Tag Archives: Youtube

💀💀The end of advertising?

This week – attacking advertising seems to have bubbled up to the fore so I look at two leading commentators perspectives and why I think they well – miss the point.

Finding the villain.

Advertising has been the villain for as long as I can remember. Even internet marketers found a way to criticise TV advertising because you couldn’t measure it.

Farhad Manjoo in the NY Times has a piece on advertising being the central villain online.

He suggests that without it many issues we are seeing online today would disappear, giving two examples:

  1. Russian trolls would not be able to hone their messaging as hey could not test its impact using advertising first.
  2. “Nutty content” on YouTube Kids (I assume he means the computer generated animations I discussed in a previous newsletter).

Finally he suggests that the ad industry produces endless incentives for gaming the system that are only fixed after they appear.

It is an interesting proposition and certainly the world would be a different place without advertising. It would result in some very well known companies disappearing, including potentially the very publisher Farhad is writing for.

Overall though, it would be better in some ways and worse in others. It is difficult, maybe impossible, to get consensus on or even understand the full impact. I think it would limit innovation online for example. But there is one thing I am sure about. There will always be people looking to game a system. The system would just be different.

Actually, I could argue the true villain in both those examples is artificial intelligence as they are really about easier to use interfaces built on top of algorithms that make content faster to create and easier to target. Just this week, the creation of “deep fakes” became mainstream thanks to increasing awareness of software that allows you to change the face of someone in a video.

But I am not arguing that either.

Rapid innovation is the true villain, as everyone rushes to adopt new approaches in a positive way, others rush to take advantage in, let’s say, less positive ways.

I don’t believe anyone would argue for a slowdown in innovation, though those affected by it might like to see it slowed down. In the end, as the innovation matures, regulations appear and there are less loop holes to exploit as the successful companies will be those that fixed the issues.

Don’t blame the media.

Umair Haque also wrote a piece on Medium last week on why the failure of media is not the fault of technology but advertising.

He suggests that the ad agencies took the easy route of reinventing the offline billboards by creating banners and using algorithms to target them rather than a human, creative one.

Apple tried the latter approach though even this was positioned as a reinvention of TV advertising. They eventually, after issues with pricing and getting the ads live, shut it down in 2016.

Publishers could also try these types of approaches – though they are not exactly incentivised to encourage clicks that take their readers away from their website.

With display advertising, the attention should not solely be on clicks but whether it was seen. Of course, people screen out ads but the best ads can cut through – even online – and especially when they make it to the right audience.

Keeping things simple, advertisers will go where their audiences are and then (theoretically!) spend as little money as they can to deliver their message to them. Inertia inevitably happens though.

For as long as I can remember, Mary Meeker has in her annual state of the Internet reports, pointed out that advertising is overspending in print and underspending in mobile. Advertising spend in print is finally declining whilst spend in mobile advertising is indeed rising.

Outside of Google and Facebook, advertising is much more difficult – especially for smaller companies. Upgrading the platforms to make them more accessible will happen over time as the use artificial intelligence gets integrated more and more. Transparency and reducing fraud both remain a heavy focus for the industry today though.

The smallest companies will never be able to invest significant sums of money in creative as Umair would like to see though and if everyone did manage somehow to hit that level then an even higher bar would be required to stand out from the crowd.

🤖 Strawberry picking robots, winning users and societal challenges.

This week returns to strawberry picking robots, overcoming inertia to win users and the challenges of user generated content for children and wider society. A rather wide ranging newsletter this week then.

Picking strawberries.

When we held our entrepreneurship event for the London Symposium (an event which celebrates UK business) a few years ago, the focus was very much on robotics and AI.

One company showcasing their wares was the Shadow Robot Company which was looking to build robots that could pick strawberries. Not as easy a task as you might imagine and requires both clever hardware and software.

Something like this is tough because it is not something you can just tell a robot to do. There are too many variations. Instead a robot needs to be taught the fundamentals and then work out the best approach itself.

Embodied Intelligence, which has just come out of stealth aims to take this very approach. It does so by mimicking a human and learning from each interaction.

Eventually it will have done something enough times to figure out the best approach itself. A solid approach albeit one that is still much much slower than teaching even a baby. It seems to require a clean environment as well right now so I’m not entirely sure it is up to the task of picking strawberries yet. One step at a time though..

More on Embodied Intelligence’s approach here.

Overcoming inertia to succeed.

Inertia. Never underestimate it. If you want someone to switch from one thing to another you need to overcome it and something that you use everyday requires something big to succeed.

When Hotmail launched webmail in the mid 90s, most people were stuck with their ISP email accounts. Awful to use and difficult to access anywhere there wasn’t much inertia.

So with a big advantage and excellent marketing Hotmail became extremely popular despite heavy competition from copycats. Its viral marketing was so superior that it is still used today as an example of how viral marketing can succeed.

It was not till 2004, that someone figured out a way to overcome that inertia again. Gmail announced to much disbelief that it would give away 1 GB of space to everyone who uses its platform. It also dropped the idea of folders and introduced search. Enough to overcome inertia and woo a lot people away.

Fast forward to today though and there doesn’t seem to be much reason to switch email provider (at least so far). AOL launched Alto back in 2010, which was a nice clean email client, easy to use and with clever features. In some ways it was similar to Google’s Inbox client, which takes a similar approach of group together types of messaging and aims to streamline the email experience. Some love it, some hate it. Regardless it clearly was not enough to persuade people to switch and as a result it is shutting down on December 10th.

The next generation email client is not dead though and I suspect we are on the cusp of a new type of email client. One that integrates with smart assistants and will make email easier to deal with. One day..

What are we doing..

Happy group of kids playing at the park

Bringing up children is wrought with challenges. The world is never the same as when we were brought up so new decisions have to be made. Is the same approach as when we were younger the right approach or should a different path be taken. If a different path is taken what doe that do to other decisions? Challenging indeed.

One (obvious) huge area of change is the amount of technology available to children today. Whilst screentime is always a concern, I seem to remember being hounded away from the TV when I was young so actually this is not such a new problem.

It is actually what is on those screens that is creating the biggest challenge.

The ability to find almost any content you need on YouTube has meant that children get introduced to YouTube very early on. This is as a direct result of YouTube allowing anyone to upload content.

By removing the friction of publishers and TV channels from the mix, any creator can quickly meet the desires of an individual.

The downside it that this can be abused and technology which understands content is not as good as the technology which creates content.

So today, when it comes to apps like YouTube Kids, which visibly sounds like a YouTube safe for kids, is not really. It is not a human curated channel and means that sometimes the technology filters get things wrong.

Is that OK? At what age does it become OK? It all depends on the content, which in turn means that initially supervision and eventually teaching children to be both self-aware and understand core concepts is even more critical. This is nothing new though.

Eventually, technology filtering will catch up and then we have bigger questions to answer. This is just one more strand of a bigger problem where content appears that we (as a society) do not want it to. The obvious example today is fake news – but already this has become more broadly defined as content someone does not agree with. At some point we are going to have to define what should and should not be filtered before we drift too far towards censorship.

James Bridle has written up an excellent and detailed article looking at content targeted at kids, how automation is being used and how it is all having an impact on not just kids but the wider society. Read it here.

Queen Rania wins YouTube Award

Thanks to Joi Ito for highlighting this clip – I didn’t know it but Queen Rania has a channel on YouTube. What is more she recently won the YouTube Visionary Award. The below is her very funny acceptance speech..

I have to agree with her – it is an impressive way of getting a message out to people who otherwise wouldn’t be listening. It certainly highlights Jordan and made me tune in to the YouTube channel!