be Visible To The Public (seattletimes.com) 68

"Under pressure in advance of hearings on Russian election interference, Facebook is moving to increase transparency for everyone who sees and buys political advertising on its site," reports the Associated Press. Here's the official announcement from Facebook's "VP of ads" : Starting next month, people will be able to click "View Ads" on a Page and view ads a Page is running on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger -- whether or not the person viewing is in the intended target audience for the ad. All Pages will be part of this effort, and we will require that all ads be associated with a Page as part of the ad creation process... We know how important it is to our community that we get this feature just right -- and so we're first rolling it out in only one country. Testing in one market allows us to learn the various ways an entire population uses the feature at a scale that allows us to learn and iterate... We will start this test in Canada and roll it out to the U.S. by this summer, ahead of the U.S. midterm elections in November, as well as broadly to all other countries around the same time... During this initial test, we will only show active ads. However, when we expand to the U.S. we plan to begin building an archive of federal-election related ads so that we can show both current and historical federal-election related ads.
Facebook "will verify political ad buyers in federal elections, requiring them to reveal correct names and locations," adds the Associated Press, noting that the effort is "likely meant to head off bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would require social media companies to keep public files of election ads and try to ensure they are not purchased by foreigners."

In addition, Facebook insists that "For political advertisers that do not proactively disclose themselves, we are building machine learning tools that will help us find them and require them to verify their identity."
Television

FCC To Loosen TV, Newspaper Ownership Rules (reuters.com) 86

The FCC is planning to vote on rolling back landmark media ownership regulations that prohibit owning a television station and newspaper in the same market and making it easier to acquire additional TV or radio stations. Reuters reports: If approved at the FCC's November meeting, the move would be a win for newspapers and broadcasters that have pushed for the change for decades, but was criticized by Democrats who said it could usher in a new era of media consolidation. The FCC in 1975 banned cross-ownership of a newspaper and broadcast station in the same market, unless it granted a waiver, to ensure a diversity of opinions. The rule was made before the explosion of internet and cable news and Republican President Donald Trump and Pai have vowed to reduce government regulation.

"We must stop the federal government from intervening in the news business," Pai told a congressional panel, noting that many newspapers have closed and many radio and TV stations are struggling. Pai moved earlier this year to make it easier for some companies to own a larger number of local stations. Pai said the marketplace no longer justifies the rules, citing Facebook and Alphabet's dominance of internet advertising. "Online competition for the collection and distribution of news is greater than ever. And just two internet companies claim 100 percent of recent online advertising growth; indeed, their digital ad revenue this year alone will be greater than the market cap of the entire broadcasting industry," Pai said.

Social Networks

Silicon Valley 'Divided Society and Made Everyone Raging Mad', Argues Newsweek (newsweek.com) 320

"Anyone who is pissed off can now automatically find other people that are similarly pissed off," argues author Jamie Bartlett, in a new essay shared by Slashdot reader schwit1 which calls the internet "a bottomless well of available grievance." Here's an excerpt from Newsweek: Silicon Valley's utopians genuinely but mistakenly believe that more information and connection makes us more analytical and informed. But when faced with quinzigabytes of data, the human tendency is to simplify things. Information overload forces us to rely on simple algorithms to make sense of the overwhelming noise. This is why, just like the advertising industry that increasingly drives it, the internet is fundamentally an emotional medium that plays to our base instinct to reduce problems and take sides, whether like or don't like, my guy/not my guy, or simply good versus evil. It is no longer enough to disagree with someone, they must also be evil or stupid...

Nothing holds a tribe together like a dangerous enemy. That is the essence of identity politics gone bad: a universe of unbridgeable opinion between opposing tribes, whose differences are always highlighted, exaggerated, retweeted and shared. In the end, this leads us to ever more distinct and fragmented identities, all of us armed with solid data, righteous anger, a gutful of anger and a digital network of likeminded people. This is not total connectivity; it is total division.

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