Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Just when you though we have enough digital channels, the market is going to get even more fragmented with the next generation of car technology. Car technology is changing as they are now connected to the internet that means you will be able to deliver ad messages to the user. Radio and billboards have a new player in town to compete for the car advertising dollar. Waze is doing this now for their GPS App and on-demand music steaming services like Pandora and Spotify will be part of this new digital ad eco-system.


The race to create the first driverless car is a development worth watching as the technology developed for it will create an innovation, we just don’t know what that will be yet. GM states that they will have a driverless car ready for the market in 2019 so it coming very soon. Uber is testing a self driving fleet of Ford Fusions in Pittsburg right now. (photo below)

 Source: MIT TEchnolgy Review

 Personally, the paper claims of passenger safety and convenience are over stated as computers have never achieved 100% availability, as sooner or later they crash or have to shut down for maintenance. They will also be subject to constant hacker attacks as a security concern. That’s right a hacker can now remotely steal your car in this future path. Nevertheless the connected car is here to stay, it is just a question of how far we go as a society to trust artificial technology vs. humans control. This MIT Technology Review article has some thoughts on this technolgy's potential . 


On the advertising side, this posting on Adweek by Thomas Bloch, an Asscoate Director at media agency PHD on the future impact it may have. 


“This opportunity will open up in two ways: first, as a precision marketing tool, using all the data the car will soon produce; secondly, as mass-reaching vehicle (pardon the pun), as self-driving cars become mini entertainment centres.

In the near future, autonomous cars will process staggering amounts of data: current and past destinations, speed of travel, demographics and biometrics of the riders, present and future weather, traffic conditions, and nearby landmarks and commercial locations—all of which marketers could access to achieve an unprecedented level of precision in consumer messaging.


Let’s consider what might soon be possible from a marketing perspective in this new channel for say, a coffee chain.


A passenger in a smart car passes a chain coffee shop on the way to work every morning. They have the coffee brand’s app. When they’re close, we programmatically target the rider, asking if they’d like to stop to pick up a medium soy latte—their preferred order at this time of day. If the rider says yes, their car is directed to the store, where their coffee is ready to be picked up at the counter,”

This type of consumer interaction is one future scenario that publisher’s must consider in their publishng roadmap. But, what can we get today and what is the experience now, I want to explore this new emerging channel where there is convergence of the smartphone and the car computer/stereo.


This year my wife and I exchanged our Christmas wishes and I told her I wanted to get a new car stereo as my old factory one is now obsolete with the latest changes in technology. I wanted to get one with a touch screen, GPS navigation and stereo. The slot in my vehicle for the device is a 7” w x 4” h,  a standard size.


In my search, I noticed that Android as an operating system is forever expanding its footprint in all devices; we see it in TV streamers (Oct blog) and now in car stereos. Android for the uninitiated is an open source software that was created by the developers of Google and they made it free to use, just like Linux.

 7” Android Car Player from EinCar

This is what I end up getting for $228 Cdn from a company called EinCar based in China, a 7” Android Car Player. This car stereo is part Android tablet, GPS navigation and stereo, just what I was looking for. This computer/stereo system includes a rear camera, USB and SD Card slots, Bluetooth, 3G wifi, video player and mp3 playback. It has 1G of ram and 8G storage powered by a Quad-Core 2GHz CPU. Because it is Android, I will have access to the Google Play store for their library of apps including games.



The smartphones are connected to the Android Car Player via Bluetooth to enable hands free dialling and talking and it comes with a phone keypad in the tablet’s software. The smartphone can also be used as an external device for music and video that can be played on the system through the USB port. You can use the SD card slot for your music as another option. The system suport both Android and Apple smartphones.

I will post my experience on this device later as part of a product review in  the ever-expanding footprint of Android devices in the “Internet of Things” marketplace that now includes smart fridges. I hope you have a great Christmas holiday season and enjoy peace and joy during this festive time. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

In the book written by Ryan Holiday, Growth Hacker Marketing he chronicles the use of hacker marketing tactics that has become part of the foundation of digital marketing today both the good and bad. 

 Source: Omega Seeds


What is Hacker Marketing? 


