Cashing Out: Week of January 22nd – 28th 2012 in Online Marketing News

Is ACTA the new, global SOPA?

Last week will be remembered by some as the week that SOPA died, though that hardly means the issue of online piracy is going away any time soon. Mashable reported  January 27 on new anti-piracy legislation that is gaining steam, and this time, its reach is global.

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, or ACTA, was already signed in October by Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore and the US, but just added a slew of European Union member states to their growing number of supporters January 26.

The international bill, which aims to prevent copyright theft online by normalizing copyright protection and intellectual property standards among countries that sign the legislation, is being called “more dangerous than SOPA.”

Mashable’s Stan Schroeder wrote that “Unfortunately (and unlike SOPA and PIPA), ACTA has been signed by many states without a wide, open public discussion.”

And, as cited by another Mashable article, US Congressman Darrell Issa told an audience at the World Economic Forum about the threat he thinks the bill poses:

“As a member of Congress, it’s more dangerous than SOPA. It’s not coming to me for a vote. It purports that it does not change existing laws. But once implemented, it creates a whole new enforcement system and will virtually tie the hands of Congress to undo it [...]

It sounded probably to people like a good idea, but people should ask, why did they work around the WTO [World Trade Organization] and all the existing bodies? I think the answer is: They could work in secret. They could get it done, and then they could tell people you couldn’t change it.”

As for how closely ACTA resembles SOPA, Issa noted “Many of the things in SOPA are basically implied in ACTA.”

Meanwhile, Mashable’s Alex Fitzpatrick took issue with the fact that ACTA is being considered in the US as an executive agreement rather than a treaty:

“When signing a treaty, the president must get at least two-thirds of the Senate’s approval. With executive agreements, the president is allowed to bypass the Senate completely.”

Among the countries that signed the agreement January 26 are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

ACTA must still be ratified by the European Parliament this summer before it can take effect.

More Twitter brand Pages coming, but only for big spenders

After launching its new ad format, Brand Pages, last month with 21 partners, Twitter will begin rolling them out on a larger scale February 1, Ad Age reported January 27.

However, in order to qualify, Twitter is requiring that advertisers commit to spending $25, 000 on the social network’s other ad products, namely Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends.

That amount seems high, but it’s a bargain compared to the $2 million minimum Twitter ad spend required of the original 21 Brand Pages members, which included Disney, Coca-Cola, Nike and Pepsi.

And Twitter’s Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain believes that, considering the limitations of an ordinary twitter profile, advertisers will naturally prefer Brand Pages, which feature prominent display of logos and tag-lines, and allow brands to keep a particular tweet at the top of the timeline (which can, in turn, be auto-expanded to show an embedded picture or video.) Brand pages also allow advertisers to sort their @ replies and mentions.

“A tweet’s only 140 characters,” Bain said last month, contrasted with Brand Pages, which are “like an invitation to learn more. When consumers want to learn more, spend more time or get deeper in terms of engagement, we think they’ll end up on the brand page.”

Facebook IPO to be filed this week

According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), it looks as though Facebook will be filing for its IPO as early as February 1.

Citing “people familiar with the matter,” the WSJ says Facebook is likely to choose Morgan Stanley as its lead underwriter for the IPO, as opposed to Goldman Sachs, which was once thought to “have an inside track to lead the IPO.”

Still as the WSJ notes, “while Morgan Stanley would likely land the coveted ‘lead-left’ spot on an IPO financial filing, Goldman would also likely play a significant role.”

According to the WSJ‘s sources, the earliest date suggested for the $10 billion IPO is just one of a few possible scenarios, as “executives are also considering filing a few weeks later.”

There has been no comment yet from either Facebook, Morgan Stanley, or Goldman Sachs.

Facebook, Twitter, MySpace engineers attack Search + Your World

ReveNews reported January 16 on Google’s new integration of Google + into search, wherein query results would draw on content from Google + but not from competing social networks, like Facebook and Twitter.

Now, networks have taken Google to task for its claims that other networks aren’t integrated into its social search because those sites haven’t given it permission or enough data to do so.

TechCrunch reported January 23 on a new tool, called “Don’t Be Evil,” developed by engineers from Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace that “uses Google’s own algorithms to serve up relevant social sites, you know, instead of all Google+ all the time.”

