New Net Neutrality Rules Regulate Mobile Internet

The year-long discussion of net neutrality that has just passed drew amazing interest from carriers, large and small publishers, advertisers, and– surprisingly– ordinary internet users.

Congress could not have imagined when it enacted the APA almost seventy years ago that the day would come when nearly 4 million Americans would exercise their right to comment on a proposed rulemaking. But that is what has happened in this proceeding and it is a good thing

Framed in many different ways by people looking at the issue from various perspectives, the issue has never been truly understood in all its subtleties.

Thus victory was proclaimed when the FCC voted to get involved and treat the internet as a public utility, guaranteeing that pay-to-pay for faster broadband was not going to be a common business practice. Almost everybody thought the good guys had won.

today we adopt carefully-tailored rules that would prevent specific practices we know are harmful to Internet openness— blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization—as well as a strong standard of conduct designed to prevent the deployment of new practices that would harm Internet openness

At least until yesterday, when the FCC actually released a 400-page document telling what the rules really governed. And lo, those who read it there was one big surprise: the regulation of the mobile internet  for the first time.

Indeed, mobile broadband is becoming an increasingly important pathway to the Internet independent of any fixed broadband connections consumers may have, given that mobile broadband is not a full substitute for fixed broadband connections. 8 And consumers must be protected, for example from mobile commercial practices masquerading as “reasonable network management.”

Here is a list of the three big regulations you will need to know about.

No blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No throttling: Broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.

No paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no “fast lanes.” This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates.

How the carriers approach the mobile internet in a newly-regulated environment will also affect advertising revenues down the line, because the more access consumers have to affordable mobile data plans, the more time they will spend with online publishers. There will be lawsuits — many of them — and these regulations are likely to be tested in the Supreme Court.




OTA Comments on Proposed Data Breach Notification Legislation

As a member of The Online Trust Alliance (OTA), a global non-profit with the mission to enhance online trust and promote innovation, we take seriously the issue of online trust. There are now several federal data breach notification proposals wending their way through the legislature. OTA, because it represents over 100 other organizations, feels compelled to weigh in.

Here are  six key points and provisions  OTA believes are important considerations for an effective and balanced federal data breach notification law.

First, any federal data breach notification law must preempt the existing 47 state laws imposing a myriad of data breach notification obligations. State breach laws are a complex web of varied timing and notification requirements, and are a difficult mish-mash for an inter-state business to navigate during the challenge of responding to a data breach incident.

Second, any federal data breach notification law must contain a safe harbor from regulator penalties for those businesses or organizations that can demonstrate a commitment to the adoption of best security and privacy practices, provided they have been independently verified. While it is important to recognize there is no perfect security, OTA’s analysis of data shows that more than 90% of breaches that occurred in 2014 could have been prevented by adoption of best practices. A safe harbor for independently verified adoption of best practices would strongly encourage businesses to adopt best practices when they are most needed – in advance of a breach.

Third, any federal data breach notification law must contain a State right of enforcement. Similar to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM), a state right of enforcement not only permits a state to protect its own citizens, but also allows states to complement the overburdened federal regulators by pursuing those companies and organizations that fail to live up to their data breach obligations.

Fourth, any federal data breach notification law must contain an appropriate coverage of personal information triggering notification. This is critical to ensure consumers are notified in a timely manner and for those breaches they need to know about, and are not over notified. If notifications become commonplace, consumers will get lost in the noise and likely not take appropriate action. Thus, the definition of what’s data is covered must be balanced and appropriate, must include paper records, and due to the common reuse of passwords by consumers across their numerous accounts – must include coverage for email/username address and password. A user’s email address and password are essentially the keys to their online kingdom, permitting access to social and financial websites, either directly or through a master account password reset.

Fifth, timely notice is critical to not only consumers, but also to regulatory authorities and law enforcement agencies. Businesses should be required to notify the FTC, FCC or other primary regulatory within seventy-two hours after discovering a breach involving covered data.

Sixth, any data breach legislation must permit businesses to share investigative forensics reports and related data with any law enforcement agencies investigating a breach. This sharing should not constitute a breach under the legislation nor impact any privilege or protections belonging to a business. Sharing forensic reports and data as soon as possible concerning a breach and attempted breach can be invaluable to help protect others and bring attackers to justice, and should be encouraged through appropriate protections in any data breach legislation.

We will be following this legislation through our active membership in OTA.