Lets start from the beginning, these are marketing techniques created by programmers to build a user base for their free technology. This tech start-up business model was inspired by the story of Netscape who built one of the first widely used browsers for the internet. It was released on October 13,1994 and the browser was so popular it captured 75% of users in 4 months. Then on August 9, 1995, the company had an IPO and after the first day of trading the company was valued at US$2.9 billion.


Give it away for free, become popular and then sell the company was the dot-com boom model. Companies with no revenues can become a billion dollar company based on the valuation of the user base. What a great business model. 

The hacker growth marketing model is to create a self perpetuating marketing machine that reaches millions that focuses on user sign-ups not brand awareness. Ryan talks about the story of Hotmail that launched in 1996 on how how they used an email signature to help get new users. They used the signature “ Sent by Hotmail”, acquired 10 million users and then was sold to MIcrosoft for $400 million in 1997. The growth after 30 months was 30 million users of the free email service.

This viral marketing technique was one of the first digital marketing innovations and “Going Viral” meant something different now. This model and techniques has been used by Gmail, DropBox, Uber, Twitter, SnapChat. Skype Instrgragm, Pinterest, Linkedin to help build their companies. 


The goal of these dot-com companies was to build a superior product, create hype, be popular and sell company. They used emails, pay per click, blogs, social, publicity and platform APIs in their digital toolbox. This new breed of tech start-ups did not follow conventional rules to create hype for their products and some resorted with sinful behavior like fake social media profiles, hacking websites and make offensive or fake comments. Unfortunately, the challenge to minimize the impact of bad actors in the digital ecosystem will not go away as it s a global issue and all we can do is try to keep up. 


All the digital marketing activity in Ryan’s book though are linked to an offer/incentive such as free trial, free account or refer a friend to gain users that follows direct marketing principles. Ryan makes the point that traditional advertising was expensive and wasteful and hacker marketing was the way to go for marketers. He makes a point, but the techniques used for tech start-up does not translate well into other products at different stages of their life cycle. I see how this work for a free app, but not for the launch of a new gardening tool. Perhaps I am wrong.


Fast forward today there is a plethora of digital ad options that has been unleashed in this chase for the buy-out. According to an IPSO survey of CMA members there are 14 digital tools to choose from, some I call core digital, social media essentials and the third category leading edge. I put mobile in the leading edge as it a relatively young channel and the ad models are still evolving.  But today tech start-ups need revenue to attract a buyers attention now and that is advertising.

Future online ad competition will come from unlikely sources  like the Waze GPS Driving Navigation app that has 90 millions users that serves ads when you are at stop sign. This tidal wave of digital advertising is taking its toll though as the use of ad blockers is rising and the growing concerns of online security in a world without borders. The digital ad ecosystem is incredibly cluttered and its ad effectiveness must be considered. 


The next generation of Google Chrome (2018) browser will have ad blockers built into them and Safari released changes to their browser that deletes browser cookies from the website you visit to prevent surveillance marketing when you surf the web, so ads do not follow you. As with any live organic ecosystem changes will always happen, new threats will surface , but in the end Caveat Emptor – “Buyer Beware” is still the golden rule on the internet since the its beginning.

Monday, October 30, 2017

I have cut the chord on my TV for over 5 years now as I did not see the value of having both internet and cable, if I could get the same programming on the internet. The latest stats on chord cutting estimate that 1 in 4 households in Canada will have cut the chord by the end of the 2017. Netflix has becoming my primary source of home entertainment plus station websites. I have been using an old mac mini to power my TV and have been getting messages that my web browser is no longer supported and that issue is now affecting the TV streaming and some sites will not work anymore now.


So I decided to bite the bullet and buy updated hardware that supports the latest software even the though I did not want to retire the Mac Mini. I considered getting another Mac Mini but it would cost me anywhere from $200 - $500 for a used one Kijiji. I decided however to buy an Android media streaming box instead, my sister had one in her house and found that it was not very user friendly and the quality of the video was poor, but they bought it 2 years ago. For the uninitiated the Android Media Streaming box is a TV streaming device that allows you to get content from the internet and stream it to your TV through the HDMI port.


I shopped for one and found that they cost anywhere from $80 to $200. I looked at Best Buy, Walmart and Staples but they only offered it only online for $130 before taxes and I would have wait 1-2 weeks, but I wanted now and talk with somebody before I buy it. I ended buying it at Canada Computes as they stocked these devices in their store and had  multiple models to choose from. The one I bought was from MyGica and it cost me $140 before taxes.