In its FAQ section, the engineers’ bookmarklet “Focus on the User” directly addresses, and debunks, Google’s argument as to why it doesn’t display content from other networks in its social search results:

Q: I thought Google needed a deal and more info from social sites to integrate them into its new social features?

A: This is clearly not true. The bookmarklet never accesses any server or API outside of Google.com. The information has already been indexed and ranked by Google.”

In interview with the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Search Engine Land Editor In Chief Danny Sullivan expressed his concerns about whether Google can “stay neutral on search results while trying to win the social media war.”

“They are both a social network and a search engine,” Sullivan told the WSJ, “You don’t expect to go into Google+ and for it to encourage you to use Facebook and Twitter, but as a search engine it’s not supposed to care. There should be that church/state divide.

Twitter now censoring on a country-by-country basis

In a company blog post January 26, Twitter announced a change to its policy regarding censoring content.

Citing cultural differences that account for different restrictions on free speech – they used the example of Germany and France banning pro-Nazi content – the blog post explained:

“Until now, the only way we could take account of those countries’ limits was to remove content globally. Starting today, we give ourselves the ability to reactively withhold content from users in a specific country — while keeping it available in the rest of the world. We have also built in a way to communicate transparently to users when content is withheld, and why.”

As TechCrunch points out, it’s difficult to say whether the policy change is a good thing or not:

“Before this announcement, Twitter was a global platform on which something was either said or not said, on a global scale. Now, Twitter’s new power to enforce censorship depending on your country both legitimizes the blocks and concedes international territory specifically to countries that ‘have different ideas about the contours of freedom of expression.’”

Meanwhile, TechCrunch concedes that the move is only logical for a platform that is expanding its global reach. Just one day before this policy change, Twitter announced it will soon become available in a number of right-to-left languages, like Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, and Urdu. These languages, Mashable notes are “spoken in many countries associated with strict government media restriction.”

“A meta-national community like Twitter must both transcend and respect its constituent parts,” argues TechCrunch, “and that requires some tough decisions.” It remains to be seen what impact the change will have on global communication.

Google’s new sweeping privacy policy

In a January 24 blog post, Google announced a new privacy policy that would consolidate previous policies for the majority of its different products.

The company is promising users that the new master policy, which will replace 70 other privacy documents, will “make it easier for people to understand our privacy practices as well as enable Google to improve the services we offer.”

“Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience,” the announcement reads.

The change takes effect March 1.

Facebook wages legal battle against clickjacking

In time for its heavily rumored IPO, Facebook is taking its stance against clickjacking to court.

The internet giant has accused Washington-based marketing Adscend Media of the malicious, spam-causing practice of stealing users’ information, or taking control of their computer, when they click on a link, announcing a lawsuit against them January 26.

Meanwhile, Mashable reports that Washington State’s Attorney General General Rob McKenna has also filed a separate lawsuit against Ascend Media for similar reasons.

“We don’t ‘like’ schemes that illegally trick Facebook users into giving up personal information or paying for unwanted subscription services through spam,” McKenna said.

Ascend says they have done nothing wrong, vowing to fight the case in court. “At no time did we engage in the activity alleged in the complaints,” a release reads, ” Adscend Media will provide a vigorous defense against these false claims.”

Facebook’s almost certain upcoming IPO may not be the sole reason for bringing this suit right now, but it likely has something to do with the matter.

“In the run-up to IPO [initial public offering], we’re sure to see Facebook doing more to present itself as company that is fighting security threats like this,” Graham Cluley, Senior Technology Consultant at internet security firm Sophos told the BBC.

Curebit caught copying 37Signals design and code

Social referral platform Curebit is in a bit of a bind this week following the discovery that they have been copying both code and designs from 37Signals. The latter is credited with a variety of collaboration tools, like Basecamp and Highrise, while the former just raised $1.2 million in its most recent round of funding.

“The copying was called out on Twitter by 37Signals partner David Heinemeier Hansson,” reports TechCrunch. And though Heinemeier Hansson’s original statements included some pretty offensive vulgarities aimed at the Curebit team and at its co-founder Allan Grant, they have turned out to be true.

