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The tracks of my fears
John C Abell
Oct 19, 2012 15:56 UTC
Advertisers say that if they can’t track you online, your favorite websites will die. They’re wrong.
There is lots of bad TV, and lots of bad Internet. Reducing either would be a public service of incalculable proportions. But just as some broadcasters raise the possibility of Armageddon if ad-avoiding tech like TiVo proliferates, online marketers are now making the same empty threats about the Internet. They say that rich Internet “content” would disappear if something called Do Not Track became the standard.
Do Not Track isn’t the default setting of any major Web browser, even though all offer the option to “opt-in” to a private life — to send a signal to advertisers that, on this occasion, in this window, at this time I don’t want you to make use of my surfing behavior to profile me for the sole purpose of creating ads that marketers think have greater personal appeal and are more valuable.
Opting in is going to be the default in the next version of Microsoft’s ubiquitous Internet Explorer Web browser, due out any time now. Many thought Microsoft would be our best hope to change the balance of power (how the tables have turned!), of not having to take extra precautions to prevent an intrusion to which we really should not be subjected. But Microsoft’s bullheadedness (on behalf of users for a change) has prompted the advertising community to decide to ignore Internet Explorer 10’s “do not track” signal. This means, ironically, that IE 10 will be worthless as the pioneering stealth browser it was meant to be.
That the advertisers are pushing back, declaring what amounts to thermonuclear war in the privacy campaign, might raise the profile of a critical issue. Until now it’s been so far under the radar that most people a) don’t know that they have privacy controls on their browsers and b) don’t know they need them.
The Do Not Track debate comes down to this: Unless you take precautions (or the browser maker does), where you go and what you do can be used to, among other things, allow marketers to follow you around with ads they think are highly relevant to you. Making Do Not Track voluntary means that (because we are lazy, easily distracted humans) there will be more people being tracked. Making it obligatory means advertisers would have to convince the general public that being spied on is worth it. It’s laundry they are desperate not to air in public, because, given such a simple choice, few would opt for living in a glass house.
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EBay’s buyer’s remorse
John C Abell
Oct 12, 2012 22:02 UTC
How do you know if you’re in a buyer’s market, or a seller’s?
Offline it’s pretty easy to know. There’s price pressure, abundance and not too many people vying for the same house, commodity or mint condition Pee-Wee Herman doll at the yard sale. In the land of the real, markets aren’t terribly efficient. Before the Internet changed everything, retailers were bound by geography and the ability (and willingness) of people to range. That’s why gas costs a lot more right off the highway exit than it does less than a mile down, where strangers would rather not venture. (Now, of course, there’s an app for that.)
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WPP chief Sorrell shuns Twitter, Klout for personal brand– but likes mobile for clients
Sarah McBride
Oct 12, 2012 17:45 UTC
Advertising honcho Martin Sorrell is encouraging his clients to embrace the possibilities of mobile technology– but that doesn’t mean he is rushing to embrace every permutation of  it himself.
The WPP chief executive was in Silicon Valley last week, cozying up to technology bigwigs such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter. But spending a few days in the technology heartland hasn’t much changed how Sorrell plans to personally communicate.
Unlike News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, a prolific tweeter, Sorrell said in an interview he has no account on Twitter– the microblogging service which many people use on their mobile devices. Nor has he chosen to measure his digital influence on the digital-influence measurement service Klout.
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Jack Dorsey’s impractical double duty
Sarah Lacy
Oct 10, 2012 19:32 UTC
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on PandoDaily.com​.
Can we finally stop pretending someone can run two companies if they just work hard enough or are brilliant enough?
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Facebook’s billion: Are you being served?
John C Abell
Oct 4, 2012 22:00 UTC
Facebook has reached an almost unimaginable milestone: 1 billion people are active users. It is hard to get your head around that number, which represents one-seventh of the world’s population (and not every one of us even has Internet access). It’s almost half the total number of people estimated to be on the Web at the beginning of this year.