 MYGica Android TV Streamer ATV 495 PRO.Retails for $139.99, Cordless mouse extra


The device is tiny and measures 3.25” x 3.25” x 0.75” ( w x l x h)  and comes with 2GB of ram, 16G of storage, 2.0 GHZ  dual processor and supports 4K resolution. The operating system is Android 5.0 that is used in smartphones and you will use the Google Play Store to get the apps that work on the media player. Some of the preloaded apps were Netflix, Facebook YouTube and Chrome browser. It also comes bundled with a Kodi file storage system for pictures, music and video, 4K media player and the MyGica App Store where you can access more content. 


It comes with a TV remote with a key board on the backside. It has USB(2), HDMI, audio/video out and ethernet ports andcan connect to your home network with wifi. Through the USB port you can connect to an external storage to access your digital library. You will need a wireless mouse to work  the apps and games.


 MyGica Home Screen


Since this is a mobile operating system the apps that are downloaded are designed for the smartphone, not a 50 inch tv and some look out of place or just do not work on the media player. There are TV apps in the Google Play Store to choose from and one of them was Popcorn Time, a popular torrent based entertainment site that is free to use. Torrent sites are nice to have but you have to wait 15-30 min for it download so you can watch it versus Neflix which is immediate viewing. There are other TV apps like Crackle, Puffin TV and Amazon to choose from and I feel this is just the beginning of a of new TV subscription market. 


Here are the screenshots of three apps Facebook, CBC TV and Popcorn Time. You can tell that Facebook and CBC are smartphone apps and Popcorn Time is a TV app designed for a video streamer, but all 3 work fine. 


 FaceBook App
 Popcorn TV


The future of video distribution will eventually end up on the internet side of the equation with cable becoming obsolete eventually, we can see it now where consumers can buy a monthly subscription to a TV app and the choice is going to get bigger. One more final thought a lot of the streaming services are commercial free which will impact the tv ad market as this market grows. The next question is now should you have a TV app as part of your publishng model of the fture.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The digital ad race to generate advertising revenue has a lot of online publishers not taking into account the effect it will have on readers. To quote Rodney Dangerfield “ I get no respect, no respect at all” reflects what consumers are feeling today with digital ads. This lack of respect for the reader is having a huge side effect as the use of ad blockers is on the rise with Millennials the biggest adopters. My 19-year old son says that he is getting tired of all the ads he is seeing on Facebook and Snapchat and will be downloading an ad blocker soon for his Apple iPhone. Basically he just ignores the ads now and skips through them. As you can see digital advertising is not very effective when there is so much ad clutter. It needs to be tasteful and not overwhelming to get the attention of the reader.


I first reported about the use of Ad blockers in a 2016 blog posting and it is time to update you on this growing issue to see where this is going. It has been estimated that 17-24% of internet users in Canada are using ad blockers now which suggests the effectiveness of current ad strategies needs to be revisited. The USA market according to Emarketer is seeing this trend also with 24% (2016 estimate) of the internet population using ad blockers and is expected to grow to 30% in 2018. Google is now planning to install one as a default program in the Chrome browser in 2018 so it will look like it will be mainstream sooner than we think.



The use of an ad blocker is pretty even across all age groups according to this survey by GlobalWebIndex. The 25-34 age group had the highest at 26%. It has been estimated 40% of desktop users are using ad blockers and 15% of smartphone users with growth in users to rise in smartphones. 



You can download an ad blocker as an extension for your web browser and one of  the most popular ones is AdBlock Plus (I use this btw) that is available for Macs and Chrome users. In this example on the website 9 ads were blocked, but you have the ability to turn off the ad blockers as some sites in the USA now are able to recognize ad blockers and they ask you to turn it off if you want read the content (called white listing). Since I start using the ad blocker the site’s web pages and video load faster.



Why are people using ad blocking software? According to the GlobalWebIndex study of USA users, the #1 reason is 49% feel that there are too many ads and they are annoying or irrelevant, followed by #2 at 40% there are too many ads and are intrusive.  My favourite at #7 (29%) is I don’t like seeing video ads before I’m allowed to watch video content. I found this so irritating personally when watching sports highlights that I use ad blockers for all my sports web sites as they slow down the viewing experience and crash my smartphone sometimes. 


