Posts tagged ‘advertising’


What saying yes to SEO “guest posts” looks like

05.01.2023




 
Here are a few screenshots from a magazine I loved, but sadly, it seems they’ve responded to those SEO emails, and grabbed the US$50 per post.

I don’t blame them, since Google has destroyed the online advertising ecosystem, and they have to make ends meet somehow.

I was in contact with them some years ago, and they’re really good people.

The top articles on their home page are theirs, and they remain excellent in quality, but scroll down and there are articles that are obviously SEO pieces. What’s the bet that Al Woods and Alexa Wang, with the same initials, are the same person? As a result, I made the sad decision to remove them from Lucire’s link directory.

My feeling is that you accept these SEO gigs at your own risk, and those risks include getting demoted by the search engines as I’m sure they have figured out when you’re part of trying to game the system. They also make the site look like a content mill, despite the great original journalism that’s front and centre, and more visible there.

Our sites are our shop windows, so it’s in our interests to remain visible in the search engines. But everyone has different priorities. And I may be wrong: maybe these pieces haven’t affected that site at all. I’d just rather not risk it.


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Beware AI; the dangers of Google ads; and the beauty of Radio.garden

03.01.2023

Hat tip to Stefan Engeseth on this one: an excellent podcast with author, historian and philosopher Yuval Noah Harari.

Among the topics he covers, as detailed in the summary in Linkedin’s The Next Big Idea:

• AI is the first technology that can take power away from us
• if we are not careful, AI and bioengineering will be used to create the worst totalitarian regimes in history
• Be skeptical of technological determinism

We should be wary now—not after these technologies have been fully realized.

I also checked into Business Ethics today, a site linked from the Jack Yan & Associates links’ section (which dates back to the 1990s). The lead item, syndicated from ProPublica, is entitled, ‘Porn, Privacy Fraud: What Lurks Inside Google’s Black Box Ad Empire’, subtitled, ‘Google’s ad business hides nearly all publishers it works with and where billions of ad dollars flow. We uncovered a network containing manga piracy, porn, fraud and disinformation.’

This should be no surprise to anyone who reads this blog; indeed, this should be no surprise to anyone who has had their eyes open and breathes. This opaque black box is full of abuse, funds disinformation, endangers democracy, and exposes personal data to dodgy parties. As I outlined earlier, someone in the legal profession with cojones and a ton of funding and time could demonstrate that Google’s entire business should be subject to a massive negligence lawsuit. The authors of the article present more evidence that Google is being up to no good.

An excerpt, without revealing too much:

Last year, a marketer working for a Fortune 500 company launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign …

Over the next few months, Google placed more than 1.3 trillion of the company’s ads on over 150,000 different websites and apps. The biggest recipient of ads — more than 49 million — was a website called PapayAds. The company was registered in Bulgaria less than two years ago and lists one employee, CEO Andrea De Donatis, on LinkedIn …

It seems impossible that 49 million ads were legitimately placed and viewed on PapayAds’ site over the span of several months … “I don’t have an explanation for this,” he said, adding that he does not recall receiving payment for such a large volume of ads.

I doubt this is isolated, and the story elaborates on how the scheme worked. And when Google realized its ads were winding up on inappropriate websites, the action it took was to keep doing it.
 

 

On a more positive note, I found out about Radio.garden in December on Mastodon (thank goodness for all the posts there these days, a far cry from when I joined in 2017) and have since been tuning in to RTHK Radio 1 in Hong Kong. I had no idea they even gave NZ dollar–US dollar exchange rates as part of their business news! The interface is wonderful: just rotate the planet and place the city of your choice within the circular pointer. It works equally well on a cellphone, though only in portrait mode there. You’d be amazed at what you can find, and I even listened to one of the pop stations in Jeddah.

My usual suspects are “favourited”: KCSM in San Mateo, Sveriges Radio P1, and RNZ National here. I might add Rix FM from Stockholm but I seem to have grown up a little since the days when its music was targeted to me.

