I Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Post

with this powerful notice:

(image via designyoutrust)


Is “Private Life” Becoming an Antiquated Phrase?

I just saw this slide on the Huffington Post’s top ten overrated things of 2010:

Tiger Woods’ Private Life

Har har. But this may not be far from the truth for the rest of us as well!

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have discovered that many sites are using the same bug to collect netizen browsing information.

“Our study shows that popular Web 2.0 applications like mashups, aggregators, and sophisticated ad targeting are rife with different kinds of privacy-violating flows.”

Not to worry, though. Apparently web browsers like Chrome and Safari automatically block the bug, but this issue begs the question:

Can we expect privacy in an internet age?

I think the definition of privacy is changing very quickly as we move away from old models and into a mobile, computer-based society, and this will warrant even more regulation.

source: Switched.com

Youtube’s Skippable Ads (An Example of On-Demand Consumership)

Oh, Google. The world is waiting for you to be the architect of peace, at this point.

This seems like a promising model that is less aggressive for the viewer and workable (in theory, so far) for advertisers. Google has announced TrueView Video Ads that will give the viewer the option to skip or watch an ad. Advertisers get charged only if someone watches their ad, which makes sense.

“We believe offering a cost-per-view video ad model is good for everyone: consumers choose ads that are more relevant to them; you more precisely find the audiences you want; and content creators continue to fund great content with an ad experience that is less intrusive. Our experience with Promoted Videos, which you buy on a cost-per-click basis, shows that viewers will choose to watch ads that are relevant and engaging.”

Viewers are forced to watch the first 5 seconds of any ad before they can opt out of it, and if the full 30secs are watched Google will charge.

This just another example of the media’s secular shift to customization. This model will help advertisers tailor their ads to viewership (like the way Facebook always seems to know that you’re secretly interested in Ugg boots or something).

A Way to Use “Check-in” Sites

One social networking dilemma has been how to reap benefits from mobile “check-in” sites, like foursquare. Well, retailers and sites may have found a way to do it, largely thanks to Black Friday.

Coke is using SCVNGR to get people to participate in a hunt that will “unlock secrets of the mall,” which, while the concept sounds fun and exciting—the slogan is really lame. Really? MALL secrets?

Yelp is also joining in on the madness by giving business owners a “check-in offers” option to promote foursquare.

With Yelp Check-in Offers, business owners can incentivize repeat checkins and reward patrons with three different offer types: percent off, free or fixed price offers.

This definitely seems like the coming of a new age of subliminal messaging and, as mashable puts it, ways to influence peoples’ behaviors.

Kind of creepy, kind of cool.

The Airtime vs. Advertising Dilemma

I am not an American sports person. I could never get into baseball (maybe if I went to a game?), and while I once harbored deluded aspirations of becoming Burke Catholic’s next football star (yup), the only sport I really enjoy is soccer. World Cup soccer, to be more specific.

So I think this article will be the closest I’ll ever get to making some kind of scrutinizing comment. Apparently, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher says that ESPN officials asked him to use up his timeout calls in order to run more ads.

Now, I have a few things to say about this.

First, shows on television are commodities, and like all things, are owned and manufactured by some greater being who ultimately wants mass consumerism of said commodity.

Second, here’s an abridged history: a tv show is like a startup company. It originates from humble beginnings, at first thankful to anyone who pays attention to it. Think Facebook. Think Twitter. Remember when not too many people were on it? Then as it gains popularity, the greater being becomes greedier and welcomes advertising offers, promotion deals, etc…

Jon Pessah revealed a lot of this when he spoke about ESPN’s migration from serious sports investigative journalism to pure entertainment. And that’s the kicker, here. Entertainment. Even the most thrilling cold case investigative exposes are packaged to entertain the audience.

So what does this have to do with the advertising aspect? Not too much except the fact that ESPN decided to meddle with the game voids the reality of it. A faux timeout is the same thing as staging, rendering the game equivalent to a tv show.

ESPN can do whatever is wants with its non-live shows, but interfering with something that is supposed to be in real-time, something that a majority of the American public takes extremely seriously in order to get a little more funding discredits it.

Later on, reporters said that Fisher was “joking” about the whole thing. Ohhhhkay, ever hear that the truth comes out in the form of a joke? What a makeshift coverup.

Starbucks to Offer Free Online Content

image via gizmodo

Starbucks is partnering up with Yahoo to offer free online content to customers. As you already know, the coffeehouse already offers free wifi, but what is even more interesting about this is that:

…The site will also allow unfettered access to some services that are pay-only outside of the store—notably, the entire Wall Street Journal website, famous for their iron pay wall.

This move is designed to keep customers from converting to other fast-food chains (namely, McD’s) that are unveiling fancy new coffee drinks at a cheaper price. McDonald’s rolled out McCafe in 2009, and now includes seven high-end coffee drinks.

So, not only does this new “free” stuff allow you to justify spending at minimum ~$3 for a cuppa java (because let’s be real here: I am the only person I know who will actually order a tall coffee-of-the-day coffee. Black. No sugar. But $3 is already half the cost of a bag of decent whole/ground beans from the grocery store… and an entire bag of ground coffee yields more than 20 cups of coffee. So when it comes to the nitty-gritty truth why the hell do we choose to spend so much money on one cup of coffee that should really only cost half of what it does? The world of marketing is so fascinating.), but it allows Starbucks to rake in the dough from the advertisements of other non-coffee related products.

So what’s the catch?

The free content can only be viewed in “small doses” at a time, meaning a customer will be able to read an e-book for about 20 minutes before access is restricted.

…People either want to buy the content outright to take with them, or return to Starbucks again. The sites were designed to remember where people leave off in a book or a movie, so picking it back up is seamless.

Looking at it from both a business and consumer perspective, this actually seems like a good idea. So let’s assume you go to Starbucks, you buy your $3 coffee, sit down, pull out your iPad and start reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. 20 minutes goes by too fast. You’re lazy. You don’t want to leave the establishment and come back for another allotted 20 minutes of juicy novel time. The place is packed and you’ll lose your cozy seat, anyway. You buy the novel and download it for $9 (I don’t know how much the ebooks will cost..I’m just guesstimating here). At the end of the day, you’ve already spent $12 when you normally would have spent $3.

Just goes to show there’s “no such thing as a free lunch.”

Also, and you know I’ve got to get my coffee snobbery in here, the announcement comes at a time when cafes and other elitist coffeehouses are trying to abolish the use of cell phones and laptops, in order to create a more… intimate experience between every customer and the espresso he’s just ordered. (NYT article here) The displaced gadgets-for-appendages customers will potentially succumb to the Starbucks universe, which is looking pretty welcoming to everyone right now.

Starbucks Rolling Out Free Content to Keep You Loitering in Stores
Starbucks hopes online content from Apple, Yahoo, others lures customers

LA Times Readers Pooh-Pooh About News Ethics, But Choke On Own Word-Vomit (Hypocrits)

(left: fake, more interesting front page; right: real, more important front page)

So the big brouhaha over in Orange Peel land is the LA Times’ decision to make life more interesting for its readers by publicly announcing its support for NBC with a giant faux front page, hawking the new L&O show.

Imaginary Scenario:
: Holy shit! Smashed glass and grisly crime scene tape! Boy is this gonna be one juicy read!
*quickly buys paper and rifles through it, looking for story of mass disorder and devastation*
LA Times: JUST KIDDING! Now here’s your daily dose of boredom with the real headline: Brown and Whitman go head to head. Innuendo absolutely intended. Get it? This is juicy too, no?

Due to a massive negative reaction, the Times then ran a reader response section on its website, highlighting scathing comments from readers, who felt conned into buying the newspaper. I understand the outrage, really. If I, as an unsubscribed news consumer, picked up the LA Times solely for that article—then yes, I’d feel betrayed and “punk’d” too. But I don’t think it’s really necessary for people who already subscribe to the paper to feel shammed over it.

Yes, it’s low.
Yes, the paper has earned the title of “brown noser.”
Yes, it’s desperate.

But did the paper reduce anything? Did it replace any important stories for this ad?

So subscribers are essentially getting one extra newspaper page to use for house-training their dogs or something. If anyone has a right to be in an uproar, it should be the environmentalists.

And honestly, what does that say about the people who ONLY bought the paper for that story? Would they have even bought the paper for the real news? You know, the stuff that actually affects our lives?

One reader wrote:

“Let me be one of the first to express my total support for ad revenue any way you can get it, including selling a cover of your front page, presumably for an unusually large sum of money. I hope all Times readers realize the financial pressures on all print media today and, like me, hope the day never comes when we have to get our Times on a digital reader.”

While “support ad revenue any way you can get” sounds a little too ambitious and sneaky, I think what most people are forgetting here is that not only is the print medium about to drown, but the LA Times is a member of the Tribune family, which is currently entangled in a two-year bankruptcy litigation.

Can you blame a brotha’ for being desperate??

What this incident proves is that obviously selling an ad spot that takes up the entire front page, an ad that happens to look identical to a real front page, is a big mistake. It’s a mistake that got people to buy the paper, but at the cost of the paper’s integrity. According to the outraged.

But what gets me even more than the upset of people who bought the paper only for the more interesting article is that this isn’t the first time the LA Times has run a full front page ad before!

The NYT wrote a little something about it back in March, and one quote from an LA Times reporter just about sums it all:

“People are worried about what it does with the brand, the paper’s name,” said one reporter who, like his colleagues, insisted on anonymity to speak critically of his employer. “On the other hand, it’s money that we badly need.”

Further Reading:
L.A. Times Replaces Front Page With Fake ‘Law & Order’ News; L.A. Times Readers Really Pissed