Monthly Archives: February 2016

Million Dollar Homepage

IAB: A U‑Turn on the Ad-Blocking Superhighway?

Ad-blocking is the new normal. With the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) having launched its LEAN Ads program worldwide, I look a little closer at the initiative – and what it implies for the future of online advertising.

While I agree with the the­o­ry of the LEAN ini­tia­tive (which stands for light, encrypt­ed, ad-choice sup­port­ed, and non-inva­sive), the imple­men­ta­tion leaves a lit­tle to be desired. Less place­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for pub­lish­ers and more con­straints for dis­tri­b­u­tion plat­forms seem an Orwellian reac­tion to an indus­try still reel­ing from the arrival of HTML5.

pagefair-mapToday, almost one in five Inter­net users in the UK (and ris­ing) have an ad-block­er installed. Adver­tis­ing rev­enue is being wast­ed on unseen ads, ad fraud and ‘bots, while scripts, videos and bloat­ed band­width are inflat­ing mobile data plans. The tar­get audi­ence and brands are cry­ing ‘foul’. And although LEAN address­es some of these tac­ti­cal con­cerns, it fails to address the broad­er prob­lems.

For­tu­nate­ly, there are ways through this thorny prob­lem but, much like glob­al warm­ing, we’re not going to like it; agen­cies, dis­tri­b­u­tion plat­forms, pub­lish­ers and clients are all going to have to work togeth­er if we’re to move for­ward.

First­ly, as always, we need to get cre­ative. Take the hum­ble 200kb online ad; often del­e­gat­ed to art­work­ing teams, many with mea­gre bud­gets, fast turn­around times and low expec­ta­tions.

Incor­po­rat­ing dig­i­tal inno­va­tion, such as dynamic/rotating con­tent; lever­ag­ing speed using Con­tent Deliv­ery Net­works as well as pro­gram­mat­ic and oth­er user-tar­get­ing tech­niques; and devel­op­ing con­tent-led cre­ative – instead of just con­tain­ers for con­tent deliv­ery – may even­tu­al­ly endear the user to brands and increase engage­ment. This approach will cre­ate ads that evolve and can last an entire cam­paign – simul­ta­ne­ous­ly reduc­ing media spend while increas­ing click­throughs. Block­ing ad-block­ers is a road to nowhere.

Sec­ond­ly, lead­ers in this area (such as Guardian Labs) are invit­ing users to become part of the equa­tion. An exten­sion of the IAB-approved ‘AdChoic­es’ con­cept, Google’s Con­trib­u­tor plat­form for Dou­bleClick (which is yet to roll out to the UK), allows ‘sub­scribers’ to pay a month­ly fee to remove ads. How­ev­er, this will only work if all ads are removed in the sub­scrip­tion, and the prof­it mod­el replaces the rev­enue stream (and doesn’t increase it). If there’s one thing online busi­ness­es should learn, it’s that trans­paren­cy is key to suc­cess.

crystal_page_load_timesLast­ly, pub­lish­ers, clients and media plan­ners seem to have opt­ed for quan­ti­ty, not qual­i­ty. Those that work hard­er with their part­ners, lever­ag­ing brand depth instead of reach, to gain the first-mover advan­tage (reduc­ing impres­sions and incor­po­rat­ing native/sponsored/branded con­tent) will be the first to reap the low-hang­ing fruit; leav­ing com­peti­tors, pay­walls and ad block­ers scram­bling in their wake.

There has been some size­able changes in the dig­i­tal dis­play indus­try in 2015, but for a long time users have always want­ed the same thing from adver­tis­ing: make it use­ful.

Show me what I need, just before I need it. 

Most users don’t want to block all adver­tis­ing; they just want to see adver­tis­ing that is appro­pri­ate to them (by def­i­n­i­tion, ads not intend­ed for them are – at the very least – poor­ly tar­get­ed). We have many more cre­ative dig­i­tal tools to enable this to hap­pen.

The indus­try has alien­at­ed our cus­tomers with irrel­e­vant adver­tise­ments force-fed to them en masse – let’s work hard (and togeth­er) to get them back on board.