It’s now been added to our company link list. Sadly, a few dead ones have had to be culled today. But I must say Radio.garden has been one of the best finds of 2022. Almost makes you want to surf to random sites again like we did in the 1990s.


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Posted in business, culture, design, globalization, Hong Kong, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, technology, USA | No Comments »


January 2023 gallery

01.01.2023

Here are January 2023’s images—aides-mémoires, photos of interest, and miscellaneous items. I append to this gallery through the month.
 


 

Notes
Rosa Clará image, added as I was archiving files from the third quarter of 2021.

The Claudia Schiffer Rolling Stone cover came to mind recently—I believe it was commended in 1991 by the Society of Publication Designers, which I was a member of.

I looked at a few more risqué, but mainstream, covers to see what is appropriate, since the Lucire issue 46 cover was one of our more revealing though most glamorous ones in years. Vanity Fair and Women’s Health were useful US cases.

Lucire 46 cover for our 25th anniversary: hotographed by Lindsay Adler, styled by Cannon, make-up by Joanne Gair, and hair by Linh Nguyen. Gown by the Danes; earrings by Erickson Beamon at Showroom Seven; and modelled by Rachel Hilbert.


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Google’s advertising business is a negligence lawsuit waiting to be actioned

09.12.2022

Apparently the New Zealand government says Big Tech will pay a ‘fair price’ for local news content under new legislation.

Forget the newcomers like Stuff and The New Zealand Herald. The Fairfax Press, as the former was, was still running ‘The internet is scary’ stories at the turn of the century. What will Big Tech pay my firm? Any back pay? We have been in this game a long, long time. A lot longer than the newbies.

And what is the definition of ‘sharing’?

Because Google could be in for a lot.

Think about it this way: Google’s ad unit has enabled a lot of fake sites, scraped sites, spun sites, malware hosts, and the like, since anyone can sign up to be a publisher and start hosting their ads.

While Google will argue that they have nothing to do with the illegitimate usage of their services, some might look at it very differently.

Take the tort of negligence. To me this is classic Donahue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562 territory and as we’re at 90 years since Lord Atkins’ judgement, it offers us some useful pointers.

Lord Atkin stated, ‘You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law is my neighbour? The answer seems to be—persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’

If you open up advertising to all actors (Google News also opens itself up to splogs), then is it foreseeable that unethical parties and bad faith actors will sign up? Yes. Is it foreseeable that they will host content illegally? Yes. Will this cause harm to the original copyright owner? Yes.

We also know a lot of these pirate sites are finding their content through Google News. Some have even told me so, since I tend to start with a softly, softly approach and send a polite request to a pirate.

I’d say a case in negligence is already shaping up.

If Google didn’t open up its advertising to all and sundry, then there would have been far fewer negative consequences—let’s not even get into surveillance, which is also a direct consequence of their policy and conduct.

Do companies that are online owe a duty of care to internet users? I’d say this is reasonable. I imagine some smaller firms might find it more difficult to get rid of a hacker, but overall, this seems reasonable.

Was this duty of care breached? Was there causation? By not vetting people signing up to the advertising programme, then yes. Pre-Google, ad networks were very careful, and I had the impression websites were approved on a case-by-case, manually reviewed basis. The mess the web is in, with people gaming search engines, with fake news sites (which really started as a way of making money), with advertising making pennies instead of dollars and scam artists all over the show, can all be traced to Google helping them monetize this conduct. There’s your obiter dicta right there. (Thanks to Amanda for remembering that term after all these years.)

Google hasn’t taken reasonable care, by design. And it’s done this for decades. And damages must be in the milliards to all legitimate publishers out there who have lost traffic to these unethical websites, who have seen advertising revenue plummet because of how Google has depressed the prices and how it feeds advertising to cheap websites that have cost their owners virtually nothing to run.

