Ideation: Self Authenticating Smart Sprinklers

I recently made the ultimate jump into the 22nd century, and purchased a Rachio home sprinkler controller. This technology not only allows me to control my sprinklers from my phone (because, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have the frequent need to water their lawn remotely) but it also monitors the weather and turns off my sprinklers when it’s raining. Living in a desert, this is an important feature.

As a part of its water conservation plan, the Southern Nevada Water Authority offered a 50% rebate against my purchase of the smart home sprinkler controller. The only problem – they had to come to my house to inspect it, and have me answer a short survey.

After three attempts over four months, they finally made it to my house to inspect the unit, ensuring that it was installed and operational and ask me a handful of questions related to the survey. It was at that time I shared with them my idea: do the validation remotely.

With my permission they can easily pull data from Rachio showing that my unit was installed and operational. The unit is connected to my home internet, which pulls an IP address which can be traced back to my location. Additionally, the IP address of the home unit can be associated to the IP address pulled from the mobile app, and the mobile app can allow (for a limited time) lat/long location data to be pulled – ensuring that the Rachio is installed at my home.

And the Rachio pulls activity data, showing that it is active and working.

The survey can be completed online, and the entire process automated – negating any need for an in person visit.

The magic of technology!

Net Neutrality – Why Should You Care?

What is Net Neutrality? 

In short, it’s the FCCs rules which require companies, in particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Verizon, Cox, etc. , to treat all content equally.  These rules (note that they are rules, not laws) prohibit ISPs from blocking or discriminating against lawful Internet content.

In a world where ISPs are playing multiple roles (content creator and content distributor, to name a few), the Net Neutrality rules are designed to protect the consumer.  For example, Verizon (who now owns AOL and Yahoo) cannot slow down content from Facebook and Google.  Cox Communciations cannot slow down content from Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu (or even worse, block Netflix altogether), in an effort to curb the trend of cord cutting.  ISPs cannot “throttle down” startups developing competing online services.  Nor can these ISPs charge more for content from one company versus another.

In short, Net Neutrality recognizes that unique position that ISPs have in delivering what is arguably a public service built initially with public funding, and imposes rules to ensure that they maintain a level playing field for all Internet providers.

Why Is Everyone Talking About Net Neutrality?

Consumer protections under Net Neutrality changed yesterday.  Claiming that Net Neutrality rules are not necessary in the protection of consumer choice and freedom of speak, the FCC voted 3-2 to eliminate the key consumer protections afforded in Net Neutrality.  This means that ISPs are no longer limited in how they prioritize content delivery via the Internet.

What’s Being Done Now To Protect Net Neutrality?

Several state Attorney Generals have moved challenge the FCC ruling.  Others are using existing state subsidies as a carrot to force ISPs to maintain Net Neutrality rules.  In either case, we’ve moved from a unified nationwide system to a state by state system … which hardly seems efficient.

What Can You Do?

At this point, the best thing you can do is contact your legislators.  Congress can enact a law that would offer the same protections as the FCC rules.  This is a topic that impacts Internet companies and consumers alike.


Newsweek Drops Its Paywall, Sort of…

Following in the footsteps of The Sun, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Financial Times, Newsweek has decided to remove its paywall.  It will still offer digital subscriptions, giving paid subscribers access to premium digital content and early access to monthly issues before non-subscribers.

This move is not entirely surprising.  With topical news content freely available through numerous media channels, paywalls represent a significant barrier to entry.  Digital publishers struggle with the delicate balance between driving traffic with free content, versus monetizing premium subscriber-only content.  If they make it too difficult to access content that can easily be found elsewhere, overall revenue (whether through subscription or ad revenue) will fall.

Newsweek is looking to take at least one page out of Netflix’s playbook.  Netflix creates its own custom content, designed to keep subscribers coming back month after month.  Netflix is betting that just a few “favorite” shows could be enough to justify a sub ten dollar subscription fee, every month. While topical news isn’t as unique as entertainment content, Newsweek’s ability to sustain subscription revenues rest heavily on their ability to deliver unique content worth paying for.

Another option would be to increase revenues from non-subscriber traffic.  Offering programmatic segments, reselling behavioral data segments, or optimizing free content in real time based upon advertiser demand are just a few options to increase advertising supply revenues.

In any case, Time (or Newsweek) will tell.

Source: AdAge

Facebook Offers Businesses Insights On Nearby Shoppers

A feature launched on Facebook last November is starting to get the attention of small businesses.  Facebook now allows businesses to gain important insights into the people who frequent the area around them.  These summarized insights are updated daily, and provide several “look back” window options.

This tool has broad implications beyond simply advertising on Facebook.  Marketers and commercial realtors can use this data to better determine where to open retail locations.  Pop-up stores and mobile retailers (think: food trucks) can use this data to determine the optimal time and place to “set up shop”.  Combined with other partners (think: Uber, ClearChannel, Lamar) this data could help identify demand for future services, or target out of home advertising , in a manner which respects the privacy of the consumer.