Even CEO Mark Zuckerberg can’t quite seem to comprehend it: “It’s really humbling to get a billion people to do anything.”
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How Amazon used the Kindle to beat the odds
Kevin Kelleher
Oct 4, 2012 19:08 UTC
Editor’s note: This piece originally ran on PandoDaily.com​. It is being reprinted with permission.
Whether you own one or not, you have to respect the Kindle. In the age of digital Darwinism – where perfectly good products and companies were brutally rendered extinct by superior species – the Kindle was the little e-reader that could, not only thriving in the age of tablets but even, in time, evolving into a multimedia device that took a bite of the market share for tablets.
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Rupert Murdoch’s traffic jam
John C Abell
Sep 28, 2012 19:53 UTC
It hasn’t been a great year for Rupert Murdoch. There was the phone-hacking scandal; the Parliamentary committee declaration that he was “not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”; The Daily, his iPad publication, laying off a third of its staff over the summer; and a confession that, when it came to MySpace, “we screwed up in every possible way.”
To his credit, Murdoch started making bold bets on the Internet back when other media barons were timid – starting with his purchase of MySpace. The Daily was, at least in theory, an effort to “completely re-imagine our craft,” as Murdoch claimed.
There was also Murdoch’s resistance to Google, a contrarian wager that he could succeed in the Web era without Google’s help. In many ways Google (for better or worse) is the Internet’s most potent market maker, connecting eyeballs with websites as a mighty driver of traffic. But to Murdoch “Don’t Be Evil” Google was evil incarnate. Even though Murdoch has other papers that are indexed (including his U.S. flagship, the Wall Street Journal), he put the Times of London stories completely behind a paywall, blocking them from Google’s spiders, and likened what Google argued was the fair (and mutually beneficial) use of teaser-like snippets as theft.
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What happens if smartphones become commodities?
Kevin Kelleher
Sep 27, 2012 18:10 UTC
Editor’s note: This piece was originally published at PandoDaily.com​
Remember Antennagate? Back in the summer of 2010, the brouhaha over reception glitches in the iPhone 4 dominated tech headlines for weeks and led to a class-action lawsuit and a $15-per-user settlement. In retrospect, the controversy seems meaningless, which is why I thought of it amid the current flap over Apple Maps.
Apple will survive the Maps controversy, just as it weathered Antennagate. But there is another trend affecting Apple that the announcement of the iPhone 5 revealed, a larger trend that will take much longer to play out: Smartphones are becoming too similar for their own good.
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British TV app Zeebox comes stateside
Liana B. Baker
Sep 27, 2012 17:13 UTC
Are your Facebook friends or Twitter followers tired of your incessant posts about The Voice or Game of Thrones? Enter Zeebox, a new app available in the U.S. catered to the most avid TV watchers to keep the conversation going while a show is being aired.
Comcast, the largest U.S. cable company  and its entertainment unit, NBC Universal, are investing in a start-up called “Zeebox”, which makes an app meant to be a so-called “second screen” used by viewers while they are watching television.
The companies declined to provide financial details of Comcast’s stake. UK TV provider BSkyB invested a reported $15 million in the company in January. The free app has already gained some popularity in the UK, where it has 1.5 million users signed up.
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Why I won’t be getting an iPhone 5
John C Abell
Sep 21, 2012 14:53 UTC
Thousands of people will be “the first” to get the new iPhone 5 today. I won’t be among them. I’ve had every model of Apple’s revolutionary handset since it was first unveiled five years ago — upgrading even if my phone contract hadn’t expired yet — and, like the first-time parent of a toddler in a public place, am in a state of panic the moment I don’t know where my iPhone 4S is.
But I am skipping this upgrade. And while Apple is already setting sales records (again) with this launch, I’m seeing this milestone as the beginning of the end of the smartphone as the dominant mobile device in our daily lives.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not abandoning the iPhone, or any smartphone — at least not yet. I’m not even saying my iPhone 4S will be my last Apple handset, or that the smartphone won’t endure, even if only as a commoditized device.
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