Make of this what you will. Now that governments are waking up after almost two decades, maybe Big Tech is only agreeing because it fears the rest of us will figure out that they owe way, way more than the pittance they’ll pay out under these legislative schemes?

Anyone with enough legal nous to give this a bash on behalf of the millions of legitimate publishers, past and present, directly harmed by Google and other Big Tech companies’ actions?


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Posted in business, internet, media, New Zealand, publishing, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’

21.07.2022

I’ve been meaning to link Rand Fishkin’s ‘Something is Rotten in Online Advertising’ for some time, so here it is.

He writes, in his second and third paragraphs (links in original):

Where to even begin… Should we start with the upcoming loss of third-party cookies? The bizarre Google & Facebook duopoly teamup against anti-trust action? The rise of online ads as a money laundering & terrorist-funding tactic? Or maybe we should talk about brands’ ever-shrinking ability to attribute ad clicks. Hundreds of millions in provable ad fraudDisturbing privacy issues that remain unaffected by GDPR or other government efforts.

No wonder a lot of savvy people believe adtech and the entire online advertising industry are due for a subprime-mortgage-style reckoning.

It’s a well written piece, covering ad fraud, the incentivization of ad fraud, and real-world examples, including this:

The world’s biggest con continues. The con artists don’t need to do three-card Monte any more. They can just get into ad tech. Rand’s piece is well worth a read.


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Kissing that Disqus advertising money goodbye (webmasters beware)

14.07.2022

I’m going to have to write off what Disqus owes us. No response to this thread, and no response to a DM I sent at their request.

I assume it’s a bit like Amazon, where they just ignore you regardless of what you’ve actually earned.

I think the rule is if it’s a big US tech firm, they’re going to BS you—especially when it comes to money.

Maybe it’s time to threaten them as I did with Twitter?


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The next lot to be removed: Disqus

08.07.2022


 
Years ago, we removed the Facebook widgets from Lucire’s pages. Last year, there were Instagram’s and Twitter’s turns, after each of those platforms locked us out (though later we regained access, and in Twitter’s case we issued a veiled threat to their lawyers). Last night, it was Disqus’s turn as we removed the commenting gadget from the Lucire site.

Obviously, not having Disqus’s trackers was a big plus, and speeding up page-load times, but there were two other major considerations: readers seldom comment these days (fashion is less divisive than politics), and, we have no idea where the money for all the Disqus advertising is.

I seem to recall that we were nearing their US$100 payment threshold, and I had in mind that once we hit it, I’d take the ads off. They were pretty ugly anyway.

Logging in yesterday, I was surprised to see Disqus claimed we had earned a little over US$3 now, while there is no record of any payment to us in the last year. Disqus also has nowhere on its site detailing payments made. Nor has it any feedback forms for non-subscribers (though you could argue that we have “paid” them in terms of the space their ads took up on the Lucire website all these years). I posted a question on their forum—the best I could do there. Seventeen hours later, no answers.

Right after that, we removed the Disqus gadget on all of Lucire’s static (HTML) pages, and switched off the Disqus plug-in on the WordPress (news) part of the site for posts going forward. No pay, no stay. I also removed the default comment boxes for the last 100 stories, though I might still change my mind and reinstitute them. If I do, they’ll be native ones, not anything to do with a plug-in that slows things down.

All those years, adding plug-ins that were once far more innocent; as each one became part of the surveillance economy, the detriments began to outweigh the benefits. What’s interesting to me is, other than the Facebook widget, their removal came after they prompted us with something dodgy, not because we suddenly had concerns about their tracking. Till I started investigating, I didn’t even realize how bad the problem was, though with hindsight of course I should have known, given how I’ve banged on about Facebook and Google. Part of me thought wishfully about Twitter, and as for our Instagram gadget, it was being run through another service (which might have been worse since it meant another company knowing stuff), and back when Instagram was a thing, I thought our readers would enjoy it.

I’m not consistent as Autocade’s Disqus forms are still up (at least on desktop), but they don’t have the dreaded Disqus ads, and readers actually comment there. But I will have a look for a good alternative—and I won’t be touching any of those Disqus settings as I don’t wish for the ugly ads to be introduced.


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Pirate sites, content mills and splogs exist because of Google

25.06.2022

In chatting to Alexandra Wolfe on Mastodon about the previous post, I had to draw a sombre conclusion. If it weren’t for Google, there’d be no incentive to do content mills or splogs.

I replied: ‘People really are that stupid, and itʼs all thanks to Google. Google doesn’t care about ad fraud, and anyone can be a Google publisher. So scammers set up fake sites, they have a script trawling Google News for stories, and they have another script that rewrites the stories, replacing words with synonyms. Google then pays them [for the ads they have on their sites]. Every now and then they get someone like me who tries to look after our crew.’

Google is the biggest ad tech operator out there. And over the years, I’ve seen them include splogs in Google News, which once was reserved only for legitimate news websites. And when we were hacked in 2013, the injected code looked to me like Google Adsense code. You could just see this develop in the 2000s with Blogger, and it’s only worsened.

Have a read of this piece, which quotes extensively from Bob Hoffman, and tell me that Google doesn’t know this is happening.

Google is part of the problem but as long as they keep getting rich off it, what motive do they have to change?

Speaking of ad fraud, Bob Hoffman’s last couple of newsletters mentions the Association of National Advertisers, who reported that ad fraud would cost advertisers $120 milliard this year. Conveniently enough for the industry, the ANA’s newsletter has since disappeared.
 
I still haven’t got into programmatic or header bidding or all the new buzzwords in online advertising, because I don’t understand them. And as it’s so murky, and there’s already so much fraud out there, why join in? Better buying simple ads directly with websites the old-fashioned way, since (again from Hoffman, in the link above):

Buying directly from quality publishers increases the productivity of display advertising by at least seven times and perhaps as much as 27 times compared to buying through a programmatic exchange.

Everyone wins.

And:

Ad tech drives money to the worst online publishers. Ad tech’s value proposition is this: we will find you the highest quality eyeballs at the cheapest possible locations. Ad tech can do this because your web browser and mobile platform are vulnerable to a problem called ‘data leakage’ where your activity on a trusted site is revealed to other companies … If you’re a quality online publisher, ad tech is stealing money from you by following your valuable audience to the crappiest website they can be found on, and serving them ads there instead of on your site.

In other words, Google et al have an incentive to give ads to sploggers, who are getting rich off the backs of legitimate, quality publishers. And as to the intermediaries, I give you Bob Hoffman again, here.


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More evidence that contextual advertising is better than creepy, programmatic behavioural ads

01.06.2022

Cory Doctorow posted a link to his collection of links at Pluralistic for August 5, 2020. The first one’s heading piqued my interest: ‘Contextual ads can save media’.

It’s worth having a read, especially about the BS behind behavioural advertising (i.e. surveillance advertising) and the ‘real-time bidding’ that so many ad networks have been trying to sell to me but which none of them can explain.

If it smells like BS, it probably is.

I tell each one: we sell ads, give us some banner code, and we’ll stick it up. They perform well, we increase their share. They perform badly, we decrease them.

They usually go on about the superiority of their systems but if I don’t understand them, then I’m not going to make the switch.

I won’t cite what Cory says on that as the real gems are later in the entry.

Here’s the one, which agrees fully with something I’ve been saying, though my experience is anecdotal and not backed up by proper, quantitative research: ‘Contextual advertising converts at very nearly the same rate as behavioral advertising, and just as well as behavioral ads for some categories of goods and services’.

He then gives this link.

He notes that in 2019, The New York Times ‘ditched most of its programmatic behavioral ads’ and that the Dutch public broadcaster, NPO, has followed suit, ‘ditching Google Ad Manager for a new custom contextual ad system it commissioned’.

‘They’ve since experimented with major advertisers like Amex and found little to no difference between context ads and behavioral ads when it comes to conversions.’