IAB Leadership Summit Reveals Industry Challenges

Digital advertising has come of age. Online advertising is now the second highest segment of advertising (at least in the US) and we in the industry no longer have to convince media buyers to send budgets online.
However, now we have to prove that those online budgets bring benefits. In a significant move, the IAB announced at its annual leadership meeting that it will now allow ad tech companies as full voting members, acknowledging the importance of data as well as inventory to the industry.
Despite the growth and wholesale acceptance of online advertising, the industry still faces some challenges: consumer consumption habits are changing faster than the industry can figure them out, brands are challenged to keep up, and marketers, agencies and publishers all find their costs increasing because of audience fragmentation and growing demands for customization. The “mass” has gone out of mass media, and with it the economies of scale. In this new environment, publishers have a hard time affording to produce the kind of journalism a free society needs.
Several critical questions remain to be answered by the industry.
1) Should viewable impressions be the new currency?
The viewable impression has technical and measurement challenges that prevent 100% viewability from being a standard in 2015. We’re in a transition period on the path for 100% viewability, but until measurement technology improves to the point where different measuring companies can come within 10% of one another, we don’t have a good metric. The industry is working toward a digital GRP, but I’m not sure GRPs are all they’re cracked up to be.
2) Will native advertising stick?
On every new platform, ads begin as an awkward accompaniment and only later begin to fit better into the new content and context. That’s where native advertising is now. Native ads represent a fundamental turning point in advertising, but they are an addition to, not a replacement for, traditional ads. If you think of ads as falling into three categories, from pure branding to the presentation of information, to the bare performance ad, native ads should come in the middle of the funnel. We sorely need some standards as to how to present native ads without alienating consumers.
3)What kind of advertising works on mobile? The simple answer is “no one knows.” Yet. Right now, mobile ia the frontier, and most brands can’t create, plan, buy, and measure mobile ads. As a result, most mobile ads tend to be performance ads, which is how all digital advertising started.  After we get our arms around the bottom of the funnel, we’ll start to move up toward the top with brand ads and informative ads. One thing we can already see; digital video will be one of the fastest growing segments of advertising and most of it will be consumed on devices.
4) Is programmatic good for everybody? Programmatic is just the automation of the selling and buying process, and right now too many different ad stacks are being used, which makes the process  seem muddled and  slower. But this year there will be an industrywide push for open RTB standards, and for a common, non technical vocabulary that we can all understand and agree on. Then programmatic will be good for everybody.
5) Who will finally address the issues of fraud?
Last year was the year in which ad fraud came to the attention of everyone, whether inside or outside our industry. The viewability issues raised the initial question of fraud, but now the prevalence of data reveals the percentage of clicks and views that come from bots as well as the incidences of malware served to unsuspecting site visitors. Neither publishers nor advertisers can afford to ignore fraud anymore. IAB has thus formed the Trustworthy Accountability Group, a monitoring body to get the bad, immature and incompetent actors out of the supply chain. All marketers who place tags on a page are under warning.
6)And finally, how can we close the skills gap in the industry as well as increase diversity?
Ad sales, operations, and media content creation are all knowledge-based and require continuously learning employees.  IAB is pushing for some sort of certification for ad industry employees, and of course for an education program to go with it.

Notifications: What the Apple Watch Will Mean for Publishers

It’s difficult to ignore the media hype around the upcoming release of the Apple Watch.Like most Apple products, the watch has engendered high expectations as to both its potential pricing and to what the Apple Watch will do that other smart watches already on the market do not. At the end of the day, the Apple Watch will not be much of a plus for publishers, and we’d better hope that it won’t be a negative.

Unlike the smart phone and tablet, which have proven to be a boon to publishers like Buzzfeed who know how to reach readers and viewers on the go,  the Watch won’t be appropriate for reading text or watching video.  In fact, at least in this iteration it will be more like an extension of your smartphone but with much less functionality.

And that’s where both the problems and the possibilities come in for publishers. The possibilities lie in the ability to notify consumers more easily about things they may be interested in. No longer will someone have to take his phone out of his pocket (or her purse) to learn about breaking news, nearby sales, or fast moves in the financial markets. The watch, in addition to being a step tracker, will also enable notification streams from any phone app that permits them. So far, it could be a net gain for publishers who know how to write clever headlines or headlines with urgency.

But here’s the problem: a constant stream of notifications, unless they are important, can drive users to turn off notifications entirely rather than be buzzed by non-stop interruptions. It’s not much more polite to keep looking at your watch during a meeting or a lunch than it is to get out your Phone to read notifications. The flood of notifications to the wrist could drive away potential visitors to a publisher site or a story, especially if your notifications get lumped into a category with trivial information and the watch owner throws out your baby with the bath water. The notification space could potentially become very competitive as every app developer vies for the watch owner’s attention. The news business will have to make on-the-fly decisions about how often to disturb people with information that may be important, and will have to swallow its pride and write even more “click-bait”ish headlines.

