Google has integrated AdMob, its mobile advertising service, into AdWords so that anyone buying web ads through AdWords can now also buy them on mobile devices served by AdMob, according to Jonathan Alferness, Google’s director of product management/mobile ads.
The move essentially turns the web and mobile ad markets into the same, massive market. It adds 350 million mobile devices and 300,000 mobile apps to the AdWords universe, on all types of devices. Previously, AdWords reached 2 million web sites accessible by computers.
The move comes hours after Facebook did something similar—providing turnkey access to mobile and desktop, display and news feeds ads through its ads API. Taken together, it appears that Google and Facebook envision the web and mobile ad marketplaces eventually fusing into a relatively seamless whole.
Jason Spero, head of global mobile sales and strategy at Google, told Ad Age he believes that the AdWords/AdMob conjunction will scale up the mobile market dramatically by applying Google’s main ad revenue engine to handheld device platforms.
On mobile, available inventory has thus far outmatched the demand for ads against it, depressing prices dramatically (especially at Google). A new influx of mobile advertisers from AdMob might raise mobile prices, but by directly pitting web ad inventory against mobile inventory it could also lead to lower average prices across the board.
When we think about the distribution industry being disrupted, we tend to think about music and movies, whose physical media and vast shipment infrastructure have been rendered mostly obsolete over the last decade. To a lesser extent, we hear about print, and the effect of e-readers and web consumption on books and magazines. No one is making the change particularly gracefully, and the same can be said of the textbook business, which does millions of dollars of business every year selling incredibly expensive items to students — who likely consider them anachronisms.
Rice University, which has been pushing alternative distribution mechanisms for scholarly publications for years, has announced a new initiative, by which they hope to publish free, high-quality textbooks in core subjects like physics and biology via a non-profit publisher called OpenStax College. It’s the polar opposite of Apple’s iBooks textbooks, which, while they too help drag this dusty industry into the present, amount more to a new sales vector for the publishers than competition.
Rice and OpenStax aren’t the first people to propose open-source or free textbooks. There are collections here and there, like Flat World Knowledge and Apple’s iTunes U — but they’re decidedly short on the type of books a freshman might have to buy for their year of survey courses: Biology 1, Physics 1, Sociology 1, Psychology 1. And 11 Learning has a similar idea of collaboration producing a book, but their creation model may not be economically feasible.
And of course there are the many companies that want to remove textbooks from the equation entirely. Setting up textbook platforms on new devices like Kno and Inkling, making an environment for meta-curricular activities and non-traditional learning like Khan Academy, or virtualizing the whole education experience, something with which many universities are tinkering.
But textbooks are still big business, and their utility in the education system is difficult to argue with right now. So OpenStax splits the difference: fueled by grant money from a number of private foundations (i.e. not government grants), they’re putting together full-on textbooks, peer-reviewed, professionally laid out, and all that. These textbooks will be provided for free in file form. But supplementary materials — quizzes, videos, presentations, and the like, presumably — cost money.
It would be petty to call this a bait and switch, since the bulk of the material is being provided for free. And a savvy professor or TA can scrape quite a few supplementary materials from the web already, thanks to those post-textbook services already mentioned. Providing the meat for free and the potatoes for a price is perfectly reasonable.
What remains to be seen is the quality of the textbooks. So far OpenStax has signed up “in the low tens” of colleged and universities to use the books. Institutions probably are waiting to see how the next year or so plays out: everything is in flux and to commit to one platform over another when the true costs and benefits are still unclear would be a bad move.
OpenStax’s first textbooks, for physics and sociology, will be coming in March, with others following later in the year. A strange time to make a debut, in a way, as the school year is well underway and many intro courses won’t be offered. But it will give time for the creaking machinery of academia to notice, acknowledge, examine, and judge the OpenStax offering. It may be that they can demonstrate their agility in fixing, improving, and expanding the content on the fly, which could either impress or terrify nodding faculty members who use the same text for a decade at a time.
Procter & Gamble has agreed to never again run an ad for its CoverGirl mascara because it used “enhanced post-production” and “photoshopping” to make eyelashes look thicker than they were in real life. P&G agreed to the ban even though it disclosed in the ad that the image was enhanced.