Curebit has since posted an apology to 37Signals on its blog, which reads as follows:

“Recently we launched a site with several pages copied from 37signals’ Highrise. We did more than take inspiration from their design – we actually used html & css code, and hotlinked to images on their site. We apologize to David and 37signals for ripping off their work. It was stupid, lazy, and disrespectful of their creative efforts. It’s particularly painful for us to have done this to 37signals because they are big heroes of ours. We just hope they will accept our apologies.”

As TechCrunch noted, one of the reasons the controversy has been so big surrounding this issue is that “Curebit was incubated by Y Combinator and raised money from 500 Startups (among others), something that Heinemeier Hansson didn’t hesitate to point out.”

For their part, 500 Startups is saying they don’t agree with what Curebit did, but that the error should be forgiven. In a couple of Tweets, 500 Startups founder Dave McClure voiced a sort of soft chiding, saying he “strongly asked them 2 re-evaluate thr policy on design & content; hope they take that 2 heart,”

As cited by TechCrunch, McClure offered that “new founders aren’t children, just inexperienced. furthermore investors aren’t parents, just uncles & aunts. and we all make mistakes.”

Apple under fire for manufacturing consditions

Apple may have just beaten out Exxon-Mobil as the world’s largest industrial corporation, but the tech giant has had a lot of bad press laid at its doorstep of late as well.

Most striking are the recent reports on inhumane conditions and disregard for safety at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing plants. January 25, in a lengthy piece better described as a series of articles, the New York Times (NYT) exposed what AdAge’s Bob Garfield describes as “the rot at Apple’s core.”

The NYT piece describes a slew of problems with Apple’s Chinese plants, including, but not limited to, underage labor, unhealthy working hours, crowded dorms, and safety risks that have led to deaths.

“Some [workers] say they stand so long that their legs swell until they can hardly walk. Under-age workers have helped build Apple’s products, and the company’s suppliers have improperly disposed of hazardous waste and falsified records,” the NYT reports.

What’s worse, it appears that, in some cases, Apple was fully aware of the unhealthy or dangerous conditions in their plants:

“Two years ago, 137 workers at an Apple supplier in eastern China were injured after they were ordered to use a poisonous chemical to clean iPhone screens. Within seven months last year, two explosions at iPad factories, including in Chengdu, killed four people and injured 77. Before those blasts, Apple had been alerted to hazardous conditions inside the Chengdu plant, according to a Chinese group that published that warning.”

Stories like these, Garfield says, could “sicken consumers” as well as Apple’s business, especially “in the social-media age [where] scandal is traded back and forth, perpetually, at the speed of send.”

In Garfield’s opinion, consumers should be concerned about these harsh working conditions, but no more so than Apple itself.

Studies and reports:

29 percent of Americans own a tablet or ereader

A study by Pew Internet, picked up by Mashable January 23, found that nineteen percent of American adults own a tablet, while 29 percent own either a tablet or ereader.

What’s remarkable about these findings, notes Mashable, is that this past holiday shopping period was almost entirely responsible  for the near doubling in the number of US adults who owned an ereader, and ditto for tablets. In both cases, the figure went from 10 percent to 19 percent between mid-December 2011 and January 2012.

“ It took only one holiday shopping spree for the number of U.S. adults who own either a tablet or an ereader to jump to almost one-third of the adult population – from 18 percent to 29 percent,” writes Mashable.

Viewers want short online video ads

Americans don’t want long video ads online. According to a Poll Position survey of 1,179 people, 54 percent said 15 seconds was an acceptable running time for video ads that appear before free content, while only 12 percent thought 30 seconds was acceptable. As the running time increased, the percentage of people who found it acceptable dropped.

Smartphones more prevalent than PCs

Data released by Google to AdAge shows that, among consumers in five key global markets, more have a smartphone than a PC or a laptop. The data, which looked at the US, Germany, Japan, the UK, and France, found that “in the US the difference is nearly 10 percent more (76 percent  to 68  percent), although consumers still report accessing the internet on multiple types of devices.”

About Emily Wilkinson

Emily Wilkinson is a Montreal writer and editor who recently joined ReveNews.com. Her experience comes largely from her work at print publications like La Scena Musicale, where she alternated between positions as content manager, copy editor and journalist.
She believes in the importance of strong writing, be it in journalism or in other media, like blogging or even social networking. Her prerogative: though language will and ought to evolve, a good writer need never sacrifice the communicative power of text that is written with thought and care, whatever the venue.
Find Emily on Twitter @EditorWilkinson

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