They’ll thank us for it.

“Mil­lion Dol­lar Home­page” © 2005 Alex Tew
“Ad Block­ing Usage by Coun­try”© 2015 PageFair/Adobe
“iOS Page Load Time in Sec­onds” © 2015 Mark Wilson/Beta News

Keeping streets clean: vote with your butt

We all want clean and safe spaces around us. Pub­lic polling dis­cov­ered that a stag­ger­ing 86% of peo­ple think lit­ter­ing is a dis­gust­ing habit yet only 15% of us would actu­al­ly con­front some­one and tell them that. Tak­ing pride in the areas we live and work in helps to build bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties, and saves mon­ey.

This is why from May to Octo­ber, UK crowd­fund­ing net­work Hub­bub tri­alled a new approach to tack­ling lit­ter­ing on Vil­liers Street, West­min­ster, using the lat­est think­ing on behav­iour change and aware­ness rais­ing from around the world.

Hub­bub’s 5 point lit­ter man­i­festo:

We think that every­one can work togeth­er to make local spaces clean­er, safer and more invit­ing. Let’s all put lit­ter in its place:

  • Gov­ern­ment: Don’t loi­ter on lit­ter. Cre­ate a strat­e­gy that has teeth.  Show lead­er­ship by pro­vid­ing or stim­u­lat­ing fund­ing.  Engage with the sig­na­to­ries of the Lit­ter Pre­ven­tion Com­mit­ment and oth­er impor­tant stake­hold­ers to cre­ate a robust plan win­ning wide­spread sup­port.
  • Busi­ness­es, NGO’s and Local Author­i­ties: Act with a uni­fied voice to raise lit­ter up the agen­da with gov­ern­ment and the pub­lic. Share bright ideas and sup­port inno­v­a­tive, col­lab­o­ra­tive behav­iour change schemes nation­wide.
  • Local Organ­i­sa­tions: Work to cre­ate new coali­tions, tak­ing local action on lit­ter. Busi­ness Improve­ment Dis­tricts take a lead­er­ship role and share results so that suc­cess­es can be repli­cat­ed else­where.
  • Media! You have a role too. Help bring this issue seri­ous­ly back into pub­lic debate. Cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of the pub­lic, pro­mot­ing pride in local areas.
  • Every­one: Lit­ter is in your hands, and will only change if we change our behav­iours. Let’s wise up and bin it. Tak­ing pride in our neigh­bour­hoods will save mon­ey and help build bet­ter com­mu­ni­ties.

Inspired to run your own cam­paign? Click here for more infor­ma­tion on repli­cat­ing Neat Streets.

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Werner Herzog Talks Virtual Reality

“I am con­vinced that this is not going to be an exten­sion of cin­e­ma or 3‑D cin­e­ma or video games. It is some­thing new, dif­fer­ent, and not expe­ri­enced yet,” the film­mak­er Wern­er Her­zog said of vir­tu­al real­i­ty. An inter­view by Patrick House with the film­mak­er about sim­u­la­tion and expe­ri­ence.


The Website Obesity Crisis

Incred­i­bly humor­ous, well-writ­ten and researched arti­cle by Maciej Cegłows­ki about bloat­ed web­site size – branch­ing into Russ­ian lit­er­a­ture, Google’s Accel­er­at­ed Mobile Pages and Face­book’s Instant Arti­cles. It’s the text ver­sion of the talk he gave on Octo­ber 29, 2015, at the Web Direc­tions con­fer­ence in Syd­ney.

Top­ics cov­ered include:

  1. The Cri­sis
  2. Fake Fix­es
  3. Fat Ads
  4. Fat Assets
  5. Chick­en­shit Min­i­mal­ism
  6. Inter­face Sprawl
  7. Heavy Clouds
  8. Stir­ring Con­clu­sion


Giorgia Lupi @ Accurat

Gior­gia Lupi is an infor­ma­tion design­er in Brook­lyn, New York. Her work and research chal­lenges the imper­son­al­i­ty that data might com­mu­ni­cate, design­ing engag­ing visu­al nar­ra­tives able to con­nect num­bers to what they stand for: knowl­edge, behav­iors, peo­ple. She is co-founder and design direc­tor at Accu­rat, a data dri­ven research-design and inno­va­tion firm. She has been draw­ing week­ly data as 1/2 of Dear Data from New York.


Optical Data Storage Squeezes 360TB on to a Quartz Disc — Forever

Researchers at Southamp­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in the UK have now writ­ten a series of major works to small glass discs— includ­ing the Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion of Human Rights, Newton’s Opticks, the Magna Car­ta and the Kings James Bible. The den­si­ty of the data aboard these discs sug­gests that they could squeeze a total of 360 ter­abytes onto a sin­gle piece of quartz. They also point out that the data is extreme­ly sta­ble: It could endure for as long as 13.8 bil­lion years at tem­per­a­tures up to 350 degrees Fahren­heit.


Overpass Light Brigade

In Wis­con­sin the gov­ern­ment is try­ing to pri­va­tise water — there are many prob­lems with this.

The Over­pass Light Brigade was forged in the activist cli­mate of the Wis­con­sin Upris­ing. Our mes­sages shine at night over high­ways and oth­er pub­lic spaces. We believe in the pow­er of com­mu­ni­ties com­ing togeth­er in phys­i­cal space, as well as the impor­tance of vis­i­bil­i­ty for grass­roots and pro­gres­sive caus­es. We are a loose and inclu­sive affil­i­a­tion of peo­ple ded­i­cat­ed to the pow­er of peace­ful protest and art­ful activism.

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ACPAD — the wireless electronic orchestra for your guitar

ACPAD is the world’s first wire­less MIDI con­troller for acoustic gui­tar. Play thou­sands of instru­ments, trig­ger unlim­it­ed sound sam­ples and effects, live record loops… with­out tak­ing your hand off your gui­tar!

  • 8x Touch Pads: ACPAD has eight pres­sure sen­si­tive touch pads that can be assigned to any MIDI intru­ment, Sound effect or sam­ple that you can imag­ine
  • 10x Pre­set But­tons: You can also cus­tomize and save up to 25 pre­sets for quick access dur­ing and between songs
  • 2x Loop­er Chan­nels: There are two loop­er chan­nels that you can use to live record, trig­ger or stop loops from your gui­tar
  • 2x Slid­er Faders: ACPAD also has two slid­ers to mod­u­late the inten­si­ty of your sounds and effects while play­ing.


The Blockchain Institute: Beyoncé vs Bitcoin

I won­der how long it will be before this form of e‑parody explodes.

If you look on Twit­ter, you will find that some­one set up the Blockchain Insti­tute. Per­haps this offi­cial-sound­ing organ­i­sa­tion will come up with some good ideas as to the prac­ti­cal appli­ca­tion of blockchain?

A quick look through the institute’s Twit­ter men­tions shows peo­ple thank­ing it for shar­ing con­fer­ences and blogs, crit­i­cis­ing it for not cred­it­ing imagesinclud­ing it in con­ver­sa­tionscon­nect­ing it with friends, and ask­ing it ques­tions. But the Blockchain Insti­tute is a com­put­er pro­gram. Not only that, it’s a pro­gram that tweets non­sense.

It replaces the word blockchain with Bey­on­cé and bit­coin with fem­i­nism. If it sees a tweet that says “blockchain is a star because of bit­coin” it changes it to “Bey­on­cé is a star because of fem­i­nism”. There is no new con­tent. The com­put­er pro­gram does word sub­sti­tu­tion. Noth­ing more com­plex. Yet peo­ple are strug­gling to spot that it’s sim­ply copy­ing oth­er people’s thoughts, words and ideas and — for some rea­son known only to its cre­ator — adding in a bit of extra Bey­on­cé and fem­i­nism.

Peo­ple are trust­ing opin­ions with­out recog­nis­ing they are com­ing from a machine, or that they don’t actu­al­ly make any sense.

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