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 CegÅ‚owski 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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