There’s also greater reach because of GDPR requiring that people opt in to behavioural ads.

My emphasis here: ‘And they’re keeping that money, rather than giving a 50% vig to useless, creepy, spying ad-tech middlemen.’

I knew there was a reason I kept rejecting those people.


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Musings for today: back on Facebook, untracked ads, Autocade rankings

16.05.2022

It’d be unfair if I didn’t note that I managed to see a ‘Create post’ button today on Lucire’s Facebook page for the first time in weeks. I went crazy manually linking everything that was missed between April 25 and today.

Maybe I got it back as it would look even worse for Facebook, which still live-streams massacres as a matter of course in spite of its “promises” after March 15, 2019, if white supremacist murderers had more functions available to them on the site than honest business people.

The upshot still remains: get your supporters going to your website as much as possible, and wind down whatever presence you have on Facebook. You shouldn’t depend on it, because you never know when your page might disappear or when you lose access. Both are very real possibilities.
 
Bob Hoffman’s newsletter was gold this week. It usually is, especially as he touches on similar topics to me, but at a far higher level.

This week’s highlights: ‘Blogweasel calculations indicate that adtech-based targeting adds at least 100% to the cost of an online ad. In order for it to be more efficient it has to be more than twice as effective. I’m slightly skeptical.

An article in AppleInsider this week reported that, “Apple has revealed to advertisers that App Store search ads served in a non-targeted fashion are just as effective as those relying on targeting via first-party data.”’

Indeed, ads that might use the page content to inform their contents (contextual advertising) work even better. Why? The publisher might actually get paid for them.

I’ve seen so many ads not display at all, including on our own sites. Now, our firm doesn’t use trackers, but we know the ad networks we use do. And for whatever daft reason, there are ad networks that won’t show content if you block trackers. (Stuff is even worse: their home and contents’ pages don’t even display if you block certain cookies.)

If we went back to how things were before tracking got this bad, the ads would be less creepy, and I bet more of them would display—and that helps us publishers pay the bills. If you don’t like them, there are still ad blockers, but out of my own interests, I would prefer you didn’t.
 
I came across Drew Magarry’s 2021 article, ‘There’s No Middle Class of Cars Anymore’, in Road & Track’s online edition.

‘You’re either driving a really nice new car, a deeply unsatisfying new car, or a very old used car.’ Drew notes that there are nasty base models, and also fully loaded ones, and the former ‘treat you like absolute shit, and everyone on the road knows it.’

It seems what’s happening is that the middle—the “GLs” of this world, as opposed to the Ls and GLSs—is getting squeezed out.

It says something about our society and its inequality.

Interestingly, it’s not as bad here with base models, and that might reflect our society. But look at the US, as Drew does, or the European top 10, where cheap cars like the Dacia Sandero do exceptionally well.

This goes back many years, and I’ve seen plenty of base models in US rental fleets that would make a New Zealand entry-level car seem sumptuous.
 
Finally, the legacy pages are reasserting themselves on Autocade. When the latest version was installed on the server and the stats were reset, the top 20 included all the models that appeared on the home page, as Mediawiki recommenced its count. Search-engine spiders were visiting the site and hitting those the most.

Fast forward two months and the top 20 are exclusively older pages, as visits from regular people coming via search engines outnumber spiders.

Until last week, the most visited page since the March reset was the Renault Mégane II. It seems the Ford Taunus 80 has overtaken the Mégane II. Peugeot’s 206+ (207 in some markets) follows, then the Ford Fiesta Mk VII and Renault Mégane III.

Before the reset, the Ford Fiesta Mk VII was the top model page, followed by the Taunus 80, then the Mégane II, Opel Astra J, and Nissan Sunny (B14).

Probably no one cares, but as it’s my blog, here’s the old, just before the switchover:
 

 
And here’s where we are as of tonight:
 

 
You can see the ranking for yourself, as the stats are public, here.


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