If we were Apple, we’d force developers making applications for the Apple Watch to cap the number of notifications any single app can send, so if a user chooses to receive notifications from a dozen different apps she’s not getting five an hour from each. This is a challenge, and we’re guessing it will take a while to solve. Writing notifications for the watch will be much like writing headlines for news stories and should be done with consideration for what the wearer of the watch really needs to see. It may come down to whose notifications are the most necessary.

Most tech industry analysts have agreed that Apple probably won’t be able do much more with its watch than most previous marketers of smart watches have been able to do, largely because of limited screen real estate, battery life constraints, and privacy issues.  Some of the functionality of any smart device is dependent on sensors, and the watch is also dependent on the state of sensor technology. Moreover, there has already been an announcement that at least in its early versions some of the health apps Apple planned for the Watch probably can’t be on it due to regulatory issues.

So whether the watch is successful will depend largely on the quality of the notification streams. And publishers, that’s your responsibility.


Changing Trends in High Impact Advertising

Everybody  is jumping into the digital rat race to grab a slice of the advertising pie. But with display advertising still doing nothing truly high impact, all big brand advertisers still prefer TV. Sometimes they choose social (Facebook) advertising medium but often they don’t run advertising on the Internet at all.

Those who have been in the online advertising industry for more than a decade all agree that brand advertisers in India don’t believe much in Internet advertising. Therefore it is time Internet advertising companies improve this by developing new innovate advertising opportunities – that have high impact and are as good as TV advertising.

A good example of a new high impact digital advertising opportunity is the Full Screen TV Ad on the web, where the TV Commercial spreads across the screen. It looks just like a TVC on the TV. It not only grabs the users’ attention but the ad performance is also very high, the reason why it is called high impact advertising.

The CTR of standard banners is officially 0.09% in India (or maybe lower). However, full screen TV Ads on the web are better value for money. If numbers speak volumes than it would only be fair to compare the Impressions, Clicks and CTR between standard banner ads and running Full Screen TV Commercials on the web.

Advertisers like this and are increasingly running campaigns on this path-breaking innovation which guarantees high impact, complete engagement, branding and higher viewability. More and more TV advertisers are looking at online advertising to widen their reach. High impact ad formats have opened up a gamut of supply for the advertisers and agencies, who are advertising primarily on TV. Advertisers see this as the right time to reach India and make a higher impact with their existing, often award winning TV Commercials.


ZEDO Releases New Version of Popular InArticle Format

Good products are often improved once they have been introduced to customers who can give valuable feedback. That has certainly been the case with ZINC’s InArticle format, which launched a mini upgraded version last week.

When it hit the market, InArticle immediately became one of ZINC”s most popular high impact formats, because it allowed advertisers to scale campaigns with unduplicated reach. And now listening to customers has made InArticle even better. A new design, coupled with an entirely new version of InArticle for desktop browsers, makes this ad unit work better than ever before. The ad loads politely, does not autoplay audio, and clicks to full screen.

Closing the full screen takes the user to a a landing page, a feature that’s on by default but can be turned off. Sound comes only on mouseover, and the unit can be closed by clicking a close button on the top right hand corner. Sound starts only upon mouseover.

For VAST, the video continues to play in a smaller (160×120) window in the right rail when the user scrolls past.

Earlier versions of InArticle for Desktop had used an outsourced player, which we thought was too slow, because it downloaded a 234KB file to the desktop. It also had only limited customization capability.

We made the decision to build our own player, which greatly improves the performance of InArticle. InArticle 3.1 is faster than ever before, too. Because it stays ready with the video ad, it is 2x faster to deliver the ad and makes for an improved overall experience.

Version 3.1 of InArticle runs on ZEDO’s own flash player, which is VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 compliant and only 73.5 KB in size. It also has an API-based design, permitting greater customization.

The unit works the same way it always did, only better. We’ve answered some customer concerns with this version. The unit now uses the full width of the article, can be skipped using a close button, and keeps the aspect ratio intact. A 16:9 ad will now always be shown with the 16:9 dimension. 4:3 ads will be shown with 4:3 player dimension only for an article width 6 pixels or less, and this value is configurable. In the leave behind, if the video is finished a complete view is counted.

