Online Advertising Is In Grave Danger. Can Sony And Friends Save It?

Published in Online Spin, June 26 2015

The year was 1996. A friend of mine had created a Web site to track bond prices in real time. He had just sold his first ad. “Can you click on it?” he asked me. “Every time you do, I make five cents.”

At the time, like the Internet itself, the problem he jokingly referred to was in its infancy. But that’s no longer the case. As our media consumption has shifted online, the incentives to commit ad fraud have grown. And the Shakespearean irony is that the very thing that makes the Internet seem so compelling for advertisers -- the promise of attribution, of measurability, of precision -- is exactly the thing that makes it prone to exploitation.

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Is The Sharing Economy Terrible For Sellers?

Published in Online Spin, June 19 2015

Technology is awesome. No, seriously: awe-some, as in, I am continually in awe of what is possible. In moments, you can create your own versions of famous movie intros. For $5, you can hire someone to paint your logo on their body. You can contribute toward a campaign to make a woman’s “relentlessly gay yard more relentless, gayer.” We live in truly magical times. 

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And The Hypocrisy Tony Goes To... Apple's Tim Cook

Published in Online Spin, June 11 2015

The 68th annual Tony Awards, established to celebrate excellence in the theater, took place on June 7, and were a roaring success. “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” took home five awards, including best play and best male lead. “Fun Home” took home another five. Even “The King and I” -- yes, it’s back on Broadway -- landed a few.

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$90K Instagram 'Art' Shows Need To Better Define Value

Published in Online Spin, June 05 2015

Pssst… Wanna buy some art? It’s awesome, I swear. For the low, low price of just $90,000, you can go to this website, pick the image you like, and I’ll blow it up and mount it for you.

With Home Address Identification, Reveelz Takes Targeting Too Far

Published in Online Spin, May 29 2015

My mom’s been on my mind a lot lately. Understandably so -- she passed away recently, and we held a celebration of her life this past Monday. Setting my own biases aside, she was a pretty outstanding woman: founder of the oldest health-supportive cooking school in America (of which I’m currently chair), writer of multiple books, and generally a pioneer in the relationship between food and health, before said relationship was at all mainstream.

So the celebration wasn’t just close family. Her friends, colleagues, staff, and current and former students came out to honor her legacy. We told stories. Had a musician play music from Argentina, where she grew up. And we showed a compilation music video of some of her core teachings.

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Is Facebook Actually Winning The World Right Now?

Published in Online Spin, May 22 2015

Well of course they’re “winning,” if you call Q1 revenue of over $3.5 billion and nearly a billion daily active users “winning.” But I’m talking about winning, about sitting at the poker table with a huge pile of chips in front of you, opposite some dude who’s got a huge pile of chips in front of him, and you’re holding some kind of good hand, a full house or straight flush maybe, and you decide to go all in.

The dude across Facebook’s table is Google, of course, and three things are making me wonder where the spoils will go.

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BBB Privacy Punishment Could Help, Not Harm, Etsy And Others

Published in Online Spin, May 15 2015

On the face of it, yesterday’s announcement by the Better Business Bureau that Etsy, Imgur, TWiT.tv, and 247 Sports will increase the level of data collection transparency is a win.

On every page where third parties collect data for use in behavioral targeting, these companies will also display a “clear, meaningful and prominent link” explaining more and allowing users to opt out. “That link,” says Wendy Davis, who reported the story for our sister publication The Daily Online Examiner, “is supposed to appear underneath text like ‘Interest-based ads,’ ‘About our ads,’ ‘AdChoices,’ or ‘Why did I get this ad?’”

Our Irrational Fear Of Driverless Cars

Published in Online Spin, May 08 2015

Remember Chris Hadfield? Of course you do. The Canadian astronaut’s rendition of "Major Tom” has been viewed over 25 million times. But today I’m more interested in his TED talk: “What I learned from going blind in space.” 

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Nepal Quakes Reinforce Connectivity As Basic Human Right

Published in Online Spin, May 01 2015

Whenever people dismiss Twitter as a platform for sharing what you ate for breakfast, I tell them about the “eqnz” hashtag.

On the 22nd of February, 2011, the city of Christchurch, New Zealand was hit with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake at the insanely shallow depth of just 3 miles. And when the ground shook us into disaster, when buildings fell and people were trapped and died within the rubble, when our phone lines were jammed and our media was inefficient and people everywhere were desperate for information and connection, we learned the true power of social media.

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Digital Democracy? More Like Digital Dictatorship

Published in Online Spin, April 24 2015

Great news! Internet ad revenues surged yet again in 2014, reaching nearly $50 billion dollars in the United States. This, according to a new report from IAB, represents a 16% increase over the previous year; compared to 20 years ago it’s an increase of… well, infinity.

 

Isn’t it awesome? The way peer-to-peer communication has flourished? The way we’ve gotten rid of all those pesky gatekeepers, powerbrokers and censors? Finally, we can say whatever we want. Finally, we have all the power. After all, nobody owns the Internet.

 

Except, of course, for those who do -- and, in the United States, that happens to be Google and Facebook. Those two companies alone represent over 60% of the total online ad industry. Add the next 8 companies on the list, and the Top Ten account for 71% of the market. The Top 25? They covered 82%.

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