Source: AdAge

Location Based Advertising Hits Home

Last February Vibes launched Mobile Wallet, a clever solution which leverages the location power of Apple Wallet / Google Pay to remind consumers of a brand based upon the consumer’s location.

Consumers are given the option to save a mobile ad to their mobile device.  When the customer find themselves in proximity of the advertiser’s brick n’ mortar retail location, they are “reminded” of the ad … using the same technology airlines use to surface your boarding pass to your phone’s home screen as you enter the airport.

The coupon like nature of the Mobile Wallet Ad also provides for advanced post campaign analytics.  With Apple exiting the advertising business, Vibes should have little concern about this becoming a built in advertising functionality for the iPhone.

Source:  AdExchanger

Advertising Analytics 2.0 … We’re Still Not There

In March 2013, the Harvard Business Review published this article on the ‘next generation” of Advertising Analytics.  It discusses the challenges “Advertising Analytics 1.0”, which relies heavily on last click attribution (which gives credit to the sale to the last action that the consumer took, and discredits / undervalues higher funnel channels that lead to consumer awareness) and lauds the coming of Advertising Analytics 2.0.

Yet while marketers now have access to more data than ever, enabling them to perform more sophisticated measurement and analytics, relatively few are taking full advantage of this data.   Even fewer truly understand how the data powers the results.  Ubiquitous tools have made the task of performing true multi-channel analysis easier, but they still require knowledgable data scientists to understand, validate, and translate the results.  I stress validation because simply blindly accepting the results from a third party solution, that may or may not take into account the nuances of a marketers business, is common and to be blunt simply lazy.  Results must be challenged and tested against future campaigns.  This “wash-rinse-repeat” process of always challenging the results of advertising analysis is arduous, but necessary to ensure that the data is interpreted accurately.

Fortunately, the data assets necessary to perform these sophisticated analysis continue to become more readily available – allowing marketers armed with the proper knowledge and tools to get closer to answering the holy grail question : “which 50% of my marketing is really driving sales”.

2015’s AdTech Consolidation Forecasts Further Changes

Revisiting 2015 and The Year Ahead

Those paying attention in 2015 saw a continuation of the acquisitions and consolidations of major ad tech players, though at a much more tempered pace.

The long term impact of this activity is that advertisers now have fewer choices which offer arguably more complete end-to-end marketing solution encompassing the full cycle of cross channel marketing (planning / modeling / targeting-execution / measurement-attribution).

As advertisers continue to move towards building customized in-house ad tech stacks, their ability to support these built-in-house solutions with services provided in part by third party service provider solutions is diminishing.   Where an advertiser used to be able to “plug and play” numerous solutions into their in-house solution, those choices are now limited.

On the flip side, for advertisers without the means nor desire to build their own solutions, this shift offers a less confusing landscape with single source providers addressing all of their advertising needs.

Agencies face a different challenge, as the growth of options and commoditization of services puts pressure on their role as gatekeepers to media execution.

None of these changes will result in a binary switch from one methodology to another.  They rather point towards a continued slow evolution of the industry in the coming year, as we continue to “figure it out”.

Source: AdExchanger

FTC Issue Guidelines for Native Advertising

Well, the FTC has (finally) issued its guidelines on Native Advertising. The FTC defines Native Advertising as “content that bears a similarity to the news, feature articles, product reviews, entertainment, and other material that surrounds it online.”  The popularity of Native Advertising has exploded amongst publishers, in response to plummeting click through rates with traditional advertising (think banner ads).  At least for now, Native Advertising offers publishers a way to recover lost ad revenue.

Though this additional revenue doesn’t come at a price;  the FTC has expressed concern that some Native Advertising is confusing to consumers.

The IAB has also published guidelines for publishers – a playbook of sorts.  Publishers would be wise to read both the FTC’s and the IAB’s guidelines, as they differ in some cases.

Is Advertising Moving Too Fast for Consumers?

The advertising industry is in fast pursuit of what many marketers feel is the holy grail of measuring advertising effectiveness; the ability to develop models, target users, and then measure the effectiveness (at a 1:1 level) – across all media channels.

The technological advances the advertising industry is making towards making this a reality is impressive, even by the fast-paced standards of ad tech.  But they might be happening too quickly, as consumers are just starting to understand the implications of end-to-end campaign management on their privacy.

As the FTC and others weigh in on this issue, expect it to become a more common topic in the months to come.

Source : AdExchanger

Corporations Respond to FTC Ruling

As most of you know, for the past month or so I’ve been actively discussing FTC ruling 255.  FTC ruling 255 requires people, including bloggers, to disclose when they receive consideration for promoting products and services.

It is interesting to see that others are picking up on the risks and liabilities related to this ruling.  I received an email from the Zappos team today, reminding me (and the other bloggers) that we need to disclose that we have received consideration (in the form of a free book).

FTC ruling is clearly going to have long term implications on blogging.