When the user scrolls back to the top of the page, the leave behind disappears and the larger unit continues playing. For VAST, after the video is finished the unit stays open with an advertiser messages that clicks to a landing page. There is also a replay icon that appears at the bottom right after the video is finished, although if the user replays it, no event is tracked.

If a publisher prefers, the unit can also be configured to close after the video is finished, although this is not recommended. Version 3.1 tracks all IAB defined VAST events.

Version 3.1 also enables passbacks. If the VAST tag returns a NULL response, the unit passes back and serves the next partner. If the VPAID tag fails to serve a video, the unit passes back and serves the next partner, and if the VPAID tag returns a NULL response the unit passes back and serves the next partner.

We have several campaigns running the new version already. For more information .

ZEDO Releases VAST 3.0 and VPAID 2.0 Compliant Player

If you’re looking for a reason to choose ZEDO over all the other companies in the ad tech space, you might want to consider our ability to keep continually ahead of where the market is going. We have an engaged and inspired development team that scans the horizon of the quickly changing ad tech field and makes product tweaks almost in real time.
This week  ZEDO, introduced a new video player compliant with both the  VAST 3.0 and the VPAID 2.0 IAB standards. In the future, this player will be used for all ZINC’s new video formats, including  the popular inArticle video. The team was also  able to make few changes to the  InArticle technology using the new player that made it even better.
The changes to inArticle include faster and better running  for desktop browsers in version 3.1. Although this new product won’t be launched formally until later, the preview version is VAST 3.0 compliant and supports passbacks.
ZINC video formats now also support passbacks for VPAID tags. We all know that video ad networks don’t fill every impression that is sent to them,  and many of our customers also do client side RTB, through which they bring down a file that runs on the browser and send a request to a few more ad networks asking if they have further inventory.
Many of the requests sent to these ad networks just return an ad error message because they also don’t have a video ad to serve.We used to lose those opportunities for our clients, but now ZINC video formats can catch the AdError event thrown by  the VPAID tags and pass it back to  the next ad network in line and hence try to  monetize that opportunity instead of wasting it. This will also be part of the formal launch of the product.
One of the most impressive features of the inArticle format, is its leave-behind. In this new version of the format, we’ve increased the leave behind from 130×75 to 160×120 pixels, which is a 505- pixel increase in surface area.
And we’ve done some bug fixes as well.
Although the formal launch of this technology won’t come until later in spring, we’d encourage you to talk to

Metrics That Matter

In the midst of all the discussions about viewability and fraud in online advertising, it’s helpful to look back on what started the conversation.

About two years ago, three  industry trade organizations, the Association of National Advertisers(ANA), The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies formed a consortium called “Making Measurement Make Sense”  to figure out how to measure digital advertising  to make it more valuable for brands. The initiative was driven by a need across the marketing and advertising industry for clear standards-based metrics for interactive advertising  comparable to those of legacy media and based on the fundamental opportunity for consumers to see online ads. Until there were good enough metrics, like the ones Neilsen produced for TV, online advertising could not command the CPMs of offline media. Besides, there was already a suspicion that many ads weren’t even being seen given the split second nature of online ad serving.

Everyone in the industry rushed to the table, afraid of being left out when the Media Rating Council (MRC) an independent body, began to set the standards. Like all standard-setting bodies, its most important objective was to drive consensus in the industry on what should be measured, and how it should be measured.

The first buzz word out of the group effort was “viewability”: the ability for a consumer to view an ad. It came to light that some ads were served under others, and still others were not viewable long enough to make an impression. And yet, the advertiser still paid, because at the time, the industry was paying ad servers on the number of impressions they served rather than on whether the ads had any impact..

The move to viewability happened very quickly. As the industry shifted toward viewable impressions, we immediately partnered with comScore to measure the viewability of one of our newest ad formats, the Slider. We were excited to find that it was 99% viewable, and we re-named it the Inview Slider. We also began to build on the success of the slider from a technical perspective; and we had to convince our publisher partners to sell it.

After a shaky beginning (as with everything novel), the Inview Slider became popular, and we developed some other similar formats. And then we took a big plunge into video, developing a video ad format that could run on a print site, thus increasing the ad’s reach. For the first time, we were able to promise advertisers unduplicated reach.

This year, the MRC said it was time to begin trading on viewability, and then IAB released a study proving that 100% viewability was not yet achievable, and that advertisers should be content with 70%.

We’re still sitting at 99% for the Slider, and at higher completion rates for our video ads than all the industry benchmarks. Why? Because we have always been a company that focuses on measurement, and because we always try to measure the right things instead of just the easy things.

What are we doing as the industry begins to trade on viewability? We’re innovating around attention. We think it’s the next frontier.


