By John Plunkett: Marketing messages that appear on company websites and social media services such as Facebook and Twitter are to be subject to the same regulations as adverts that appear on television, newspapers or other media.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said today the online extension had the Ã¢â‚¬Å“protection of children and consumers at its heartÃ¢â‚¬Â. The move was in response to more than 4,500 complaints the ASA had received about online ads but which it had been unable to deal with because they fell outside its remit.
Under the new rules, which will come into effect on 1 March next year, the ASA will have the ability to demand the removal of paid-for links to pages hosting a banned ad. It will also be able to place its own online ads highlighting an advertiserÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s continued refusal to comply with one of its rulings.
Google has quietly launched a new feature: search for blogs on any topic. The company announced the new type of search in a weekly round-up of search updates last week, and respected SEO blogger Bill Slawski argues that the launch may be related to a new Google patent.
This has the potential to be a wildly useful service. How many of you have had professional or personal reasons to seek a list of the top blogs on a new topic? I know I, and many people I talk to, find themselves in such need frequently.
Been looking for something like this for literally years…
On the surface, Google Places and Facebook Places would seem to have a lot in common.
Both services are out to create a landing page for every local business in the world.
Both services allow local merchants to Ã¢â‚¬Å“claimÃ¢â‚¬Â their pages, giving the merchant some editorial control over content on the page.
And both services no doubt expect to grab a chunk of what is projected to be a $32B digital, local advertising market by 2013 by claiming the middleman position between the merchant and the end user.
But where the two services break from each other Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and in a non-trivial way Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is in their respective distribution strategies.
Google relies on Search. Ã‚Â Facebook relies on Social.
And this is where things start to get interesting.
Important news for storytelling:
Starting today, you can zoom to any point in time and Ã¢â‚¬Å“replayÃ¢â‚¬Â what people were saying publicly about a topic on Twitter. To try it out, click Ã¢â‚¬Å“Show optionsÃ¢â‚¬Â on the search results page, then select Ã¢â‚¬Å“Updates.Ã¢â‚¬Â The first page will show you the familiar latest and greatest short-form updates from a comprehensive set of sources, but now thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a new chart at the top. In that chart, you can select the year, month or day, or click any point to view the tweets from that specific time period.
Google’s going to find it difficult talking to prickly editorial types, if Youtube’s attempts to sign up bloggers for a San Francisco news experiment are anything to go by:
I am leading a project at YouTube and I thought you might like to be a part of it. [Redacted] gave me your contact information. For the months of July and August, YouTube is going local in San Francisco to encourage citizen videographers — anyone with a video-capable phone or camera, really, — to help cover San Francisco’s news, issues and events and we want local news sites to join us.
If you’re interested, I’m rounding up a group of San Francisco bloggers, writers and digital journalists next week to speak about the project in more detail in person.
The meeting is called “Youtube Explains News Project to Bay Area Media”. The only attempt to explain it was the emailing of a link to the Atlantic Monthly articles by James Fallows on how Google will save the news. Which rather suggests that Googlers are now using it as a strategic blueprint. Hmmm.
But only in Italy. Make of the reliability of that what you will:
La Repubblica says that, with Newspass, people will be able to log-in to the sites of participating news publishers using a single login. Publishers will be able to designate what type of payment they want to accept, including subscriptions and micropayments. People who find content from participating publishers in Google search will see a paywall icon next to that content and be able to purchase access directly from there using Checkout.
So the algorithm is still king, but it may no longer be an absolute monarchy. Google News is testing Editors’ Picks:
In that sense, EditorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Picks Ã¢â‚¬â€ currently being run in partnership with less than a dozen news outlets, including The Washington Post, Newsday, Reuters, and Slate Ã¢â‚¬â€ could recreate the didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t-know-youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d-love-it-til-you-loved-it experience of the bundled news product within the broader presentation of Google NewsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ algorithmically curated news items. Serendipity concerns exist even at Google (see Fast Flip, for example); this is one way of replicating the offline experience of serendipity-via-bundling within the sometimes scattered experience of online news consumption.
EditorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Picks also does what its name suggests: it allows editors to choose which stories they introduce to the Google News audience. (Google confirmed to me the links on display arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t being paid for by the news publishers Ã¢â‚¬â€ that is, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not a sponsored section.) Publishers can choose to promote stories that have done well, traffic-wise, amplifying that success Ã¢â‚¬â€ or they can choose to promote stories that have gotten less traction. Or they can simply choose to promote stories that are funny or important or touching or all of the above Ã¢â‚¬â€ stories that are simply worth reading. The point is, they can choose.
This morning’s Google News is that they’re preparing a micropayments system for online publishers. Actually, it’s a payment system that’s going to be used to take cash from users in return for granting access to various online publications (read URLs, presumably), and most people who know what they’re talking about know that subscriptions is a better model than micropayments, so this is in fact a subscriptions system that can do micropayments. But just as newspaper journalists say “Twitter” when they mean “social media”, online commentators say “micropayments” when they mean “The End of Free.” ‘Twas ever thus.
Anyway, the thing that struck me about this story is that, technically, anyone could have done this at any time in the last decade. eMeta had a technology that did exactly this and which is still in use in some places (it did power 4oD’s payments system, for example, before the archive was opened up and went free).
So this isn’t a technology story – it’s a reach story. What will make this work, if it does work, is Google’s scale. The newspaper industry is never going to get itself together to build something cooperatively. The laughable idea that the British government might do it is barely worthy of a mention but is definitely worth a chuckle.
No, the only way a system like this might work is if it’s put in front of enough users all at once in something like a coherent, planned way. And, I would argue, only Google can do this. Maybe Facebook, one day, but Facebook’s never going to be about monetising attention flow the way Google does.
So, what does this suggest as to the health of the online competitive space, when a key revenue platform which could underpin the future of online publishing might rely on the business planning of a single corporate entity? A while ago, we were all pretty exercised by the idea that Microsoft might control DRM and thus be the gatekeeper to the world’s digital content. That didn’t happen, perhaps thanks to a combination of YouTube, Apple, the MP3 format and self-publishing. But if, in this disaggregated world, only one company can operate at commercial scale, we’ve got a bit of a problem, have we not?
I find Techcrunch useful, but I find Michael Arrington annoying. Today he exceeds himself, telling the most successful user experience company on the planet that they’ve got a key plank of their strategy completely wrong. He’s talking about the new Google Wiki Search, which you can find out about here.
Arrington reverts to that staple of the anti-innovation luddite: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a trite statement which doesn’t actually say anything, and he takes it up to 11:
But Google search wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t broken. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the few things on the Internet that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t. I love it, as does 62% of everyone on the Internet. This new stuff is a mess of arrows and troll comments and stuff moving around the page. That doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make my search experience more useful. It makes it move to another search engine.
The worst part of the new stuff is you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t turn it off. Once you click Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, continueÃ¢â‚¬Â youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in. And as far as I can tell, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get back to the good old Google that worked just fine.
First of all, he seems to be wrong. You can turn it off. Second of all, he’s understood nothing about what this represents. He didn’t answer his own question: why did Google mess with search results?
The answer’s in the question. You don’t mess with the most efficient cash-generating piece of HTML on the planet unless it’s very, very important. So we can assume Google thinks this is very, very important. Why might this be? Because it’s an attempt to do something Google knows from its AdSense experience: to harness individual, client-side activities (clicking on a text ad = voting for a high-quality search hit) into something that starts to look a lot like emergent intelligence. By providing something of some utility to individuals (what search results work for me?), Google seeks to build a massive distributed curated search into which we are all adding intelligence without ever being aware of it. It is, I would contend, the Big Thing At Google For 2009.
And in fact Google is being interestingly coy about this. It’s only talking about individual utility, not Big Brain Emergence:
This new feature is an example of how search is becoming increasingly dynamic, giving people tools that make search even more useful to them in their daily lives. We have been testing bits and pieces of SearchWiki for some time through live experiments, and we incorporated much of our learnings into this release. We are constantly striving to improve our users’ search experience, and this is yet another step along the way.
And it’s careful to state that this won’t affect other users’ searches. That statement might get it into trouble down the line, because if this takes off – if millions of people start annotating searches and, more importantly, actively voting for higher-value results – there’s no question it will affect search rankings. Otherwise, what would be the point? I say again – you don’t mess with the Google search results page unless it’s something very big.
If Arrington doesn’t get that, he should stop blogging about technology and relaunch Valleywag.