Why I Am NOT Always Okay Being The Product (Re: Facebook and Ello)

Shel holtz productSometimes I'm okay being "the product", sometimes I'm not. I just want the choice... and to know who has access to my data.

Today Shel Holtz published a piece on his blog, "You say I'm the product of services I don't pay for? I'm fine with that.", and after first replying to Shel on Ello and then starting to do so again on Facebook... I realized I needed to just write these thoughts down in somewhere more permanent (and outside the walls of social networks). You know... go "old school" and reply blog-to-blog like we used to do before social networks...

I certainly realize that you are always paying for services in some form, either directly in money or attention (i.e. watching an ad before seeing something) or through information that can then be monetized via some other way such as ads. I also realize there are hybrid services where you are directly paying for part of the cost while advertising (potentially based on your data) is covering the rest of the cost. This has been the model for newspapers and magazines for quite some time (and pre-Internet, of course). It's the model for TV channels now (since in at least the US you are paying for cable TV and being bombarded by ads). It's the model used for a zillion different services we all use every day.

I get that.

TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

I get that. And much of the time I'm perfectly fine with that.

I use Gmail, for free, even though I know that Google is reading my every message and mining that for data to feed into their AdWords advertising machine. Like Shel, I use some "loyalty programs" where I know that I am getting a discount on my purchases in exchange for giving them my data.

Going Too Far?

But... I start to get worried about how that data might be used by others. For instance, Facebook's new "Atlas" advertising platform launches today (see also "Meet the new Atlas") and so now ads based on our Facebook data will be displayed on other websites we visit and also within mobile apps.

To Shel's point... maybe that's a good thing. Maybe we'll see more targeted and helpful ads that we may actually want to purchase.

But... who else is learning about what we are doing and saying inside of Facebook... and are we okay with them doing so?

Maybe I've just spent so many years in information security that I'm wary. I don't expect that advertisers outside of Facebook would learn my exact information... Facebook is far too protective of the actual data (for their OWN reasons, not out of any interest in protecting me). But there are ways that information can leak... or that aggregate information can be discovered. Our web browsers and other devices can leak a great amount of information about what we are doing and what we are seeing.

I'm not 100% okay sharing all that data with others.

I guess I don't necessarily trust Facebook to be careful with my data.

Choosing NOT To Be The Product

Shel mentions network television in his post, and certainly I, too, have seen some amazing shows that came about through the support of advertising. Similarly, I'm been a long-time fan of National Public Radio (NPR) and while it does not have "advertising", per se, it has "underwriting" which to the listener may wind up being similar (just less obnoxious).

But I have chosen to NOT participate in that process much any more. Our family doesn't have commercial TV. We are a "cord-cutter". What "TV" we watch comes at us without commercials through live streaming services. We are paying for a subscription. An impact, of course, is that we don't get some of the latest shows... nor do we get the current sports games... because those are all still ad-funded.

We made this choice in large part because we were tired of all the advertising. (And there are some philosophical reasons why I think the fact that our kids are growing up without watching commercials is a beautiful thing, but that's for a different article.) I've given up on most traditional radio, too, including NPR, opting instead to listen to podcasts in my car or use Spotify (which I pay for) or other streaming services in my home office.

Similarly, I have chosen NOT to participate in some "rewards" or "loyalty" programs offered by some stores or services. Oh, sure, I'm in various hotel and airline "frequent traveler" programs because I perceive that there are benefits. I am also in one for my local hardware store because I get a discount and I buy a significant quantity of products to where I'm okay giving up my data for a discount.

But there are other stores where I am NOT comfortable exchanging my data for a discount. Either ones I don't frequent all that often... or just ones that for whatever reason I don't trust.

I don't want to be their product.

Returning To The Topic Of Facebook and Ello

Shel concludes his post saying:

Ultimately, being “the product” doesn’t bother me, and I’m not inclined to abandon a network that works for me for a new one just because it doesn’t have ads.

He is, of course, responding to the Ello Manifesto and one reason Ello is getting a good bit of buzz.

I agree that simply "not having ads" is not a great reason to move from one network to another. And I don't expect that I will abandon Facebook... I still find it useful and enjoyable.