The move is the latest in a series of baby steps that U.S. and international advertising regulators have taken to ban the use of Photoshop in advertising when it is misleading to consumers.
The company’s decision was described in a ruling by the National Advertising Division, the U.S. industry watchdog that imposes self-regulation on the advertising business. NAD is part of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. Its rulings are respected and followed by most advertisers because it enjoys a close relationship with the FTC, from which it has historically drawn some of its senior staff. Recalcitrant advertisers who refuse to withdraw or amend misleading ads are referred by the NAD to the FTC, which has the power to fine, sue or bring injunctions against companies.
When asked whether this was a de facto ban on Photoshop, NAD director Andrea Levine told us:
“You can’t use a photograph to demonstrate how a cosmetic will look after it is applied to a woman’s face and then – in the mice type – have a disclosure that says ‘okay, not really.’”
The ad in question was for CoverGirl NatureLuxe Mousse Mascara, which promised “2X more volume” on women’s lashes. After reviewing the ad, P&G agreed to yank it. (A different CoverGirl ad is shown here.) The NAD ruling said:
“… [P&G] advised NAD it has permanently discontinued all of the challenged claims and the photograph in its advertisement. NAD was particularly troubled by the photograph of the model – which serves clearly to demonstrate (i.e., let consumers see for themselves) the length and volume they can achieve when they apply the advertised mascara to their eyelashes. This picture is accompanied by a disclosure that the model’s eyelashes had been enhanced post production.”
In a footnote, the NAD said it was following the lead of its sister body in the U.K., the Advertising Standards Authority, which in July banned cosmetics ads featuring Julia Roberts and Christy Turlington because they used Photoshop. The NAD said:
“Advertising self-regulatory authorities recognize the need to avoid photoshopping in cosmetics advertisements where there is a clear exaggeration of potential product benefits.”
“… the picture of Ms. Roberts had been altered using post production techniques (in addition to professional styling, make-up, photography and the product’s inherent covering and smoothing nature which are to be expected), exaggerating what consumers could expect to achieve through product use.”
The U.K. ruling found the use of photo retouching misleading per se.
In the U.S., the FTC has has also tightened rules to hold celebrities accountable if they make claims in ads they know cannot be true.
And in France, in 2009, 50 politicians asked for health warnings to be imposed on fashion ads if they showed retouched models’ bodies.
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Tumblr has been in the news a lot recently because of their huge user numbers (there’s also been some question of whether or not they are a “bot fest” – but I’ll leave that for others to analyze.) Back in 2009, I compared Tumblr to Posterous – but since that time Tumblr has just pulled away. So much so that Posterous seems to have seen the writing on the wall and is now pivoting in a new direction. But I thought it would be good to take a look at how Tumblr fairs against the larger, more established blogging networks – namely WordPress.com and Blogger.com (now part of Google).
In terms of unique visitors, there isn’t any comparison – WordPress continues to dominate. Blogger has seen attrition in their numbers and has now fallen to third place (maybe the recent move to integrate Blogger into Google+ will help here).
In terms of visits, while Tumblr passed Blogger more than a year ago, it has now moved into a tie with WordPress.
But while Tumblr has many fewer unique visitors, those visitors are viewing a lot of pages. In fact, Tumblr is now completely dominating WordPress and Blogger in this area.
And in terms of attention, Tumblr is once again dominant.
I think the reason for the higher level of engagement on Tumblr (as measured in Page Views and Attention) probably comes down to a couple of key properties of Tumblr:
1. Tumblr functions more like a social network – thus people that use Tumblr tend to also subscribe/follow other Tumblrs – creating a strong network effect.
2. Cross-blog tagging – this brings a bit of Twitter to the blog network – allowing people to easily aggregate content, by tag, across blogs. This also, no doubt, aids in content discovery.
3. Tumblr reduces barriers to publishing content – unlike a traditional blog, where people feel the need to provide richer content, Tumblr tends to encourage simple posts.
What do you think? Are you using Tumblr now in place of other blogging networks? How do you decide which one to use, and for what purpose?
Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.
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