In another study of users by the IAB in Australia the most common reason for using ad blockers is to prevent from getting a virus. So security against scammers is also a huge concern and this was seen in all age groups.



Here is an ad that keeps coming up on my smartphone for this dating site in the Ukraine, that is annoying as it is following me everywhere I surf now. This site is trying to get me to sign up by using the lure of attractive women that will flirt with me online, that are most likely fake people or a chatbot. They charge me to talk with them or could be a credit card phishing scam. A traditional publisher will never approve this ad for their site but for Google this is OK as they do not care who advertises in their ad network. I would rather now block this ad going forward.



The industry is trying to create a technology work around to circumvent ad blockers but that is not the answer as it most likely alienate the reader even more. The use of behavioural tracking will even make matter worse as users just do not like being spied on and will be just another reason to block ads to protect their privacy (#8 and #9 in why I use ad blockers). The ad tech community will hype the fact they are losing ad dollars to ad blockers, but what they do not realize they are losing customers forever because of this greed and subsequent sinful business practices. The only way consumers fight back against this greed is to install an ad blocker. This total lack of respect of the reader will have the ad tech industry shoot themselves in the foot for short-term gain.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A chatbot is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods. This technology is designed to replace human interaction with customers and help them with processing orders or providing customer service. The promise made by vendors of this technology is that it would deliver smarter customer service through this automation. Historically, bots were used to do a simple task at computer speed like search engine spiders, but now they are adding an artificial intelligence layer to it.


They have now created a chatbot for magazines that I thought I should share with my readers. I came across this one made for Paste Magazine that is available for Facebook Messenger users. Paste Magazine is a website that offers lifestyle stories on music, entertainment, books, politics, travel and food. The chatbot uses a text base command structure where you can type in key words and get a response from the system.




For supposedly a leading edge technology it reminded me of the text base commands used in the ancient MS-Dosc computer systems that was used in the 1980’s. It even replied to me that it did not understand, so much for an intelligent computer being smarter than a human. I found the system confusing to use, as I had to remember a whole new set of commands.


According to the Paste Magazine website as you read more and more using the bot, it automatically adjusts to your tastes and interests to ensure that you’re getting articles sent to you that you actually care about. This is all done through an “inferred profile,” which is created by what kind of articles you read. This inferred profile is what allows the bot to include certain degree of serendipitous news that is outside of your interests, so that you don’t end up with a broken record of echo-chamber stories. Once you click on the article you want to read you are sent to the website. On the surface this is just a new way to drive traffic to your website via Facebook.


A 2017 Forrester Research Report on bots says there are more than 40,000 chatbots created in the 12 months since Kik (An Android based message app) and Facebook Messenger opened up their platforms. The promise of chatbots is that companies can have a one on one conversation with their customers on scale versus human interaction that traditionally has long wait times on the phone sometimes during peak demand periods. According to the chart below content delivery in the future will most likely be automated.


Another type of bot that is getting attention are social bots and according to this MIT article is instrumental in spreading fake news that is part of the ad fraud industry as some Twitter accounts are automated. Chengcheng Shao at Indiana University who studied this trend says “Bots play a particularly significant role in the spread of fake news soon after it is published. What’s more, these bots are programmed to direct their tweets at influential users. Automated accounts are particularly active in the early spreading phases of viral claims, and tend to target influential users.” (What will these tech crooks think of next)

The adoption of chatbots is still in it early stages of development and like any technology there will be some bugs in its implementation, but the potential impact of chatbots is immense if the technologists can get the right recipe. The fear of being left behind is always a driving force of the adoption of new technologies, but when does a publisher jump on the bandwagon and invest thousands of dollars in this technology.  You have to determine will it drive more traffic to my site so I can get more ad dollars or new paid/opt-in subscribers? If not I would suggest you take take a pass. Perhaps I am a little old school in my thinking as I still rather wait for a real person to talk to as the personal touch is always best. I will like to see how bots be charming and persuasive or will they just act like a robot. Or better yet how they will handle complaints and dissatisfied customers.


About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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