But I find I don't trust Facebook anymore.

Granted, I never really have trusted Facebook since I started using it back in 2007-ish... but maybe it's even more the case today. I just worry about the large-scale data mining.

THAT is a good part of why I'm continuing my explorations with Ello.

I'm looking for a place where I can share information with others - and yet feel that the privacy of my conversations and data are better respected than in other social networks.

P.S. And yes, I do realize the irony that all my Ello conversations are entirely public, which means that all of them can be picked up by that other master of data mining, Google, as well as any other data mining service... very much like all my tweets can be picked up, too. That's okay right now because I'm not yet intending to share anything on Ello that I'm not comfortable being public. But I am interested in what they may be able to do in the future to allow more private conversations.

P.S. And I also realize that I'm probably in a very small minority who care about data privacy and that the VAST majority of people out there don't even remotely care about what is done with their data...

Photo credit: Shel's blog

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Now Amazon Rolls Out Pages And Posts, Too?

As if companies and brands don't already have enough places to establish their presence online, now comes word that Amazon.com will let you create a URL with your brand name where you can promote your products and other information. You also will be able to create "posts" for your page similar to a Facebook Page.

Amazon spells out more details in the FAQ for "Amazon Marketing Services", including the fact that these pages are free to create and that there is a verification process for brands. It notes that in building your Amazon Page you have a choice of three templates - and that Posts can also be cross-posted over to Facebook after you link your Amazon Page to a Facebook account. It also notes that there is "Amazon Analytics" to show you the interaction with your page.

I have not yet explored setting up a Page myself, but I can certainly see the value for any company selling merchandise through Amazon. I expect we will see a rush for brands wanting to own their own brand name at amazon.com. For marketers this becomes, though, yet one more place to potentially establish a presence.

What do you think of this move? Will you establish your own Amazon Page?


When Facebook Starts To Become More Useless - Irrelevant In-Feed Ads

Laundry ad in Facebook

Yesterday I started to see Facebook become more useless. There, right in my NewsFeed, nestled between two updates from friends, was an advertisement for a laundry detergent I could apparently get at my local Target.

This was not an ad on the side of my Facebook display.

This was right IN my NewsFeed.

This is very definitely NOT the kind of ads I want to see - this is junk polluting my NewsFeed. I want updates from friends, family and brands/companies that I care about.

I understand Facebook needs to make money. I understand this may be the only way they have to get an ad in front of mobile viewers. (I saw it on my iPad in the Facebook app that doesn't have ads on the side.)

I understand all that... but that doesn't mean I have to like it! :-)

When I posted about this on Facebook, friends commented that they have been seeing this for some time, and that it has to do with friends liking a Page. By this logic because someone somewhere in all my friends perhaps liked a page about laundry detergent, I am now subject to their spam.

Maybe that's it... or maybe it is just Facebook trying to offer any advertisers a way to reach mobile users.

Either way, with this kind of junk polluting my NewsFeed, Facebook just got a little more useless...

My Report into For Immediate Release (FIR) Podcast #646

In this week's For Immediate Release episode #646, my report covered:

If you are a FIR subscriber, you should have the show now in iTunes or whatever you use to get the feed. If you aren't a subscriber, you can simply listen to the episode online now.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Sorry, But No, I Won't Add a Link To A Blog Post for $60!

Oh, the scammers and spammers.... I was amused in today's normal haul of bogus comments across my various blogs to get this one:

If you’re willing to place a link to my client, <URL-deleted> with the anchor text “<client-name-deleted>” in one of your new articles then I will send you a one-time payment of $60 via PayPal.

<client-name-deleted> provides the best deals for <deleted> across the country. If you’re interested, please let me know the email address where you’d like me to send the PayPal payment and I will send it once you add the link.

I'd seen this type of message many times before, of course, but just deleted them as a matter of course.

This time, though, I picked up on "to my client".

One wonders, does the client understand the sleazy way in which this person is going about their work? Does the client even care? Are they just paying for "results"?

I do wonder, too, how many people out there just go ahead and accept the offer... hey, $60 can buy a bit and... "why not? They're just asking for a link!" Probably a number of folks... which then only leads to more messages like this...