Advertising Keeps Content Free

Every once in a while, when balking at new formats that might put off visitors, it is useful to remember that digital advertising is what keeps content on the internet free. It’s been a scant two decades since the first digital ads, and in the intervening twenty years digital advertising has been on a rocketing growth trajectory as more and more people have come online. PriceWaterhouseCoopers predicts that by 2017 the worldwide market for digital advertising will reach $186 billion. Online ad spend long ago outstripped print budgets, and now it has also gone past TV spending. Every year seems to bring another shattered record,  but it seems as if every dollar increase is accompanied by louder complaints by consumers that they don’t want to be targeted by advertisers.

We could understand this attitude better at the beginning of the internet, when the World Wide Web was the Wild Wild West and everyone involved was crying that “information wants to be free.” But that was when digital publishing was a miniscule part of publishing in general, and publishers thought that eyeballs alone would somehow bring revenue.

However, we are now into a generation that’s maturing without ever knowing a time without the internet, and that generation loves to watch videos, read, and play games on networked devices. In the coming generation, many household appliances and pieces of jewelry will also be networked, creating new potential advertising platforms. The public needs to be educated again about how publishing actually works and why the content it loves to consume can never be free unless it is supported by advertisers. This new generation, with its low tolerance for ads,  has already caused many newspapers to go out of business altogether and others to convert full time jobs to piece work. Digital advertising still doesn’t command the rates that print and TV did, even as it becomes a larger and larger part of the budget.  And yet, although addicted to real-time convenience, today’s consumers seem to be less and less tolerant of the industry that brings it to them.

In growing numbers they opt out of being tracked or targeted online and even employ ad blocking software, all in an effort to get away from the industry that delivers it largely free content.]

We like to think this is partly a problem of ignorance that can be overcome by education. But some publishers have begun to put up paywalls and others have gone to subscription services altogether. Neither of these solutions serves brands who are interested in drawing attention to their products in an increasingly noisy environment. And in the long run, neither of these serves a consumer who needs to know about new products and services, special offers, or service near her.

We need to spend more time defending the advertising ecosystem and reminding consumers they’re in a quid pro quo deal: free content means allow advertising.


Real Time Bidding at Scale: the Promise of 2015

2014 was the year Real Time Bidding truly took off. A subset of programmatic, RTB was met with suspicion on both sides of the ecosystem. Although at first advertisers were afraid of it, and publishers thought it would drive eCPMs through the floor, it turns out this hasn’t happened. In fact, the opposite may be happening as targeting gets better and online ROI grows along with it. Publishers who know their audiences and use their audience data can offer it to eager advertisers at higher CPMs.

RTB is probably the biggest advance in online advertising in years, because it puts power in the hands of advertisers, the people who are paying the bills. However, it also helps publishers. Handled by people who know how to buy media, RTB can finally provide brands the answer to the question John Wanamaker first asked: “which of my advertising dollars is wasted?”

That’s because, for the first time, advertisers can buy individuals rather than buying audiences in bunches like grapes, according the Mike Smith, author of the new book “Targeted,”  a primer of online advertising.

Smith points out that RTB radically changes the old audience aggregation paradigm. Advertisers can now decide which individuals suit them, and despite the fact that RTB means everything happens within split seconds, an advertiser still has the opportunity to choose individuals. In real time bidding, the advertisers make their own decisions, instead of relying on agencies or even networks. They can also choose how much to pay for each impression separately. In theory, this makes for a more transparent process.

Smith compares RTB to the music industry, in which it is no longer necessary to buy entire albums after iTunes made it possible to buy just a single cut out of an album. The aggregated audience is analogous to the advertiser’s play list. However, to create that play list takes time, and it takes the cooperation of both publishers and advertisers, who may have different data about the same customer. Most advertisers  have lots of customer data, but they don’t often mine it properly. They began by outsourcing their data management, but increasingly they are taking  data management in house and building their own DMPs, because with RTB they can use the viewing and shopping behavior of their own customers to determine their optimal audience.

Buying individual impressions rather than aggregated audiences is a massive shift.

The only remaining problem is how to buy them at scale, and that’s where a network like the ZEDO premium publisher network comes in. We can take an ad buy that comes in through our ZINCbyZEDO high impact formats division and produce scale for the advertiser through our network.  We can offer advertisers news, sports, travel, and other custom segments as we continue to grow our publisher network. And we can do this through a private exchange, which is an even more desirable way to buy.

We’re predicting a profitable year for our premium publishers as our ZINC team hits the ground running on the advertiser side.