P.S. And no, I've never taken money to put links in articles. And I certainly wouldn't for only $60. Now... add maybe 2 or 3 zeroes to that number and maybe I'd start considering it... ;-)

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

WordPress.com Rolls out WordAds, New Competitor to Google AdSense

Want to make money from your blog hosted on WordPress.com?

In a fascinating move today the folks at Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, rolled out WordAds, directly competing with Google's advertising offerings. As they state:

Over the years one of the most frequent requests on WordPress.com has been to allow bloggers to earn money from their blog through ads. We’ve resisted advertising so far because most of it we had seen wasn’t terribly tasteful, and it seemed like Google’s AdSense was the state-of-the-art, which was sad. You pour a lot of time and effort into your blog and you deserve better than AdSense.

Right now there isn't much information beyond what can be found on the application form:

Only publicly visible blogs with custom domains will be considered for this program. ...

Selection will be based on level of traffic and engagement, type of content, and language used on a blog. Some blogs may not be accepted. Entering the form below does not commit you to the advertising program. It just signals your interest in learning more.

Personally, I don't have any blogs hosted on WordPress.com (outside of some experimental sites), so I won't be applying... and I actually share the feeling that most advertising hasn't seemed to me to be very attractive (which is why I don't run any on my sites).

While this is limited now to blogs on WordPress.com, it will be interesting to see if it expands beyond that if the program is successful. Competition certainly is good and having even more options available for bloggers who want to use advertising is good news for all of us.

If your blog is on WordPress.com, will you apply for this program?

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Times when you DO wonder about Facebook's ad targeting...

If you spend any time on Facebook, odds are you've had more than one occasion where you just had to go "HUH?" at the ads that are shown to you.... a few moments ago I had another one of those moments:


Some how I'm thinking the ad targeting mechanism was a wee bit too aggressive on that one... :-)

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

AOL Buys Huffington Post - Mathew Ingram Curates The Zillions of Articles

Unless you have been offline today, you have to know by now that AOL bought Huffington Post for $315 million... there are literally thousands of articles being written (some are linked on Techmeme). Thankfully, Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm curated some of the best into a post describing reactions:
What the Web Is Saying About AOL’s HuffPo Purchase

Thanks, Mathew, because yes, there are simply way too many articles being written on this right now!

For my part, I was skeptical when AOL announced it was changing its course to be a "content company", but this action along with their purchasing of sites like TechCrunch and hiring many reporters certainly shows their determination to be a major player in creating online content. I still am admittedly skeptical, but I do have to give them credit for continuing to assemble a great team.

Meanwhile, if you did somehow miss the news today, do read Mathew's post as he puts the pieces together nicely.

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

The Back Story Behind The Darth Vader Boy in the VW SuperBowl Commercial

Unless you were offline the past few days, it's been hard to miss mentions of the (admittedly cute) VW SuperBowl ad that features a young boy playing Darth Vader, complete with the ever-impressive Star Wars soundtrack. Certainly in my circles, it has been tweeted, facebooked, blogged, and shared in pretty much any other way...

MaxpageIt turns out that there is another great part to the story... by way of Luke Armour (on Facebook), I learned that the child actor, Max Page, was a patient at the Los Angeles Children's Hospital where he received a pacemaker at 4 months of age.

It's cool to see this story behind the story... and the L.A. Children's Hospital certainly gets kudos on a several points:

  • Just getting this story out there as a blog post for people to find and share;

  • Nicely mixing in pictures and video into their post;

  • Posting the photos up to Flickr as well as the blog post;

  • Imprinting/watermarking the images with their logo for all the people, like me, who will use those images in posts like this one.

Sure, it's a textbook case of riding on a wave of viral publicity to promote your organization (L.A. Children's Hospital) and cause (children who suffer from heart conditions)... but... DUH!... that's what the communications team for an organization should be doing!

Well done, L.A. Children's Hospital! Thanks for giving us a bit more of the story behind the story. (And kudos to Max Page, too, for his well done role in the ad.)

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either:

Apple: Masters of the Tease...

Connect to the iTunes Music Store this morning... and what do I see?


Never shy about pumping up expectations, are they? ;-)

If you found this post interesting or useful, please consider either: