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Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment

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Speaking of privacy and technology, Wired Magazine’s Mark McClusky boasted to Ad Age that everything is going great with their ad blocker gambit.

Ad Blockers - Wired
Ad Blockers – Wired

In early February, Condé Nast’s Wired took a stand against the rise of ad-blocking technology, which was being used on more than 20% of visits to the magazine’s website. It gave ad-blocking Wired readers two options: whitelist Wired.com, allowing ads to be served as intended, or pay $1 per week for an ad-free version of the site. “We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content,” Wired said in a note to readers at the time, “but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.”

Nearly three months in, Wired Head of Product and Business Development Mark McClusky pronounced himself pleased with the early returns.

“Overall, it’s going great,” he told Ad Age. “We’ve exceeded sort of our hopes and expectations in terms of the performance.” “The uptake in whitelisting has exceeded our expectation, the subscriptions have gone better than we projected, the abandon rate has been lower than we projected,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Checking In On Wired’s Ad-Blocking Experiment | Media – AdAge.)

Here’s the thing: in general, I support magazines and news organizations desire to stay solvent, in fact going as far as to give subscription dollars to several of them1 including even for a long time, to Wired Magazine. But the print edition of Wired was somewhere around $12 a year – by their new model, they want to charge me $52 a year to read their content. 

OVER THE PAST several years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of people using ad-blocking software in their web browser. We have certainly seen a growth in those numbers here at WIRED, where we do all we can to write vital stories for an audience that’s passionate about the ongoing adventure of our rapidly changing world.

On an average day, more than 20 percent of the traffic to WIRED.com comes from a reader who is blocking our ads. We know that you come to our site primarily to read our content, but it’s important to be clear that advertising is how we keep WIRED going: paying the writers, editors, designers, engineers, and all the other staff that works so hard to create the stories you read and watch here.

We know that there are many reasons for running an ad blocker, from simply wanting a faster, cleaner browsing experience to concerns about security and tracking software. We want to offer you a way to support us while also addressing those concerns.

Therefore, we have restricted access to articles on WIRED.com if you are using an ad blocker.

(click here to continue reading How WIRED Is Going to Handle Ad Blocking | WIRED.)

I happily use Ghostery, which is not strictly an ad blocker, but rather an enhanced cookie blocker. I just went to random Wired.com article, (http://www.wired.com/2016/05/adblock-plus-now-wants-pay-browse-internet/) and these are the trackers that Wired wants to serve me in lieu of my $52 payment:

  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe TagManager
  • Amazon Associates
  • ChartBeat
  • Disqus
  • Google Adsense
  • Google AdServices
  • Optimizely
  • Parse.ly
  • Pinterest
  • Polar Mobile
  • Rubicon
  • ScoreCard Research 
  • Yieldbot

plus one I keep turned on because I like fonts and appreciate web designers who use specific fonts: 

Typekit by Adobe

In other words, Wired wants me to agree to sell my data to these corporations in exchange for reading an article about Adblock Plus. I don’t know each of these entities, but I’m guessing most2 don’t only report to Wired – they sell the data they’ve accumulated to multiple parties. And they don’t give me any slice of the revenue.

Hmm, on balance, I’ll keep my $52, and I’ll stop clicking through to Wired articles. Sounds fair.

Footnotes:
  1. Tidbits.com, NYT, WSJ, Chicago Tribune, The Nation, Harpers, etc. etc. []
  2. or all []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 8:43 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

Tech Tuesday – Part One – Selling Your Own Data

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This sucky blog’s editor1 has assigned Tuesday’s topic as technology. Like all good topics, that’s a bit vague, there are lots of threads that can be collected here. 

Don't Worry - Keep Shopping
Don’t Worry – Keep Shopping…

We’ve discussed the weird state of consumer data many times, where companies such as Acxiom and thousands of others collect every scrap of information about us they possibly can, by whatever method, and then sell it to marketers. Our data, our habits, our propensities, but their profits. Seems like a bum deal, for consumers. 

So when I read the headline on this Fast Company article, I got interested. The headline and sub-head reads:

This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data
InfoScout’s apps sell their users’ shopping data to marketers—and give those users a cut.

but that is not quite truthful. Or at least, InfoScout isn’t selling shopping data in a manner I was hoping. No, they mean that if you willingly give InfoScout information about your shopping trips by photographing/scanning your receipts, they’ll drop a few pennies in your cup now and again. If you are lucky.

San Francisco-based InfoScout offers a set of smartphone apps that lets users snap pictures of shopping receipts in exchange for incentives like credit card-style reward points and sweepstakes entries. The company digitizes the receipts with a mix of optical character recognition and crowdsourced help from services such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.

Then it bundles that purchase information into reports it offers to companies like Procter & Gamble and Unilever, letting them see how consumer preferences evolve over time and how discounts and promotions affect sales.

“Our ability to provide these insights back to the brands in near real time, literally within days, is something they’ve never had before,” claims CEO Jared Schrieber, who cofounded InfoScout in 2011.

Schrieber says that while brands can get some data from programs like supermarket reward card programs, those usually only track customer activity at one particular retail company.

“We’re not trying to change what people buy,” Schrieber says. “We’re just trying to observe it.”

The company says it has collected data on more than 100 million shopping trips and is processing about 300,000 receipts per day. Users can of course choose not to scan receipts that include purchases they find embarrassing, but Schrieber says many just upload every receipt, so the apps gather quite a bit of data about sensitive purchases, such as condoms and feminine hygiene products. Ultimately, what type of purchase information users feel is worth trading for a few cents or a sweepstakes entry is up to them.

Users can participate anonymously or receive additional rewards for linking the app to their Facebook profiles, answering demographic questions, or taking occasional surveys.

(click here to continue reading This Startup Lets Users “Sell” Their Own Shopping Data | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.)

We have no hours. We are always closed
We have no hours. We are always closed…

InfoScout is not even alone in using this model. I recently saw a presentation that included mention of Ibotta– a smartphone app where consumers photograph their receipt and theoretically get future coupons. Or rebates, whatever.

1. Download the App Download the Ibotta app, available on iOS and Android. The app is required to submit a receipt.

2. Unlock Rebates Before you go shopping, unlock cash rewards on great products by completing simple tasks.

3. Go Shopping Buy the products you’ve unlocked at any supported store.

4. Verify Your Purchases Scan your product barcodes, then submit a photo of your receipt.

(click here to continue reading How it Works – Ibotta.com.)

If you jump through the hoops in precisely the correct way, you may get a few pennies. According to some internet complainers, Ibotta mostly uses the small print to avoid paying out.

Complaints like:

I read about IBOTTA on Facebook and decided to try it out. Downloading the app was easy and the instructions were straight forward. Two days ago I wend grocery shopping and decided to use the app for rebates on bread, milk and eggs – all of which were on my shopping list and I was shopping at a listed store. When I returned home I scanned the items as requested by the app and took a picture of the receipt. All items were accepted. Today I received an email stating that my account had been deactivated because of fraud. From what I understand I am being deactivated for taking a picture of the same receipt. Well, duh..I bought the items at the same time, so they would be on the same receipt. No where in the instructions does it say that you have to have a separate receipt for each item purchased. Plus you are going to spend more time sorting out your groceries and paying for each item separately – not worth the money they say they will pay you.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

or like:

I downloaded the app and it isn’t terribly hard to figure out. Verified the items and got the approval for receipt. All fine. Now when it comes to actually getting paid, all that happens is a notice on the site saying “working on the site”. Seems everything works that makes them money but nothing works where they pay money.

I am guessing they are out of cash and so just stick this sign up to avoid the real issue.

(click here to continue reading Ibotta App Reviews – Legit or Scam?.)

and many, many more. 

I suppose you’ll have to decide for yourself, is willingly giving corporations intimate shopping data about you and your family worth a few pennies? Your data is much more valuable to them – building smartphone apps and Point-of-Sale and coupon redemption infrastructure is not cheap. A corporation wouldn’t invest millions unless it was worth it to their bottom line.

Not This Store
Not This Store

I’m still waiting for one of the companies that Ghostery tracks to start offering me a real cut of the sale of my data, I’d whitelist their tracking cookie, and they would pay me a percentage every month. Ha! Zero is a percent…

Footnotes:
  1. me []

Written by Seth Anderson

May 3rd, 2016 at 9:11 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with , ,

How Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs

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Non GMO Project
Non GMO Project

If you hadn’t heard, Vermont recently passed a GMO labeling law, and Congress, since it is so dysfunctional, could not muster a response. Thus Vermont’s law will become the de facto law of the nation, at least for a while…

You’ll soon know whether many of the packaged foods you buy contain ingredients derived from genetically modified plants, such as soybeans and corn.

Over the past week or so, big companies including General Mills, Mars and Kellogg have announced plans to label such products – even though they still don’t think it’s a good idea.

The reason, in a word, is Vermont. The tiny state has boxed big food companies into a corner. Two years ago, the state passed legislation requiring mandatory labeling.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association has fought back against the law, both in court and in Congress, but so far it’s been unsuccessful.

Last week, as we reported, Congress failed to pass an industry-supported measure that would have created a voluntary national standard for labeling — and also would have preempted Vermont’s law. Which means for now, food industry giants still face a July 1 deadline to comply with the state’s labeling mandate.

And since food companies can’t create different packaging just for Vermont, it appears that the tiniest of states has created a labeling standard that will go into effect nationwide.

This statement, from General Mills’ Jeff Harmening, sums it up:

“Vermont state law requires us to start labeling certain grocery store food packages that contain GMO ingredients or face significant fines,” Harmening wrote on the General Mills blogs.

“We can’t label our products for only one state without significantly driving up costs for our consumers and we simply will not do that,” explains Harmening.

So, as a result: “Consumers all over the U.S. will soon begin seeing words legislated by the state of Vermont on the labels of many of their favorite General Mills products,” he concludes.

Chocolate giant Mars struck a similar tone in its announcement: “To comply with [the Vermont] law, Mars is introducing clear, on-pack labeling on our products that contain GM ingredients nationwide,” the company statement says.

(click here to continue reading How Little Vermont Got Big Food Companies To Label GMOs : The Salt : NPR.)

All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us
All Your Bonnie Plants Come from Non-GMO Seeds, and All Your Base are Belong to Us

For the record, I’m ok with the Vermont labeling law. I don’t know if genetically modified food is good or bad, but truthfully, nobody really does. The American government’s regulatory agencies are permanently tilted towards the interests of corporations, always, and nearly without exception; the FDA cannot be trusted to protect the health of consumers. Do we really know if gene splicing pesticide resistance into apples or wheat is going to alter our bodies? The corporations pinky-swear GMOs won’t have long-term effects on cancer rates and other health-related concerns, and maybe they are right.

But maybe they are not.

Last spring, the cancer research arm of the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide on GMO crops, to be a probable carcinogen. And just last month, the FDA announced it would begin testing food products sold in the U.S. for glyphosate residue.

State legislators across the nation introduced 101 bills last year pertaining to GMOs. Of the 15 that passed, four had to do with labeling, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. A bill introduced by Illinois state Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, requiring disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients stalled in committee.

More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in Illinois is genetically modified, said Adam Nielsen, director of national legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau.

The GMO crop movement took off in 1996, when Monsanto Co. introduced Roundup Ready soybean seeds, genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s glyphosate-based herbicide. Similarly marketed cotton, canola, corn and sugar beet seeds soon followed.

For farmers, glyphosate represented a safer, cheaper, more effective way of controlling weeds, thwarting pests and growing crops, Moose said. It’s since become the standard in large-scale agriculture.

The general public and the scientific community don’t tend to agree when it comes to GMO safety, according to a 2015 Pew Research Center survey conducted before the World Health Organization finding. Most consumers surveyed, 57 percent, said they considered GMOs to be generally unsafe to eat, whereas 88 percent of scientists surveyed, all of them connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said GMOs were generally safe.

Genetically modified crops don’t present a health risk, but the herbicides used on them are “a big problem,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, dean for global health at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and an expert on environmental health concerns and children.

As GMO crops have become more common over the years, weeds have become resistant to glyphosate, which has led to heavier use of the herbicide, he said.

Landrigan is among scientists and health experts calling on the EPA to “urgently review the safety risk of glyphosate” and says it’s time for GMO labeling. “Not because I think genetic rearrangement is bad, but because I think consumers have a right to know what they’re eating,” he said.

(click here to continue reading GMO labeling debate puts food industry on defensive – Chicago Tribune.)

The agribusinesses are not being banned from using GMO products, only being required to be transparent if they are. Does this mean General Mills has to change their packaging? Yep. So what? They can’t be complaining about the extra ink required, only that they are being forced to alter their packaging by dictate of the people. Boo hoo. Packaging changes all the time anyway, I don’t see the harm in adding a few words to a package.

Written by Seth Anderson

March 27th, 2016 at 8:29 am

Fetishizing of Super Bowl ads

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Gordon's crisp Potato Sticks
Gordon’s crisp Potato Sticks

Amusingly, Phil Rosenthal agrees with me re: Super Bowl ads being over-rated.1

It’s not Super Bowl commercials I mind. I’ve actually liked a lot of them. I’ve enjoyed disliking others. My objection is how they’ve become fetishized.

Though they sell beer, cars, junk food and sundry other everyday items, services and ideas, we’ve been conditioned to treat them as something between objets d’art and Adam Sandler comedies.

Perhaps adored, perhaps abhorred, they’re tough to completely ignore.

It’s as if the fact that some marketer spent $5 million per half minute — up about 11 percent from $4.5 million last year — to pitch more than 100 million of us in the Super Bowl 50 audience obliges us to actually pay attention.

That attention, as reliable as the way we always dote on anthropomorphic animals year after year, in turn, helps justify the $166,666.67-per-second price, production costs not included.

Somewhere along the line, someone — maybe Don Draper, maybe Darrin Stephens — pitched Americans on the idea that television commercials are as much a part of Super Bowl Sunday as the game itself, and we bought it.

The queasy feeling that too many salty, fatty foodstuffs bring by the third quarter is as much a part of Super Bowl Sunday as the game too. But we’re not carpet-bombed with previews and reviews, encouraged to experience it repeatedly before and after the game and invited to try an extended and more intense version.

(click here to continue reading Fetishizing of Super Bowl ads: How much is too much? – Chicago Tribune.)

Doped Youth
Doped Youth

Should we be impressed by advertising just because it costs a lot to air? And create? Especially since so few ads are even worthy of our attention. Some are even worth our disgust, like:

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA) is hitting us again at the Super Bowl. This time with “All American Girl” – an ad that’s supposed to show that you should care about heroin abuse because it affects pretty white girls, too.

But, of course, the ad then doesn’t show what you do when someone is having a problem with heroin – it lets them just wander off in the distance. No, this is just another one of those frying-pan scared-straight attempts at prevention that have been shown historically to not work.

(click here to continue reading Another SuperBad Advertisement « Drug WarRant.)

Footnotes:
  1. and for the record, I didn’t read this essay until just now []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2016 at 2:13 pm

Posted in Advertising,Sports

Tagged with

Super Bowl Ads Are Boring

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Vintage Asahi Beer Ad (Ramen Takeya)
Vintage Asahi Beer Ad (Ramen Takeya)

Once a year, non-sports fans are encouraged to watch the Super Bowl despite not caring a whit who is playing. The reason? The advertising is supposed to be of elevated quality. 

For instance, one of the most famous Super Bowl ads is the Apple Computer 1984 ad announcing the Macintosh:

Billy Jeans
Billy Jeans

John Ellis Bush! Bush is allegedly going to show his brother’s supportive ad during Super Bowl L:

Former President George W. Bush has cut a TV ad for the super PAC supporting his brother, marking the former president’s most public political activity in the campaign to date.

(click here to continue reading Exclusive: George W. Bush cuts television ad backing his brother – POLITICO.)

Great Price's (sic)
Great Price’s (sic)

Having sat through many boring football games to watch the ads, I’m not falling for it again. I’m not convinced that simply because something is expensive, it is good. The decline of Hollywood as a conduit of interesting films could arguably be dated from the time that box office numbers became the metric of whether a given movie was any good. Plot, character development, those became less important than having great special effects, and thus most films made today are superhero films, animated dross, or similar genres.

One Eye to Rule Them

One Eye to Rule Them

CBS already has the 2016 Super Bowl Commercials website up, so if there is something really interesting shown, you can go and spend your time watching beer, auto, pharmaceutical corporations trying to sell you their products. I wouldn’t say that advertising can never be clever, just that the typical target for Super Bowl ads seems to be 14 year old boys: the commercials are populated with fast cars, women with “child-bearing hips”, and puerile and jejune scenarios. Many ads seem solely as crass attempts at creating a “viral” sensation, or at least stirring up controversy. Alcohol, sugary sodas, packaged snacks, fast food, cars, software, electronics, probably some insurance company; am I missing anything by resisting their pitches? Doubtful.

If you are a football fan, by all means, watch the culmination of the season. For the rest of us, go for a walk or something.

Parenthetically, I’m amused that the NFL is not using the Roman numeral for 50, “L”, but only for this year.

You don’t have to brush up on your Roman numerals because it’s not going to be Super Bowl L for a few reasons. At the top of the list: Nobody wants to be associated with a loser. Especially the NFL.

“Some would ask, ‘The letter L, what does that associate with?'” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says.

The answer, of course, is “Losing.”

Football is a game of X’s and O’s. But it’s also long been one of I’s and V’s, as virtually the only institution in our society that incorporates Roman numerals. Roughly a decade ago, the NFL first began examining what “Super Bowl L” looked like on social media, on mobile devices and on merchandise like T-shirts and caps. The short answer? It didn’t look good.

Using the number 50 was found to be much more appealing than an L, on many levels, from the negativity associated with losing to the aesthetic challenges posed by using the letter. So this year, and this year only, the Super Bowl will use more traditional numbering.

“The genesis is with Super Bowl XL 10 years ago,” McCarthy says. “We spent some time looking at what a block L would look like on its own, and [NFL Creative Services] said, ‘It could be a problem from a creative and design element that the letter L, on its own, without an I after it, looks unusual within the design world.'”

(click here to continue reading What the L? Why the NFL Sacked Roman Numerals for Super Bowl 50 | Rolling Stone.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 6th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business,Sports

Tagged with ,

Publishers Weigh Ways to Fight Ad Blocking

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ATM$ Inside
ATM$ Inside…

Adblocking software is a default installation for any browser on any computer I set up, usually using Ghostery. I am frequently amazed at the sheer amount of tracking code a typical publisher uses. Dozens and dozens of third party cookies, sometimes even more.

Browsing the web without ads is actually kind of nice. No popups stealing your screen. No autoplaying video ads making the page load as slowly as if it were being dialed up through America Online circa 1999. And millions of people seem to agree. They’ve installed extensions to their web browsers that delete the ads from most, if not all, of of the sites they visit. One popular ad blocker, AdBlock Plus, claims that it’s been installed on people’s browsers more than 400 million times and that it counts “close to 50 to 60 million active users,” said Ben Williams, communications and operations director at Eyeo, the company that makes AdBlock Plus.

Ad blocking isn’t a new issue. People have been installing these extensions for years. But those people were considered a fringe group. But that group is getting closer to the mainstream as kids who grew up browsing the web on their parents’ computers are getting their own laptops that they can customize all the way.

And advertisers’ target audience du jour — millennials — appear to be more likely to use ad blockers than any other age group. Of the survey respondents who were between the ages of 18 and 29 years old, 41% said they use ad blockers. As further evidence ad blocking isn’t abating, Mr. Williams said AdBlock Plus has averaged 2.3 million downloads a week since 2013.

(click here to continue reading Publishers Weigh Ways to Fight Ad Blocking | Media – Advertising Age.)

Nelson Muntz Furniture
Nelson Muntz Furniture

If the trend continues, the ad-supported model of web publishing will die soon. I’m not sure what will replace it – a subscription model I guess – but web publishers did themselves no favors by making ads increasingly more obnoxious. Autoplay videos are evil, and I cannot wait until Apple allows ad blocking software on iPhones and iPads.

Ad blocking extensions have been possible on Safari for Mac for a long time, but plugin architecture for Safari on iOS is much more limited. With iOS 9, Apple has added a special case of extension for ad blockers. Apps can now include ‘content blocker’ extensions that define resources (like images and scripts) for Safari to not load. For the first time, this architecture makes ad blockers a real possibility for iOS developers to make and iOS customers to install and use.

The inclusion of such a feature at this time is interesting. Apple is also pushing its own news solution in iOS 9 with the News app, which will include ads but not be affected by the content blocking extensions as they only apply to Safari. There is also clearly the potential for Safari ad blockers to hurt Google, which seems to be a common trend with Apple’s announcements recently…

(click here to continue reading iOS 9 lets app developers make ad blockers for Safari | 9to5Mac.)

Blocking ad tracking is also parenthetically about user privacy, and Apple is more likely to increase capabilities for its customers to opt out of the massive marketing databases of contemporary corporations like Acxiom, with the exception of inclusion in Apple’s own massive database of course. Apple is not a benevolent grandmother, but at least they are being more open about their marketing and data collection practices than some of their technology company peers.

Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, who was onstage to present new “proactive” artificial intelligence features of the next iPhone operating system, paused before one of the slides to make the company’s devotion to privacy clear.

Yes, he said, the new software will try to anticipate your information needs, based on things like your calendar and location — something that its rival, Google, already does. But, Federighi added, “we do it in a way that does not compromise your privacy. We don’t mine your email, your photos, or your contacts in the cloud to learn things about you. We honestly just don’t wanna know.”

He continued: “All of this is done on [the] device, and it stays on [the] device, under your control.” And Apple says that if it does have to perform a lookup [online] on your behalf, it’s anonymous, it’s not associated with your Apple ID, and it’s not shared with third parties.

In case you missed that point, Federighi immediately repeated: “You are in control.”

(click here to continue reading Walt Mossberg: Apple’s Latest Product Is Privacy | Re/code.)

Waste Your Time and Money
Waste Your Time and Money

We are talking significant revenue at stake already:

“Consumers want a faster web, significantly less tracking by unknown third parties and clean, well-lit media experiences. [Apple’s mobile ad-blocking plan] just accelerates it, and opens up a significant share of the marketplace,” said Jason Kint, CEO of online publisher trade group Digital Content Next. That significant share would significantly cut into publishers’ revenues. Take the biggest digital ad seller — Google — as a proxy. PageFair has estimated that Google, which made $59.1 billion from advertising in 2014, lost $6.6 billion that year because of ad blocking. As Vice’s chief digital officer Mike Germano said at an industry conference in New York earlier this month, “I love my audience, but fuck you, ad blockers — 20% of my revenue is gone.”

How to Get Your Business To Show Up On Google
How to Get Your Business To Show Up On Google

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2015 at 8:23 am

Posted in Advertising,Apple,Business

Tagged with ,

Instagram Purge Hits Brands Who Artificially Built Up Follower Numbers

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Stop Following

Stop Following!

I am no self-described expert in social media, just a sometime user of it, but from I sit, obsessing about follower counts is stupid, and a waste of everyone’s time. I guess certain digital agencies sold the concept to their clients, and then cut corners in building up follower counts by utilizing sleazy tactics and spam-bots.  Follower counts are a nearly meaningless number to be used on a PowerPoint presentation to clueless executives. As the poet sang, numbers add up to nothing.

Instagram in recent days has revealed “corrections” in the number of people following many users, after announcing last week it had removed a significant number of fake accounts from the Facebook owned photo-sharing service.

Celebrities including Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian and Selena Gomez each lost more than a million followers, according to Zach Allia, a Boston photographer and Web developer who tallied the losses in this chart. Each of those celebrities still counts more than 18 million followers. Allia estimated that the average Instagram user lost 7.7% of his followers from the purge.

The purge reflects a persistent problem for social networks: separating real users from computer-generated “bots.” Instagram conducted a similar purge in May. Twitter says fewer than 5% of its 284 million monthly active users are fake, though outside researchers think the number is higher.

In an interview last week, Instagram founder and CEO Kevin Systrom declined to say how many accounts the service deleted. Systrom said fake users are most often created “for commercial reasons.” Users are either “paying to buy followers” he said, or “trying to get attention for some product they’re selling or some email subscription.”

(click here to continue reading Instagram Users Finding They’re Less Popular Than Thought – Digits – WSJ.)

from Adweek:

National Geographic, Nike, Adidas and Forever 21 were among the top 100 Instagram accounts that saw their follower counts pummeled after the spam hunt. The photo- and video-sharing app said last week that it would cull fake and inactive accounts, and it did its best to prepare brands and fans for the worst. Today, Instagram users were lamenting their fallen following with memes and jokes to cover the hurt. The shock of a diminished audience is just a short-term hit for marketers, who ultimately want to know if their fans are fake, said Eric Brown, head of communications for social influence measurement tool Klout and its parent company, Lithium.

(click here to continue reading Instagram Purge Hits Brands Like National Geographic, Nike, Forever 21 the Hardest | Adweek.)

Numbers Add Up to Nothing
Numbers Add Up to Nothing

For myself, I stopped caring long ago how many Twitter followers1 I have, how many people2 follow my Tumblr feed, or my Instagram account3. It  means nothing, it isn’t as if I get a financial incentive to have more followers. Neither does Nike, or any other brand. It is nearly meaningless number to be used on a PowerPoint presentation to executives basically.

Defunct Tweets
Defunct Tweets

Adweek reports that these are the brands that should fire their digital agencies, or at least ask a few hard questions to their digital team at the next social media meeting.

  • National Geographic: 229,000 followers lost. New count: 9.75 million
  • Nike: 257,000 followers lost. New count: 8.75 million
  • 9Gag: 120,000 followers lost. New count: 8.38 million
  • Victoria’s Secret: 215,000 followers lost. New count: 7.7 million
  • The Ellen Show: 270,000 followers lost. New count: 7.47 million
  • Forever 21: 245,000 followers lost. New count: 5.33 million
  • Real Madrid Club de Fútbol: 159,000 followers lost. New count: 5.36 million
  • FC Barcelona: 133,000 followers lost. New count: 5.33 million
  • NBA: 196,000 followers lost. New count: 4.15 million
  • GoPro: 94,000 followers lost. New count: 3.64 million
  • Adidas: 101,000 followers lost. New count: 3.6 million
  • Louis Vuitton: 107,000 followers lost. New count: 3.55 million

Amusingly, I noted the problem with Instagram followers being spammy right away:

As a side effect of this growth, there are a lot of spammers who take advantage of Instagram’s audience, and offer to sell you “likes” or other sleazy tactic

(click here to continue reading Notes on Instagram after Using It for A Month or So at B12 Solipsism.)

Footnotes:
  1. currently 1,015 []
  2. currently 589 []
  3. currently 144 []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 22nd, 2014 at 11:21 am

Posted in Advertising

Tagged with , ,

Spain’s Google News Shutdown Is a Silly Victory for Publishers

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Daily News
Daily News.

As we suspected, having traffic to Spanish news sites drop by 5%-15% is kind of a big deal…

We call it the “Google News bump.” When a story on WIRED.com gets a link on the front page of Google News, traffic skyrockets. Readers click. Ads are served.

But in Spain, at least, the Google News bump is no more. On Tuesday, Google shut down Google News in Spain in response to a law that requires news aggregators to pay a fee for the right to post snippets of stories. Big Spanish publishers pushed for the law, but their math is hard to fathom. Without Google News, they get no bump, nor do they get any fee. Trying to stick it to Google is an understandable impulse, a resentment fed by the company’s monolithic influence over the web. But all the shutdown really shows is how powerless traditional publishers really are.

But where I work, at least, a 5 percent traffic dip wouldn’t exactly be something to celebrate, much less lobby lawmakers to effectively codify. And as GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram says, the damage could be worse. The chief data scientist at Chartbeat, a web service many publishers use to monitor real-time reader traffic, told Ingram that the average falloff in the hours since the Google News shutdown was more like 10 to 15 percent.

(click here to continue reading Spain’s Google News Shutdown Is a Silly Victory for Publishers | WIRED.)

and as many people have noted: removing all Google News traffic benefits the larger media companies at the expense of the smaller media companies. Google News links to both: sites you’ve heard of, and sites you haven’t. If you don’t regularly visit the websites of smaller news organizations, you probably won’t.

Written by Seth Anderson

December 18th, 2014 at 11:14 am

Posted in Advertising,Business

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Google Shutting Google News in Spain

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Ride Smarter
Ride Smarter on the Google Train.

I wonder how this new development will play out. Will the traffic plummet for Spanish publications? Or will it not matter? And how exactly does Google News move past this trend of European countries1 demanding Google pay for fair use inclusion? Does this relate to blogging Fair Use?

Google Inc. said Wednesday it will shut its Google News service in Spain because a new law will require the company to pay publishers for displaying any portion of their work.

In a blog post, Google said it also will remove Spanish publishers from the service.

The legislation, which takes effect in January, requires Spanish publishers to charge services like Google News for showing excerpts or snippets from their publications, Google said.

“As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable,” Richard Gingras, head of Google News, wrote in a blog. He said the service will close Dec. 16.

(click here to continue reading Google Shutting Google News in Spain – WSJ.)

From Google’s Europe Blog:

[Google News is] a service that hundreds of millions of users love and trust, including many here in Spain. It’s free to use and includes everything from the world’s biggest newspapers to small, local publications and bloggers. Publishers can choose whether or not they want their articles to appear in Google News — and the vast majority choose to be included for very good reason. Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues.

But sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.

For centuries publishers were limited in how widely they could distribute the printed page. The Internet changed all that — creating tremendous opportunities but also real challenges for publishers as competition both for readers’ attention and for advertising Euros increased. We’re committed to helping the news industry meet that challenge and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.

(click here to continue reading Google Europe Blog.)

Daily News
Daily News

Germany already has some data on how well it works, we’ll soon see if politicians are getting angry phone calls from media websites:

A German law now requires Google to secure the rights to publish any content other than links to articles and headlines. Google refused to pay for those rights, but gave publishers a choice: offer them free or face the removal of snippets and thumbnails from its services like Google News.

German media giant Axel Springer , a Google critic, demanded payment from Google for a time this fall. But Axel granted Google a free license when traffic from Google News and Google’s search engine plunged.

“I imagine the news outlets for which the law was designed will start to miss the traffic that Google sent their way,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at R.W. Baird.

I’ve long used Google News as a primary jumping off point to read news sites, for what it’s worth…

Footnotes:
  1. and Rupert Murdoch companies []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 10th, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Lawsuit accuses Maker’s Mark of false advertising

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 Maker's Mark - a collectors edition?

Maker’s Mark – a collectors edition?

Ridiculous, and also truthy. What exactly does “homemade” mean in the context of a corporate beverage manufacturer? Is Beam Suntory expected to grind the grain with a team of oxen? What about making the bottles? Are they supposed to be hand-blown by crusty old dudes wearing overalls? Are there Revenue Agents a’coming through the piney woods?

Two California consumers sued one of Kentucky’s best-known distilleries, saying Maker’s Mark tries to spike demand and sticker prices by falsely promoting its bourbon as being handmade. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Diego, accused the distillery of deceptive advertising and business practices with its “handmade” promotion on the labels of its bottles, known for their distinctive red-wax seal. The potential class-action suit claims damages exceed $5 million.

A spokesman for Beam Suntory Inc., the parent of Maker’s, said the suit was meritless and the company will fight it. The suit was brought by Safora Nowrouzi and Travis Williams, who purchased Maker’s Mark bourbon last month.

“Defendant promotes its whisky as being ‘handmade’ when in fact defendant’s whisky is manufactured using mechanized and/or automated processes, which involves little to no human supervision, assistance or involvement,” the suit said.

(click here to continue reading Lawsuit accuses Maker’s Mark of false advertising – Bowling Green Daily News: State News.)

I have to laugh at the amount of money though, $5,000,000 is a lot of anguish over one’s cocktail. Like all class action suits, the lawyers are the real money makers.

The Good Stuff
The Good Stuff – Templeton Rye (not actually made in Iowa).

and this aside should be noted:

Executives at Templeton Rye said earlier this year they will change labels on bottles of their whiskey to clarify that the beverage is distilled in Indiana, not Iowa.

Also, obligatory YouTube clip of Bill Murray’s Suntory Time ad from Lost in Translation

Written by Seth Anderson

December 10th, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Fraud from bots represents a loss of $6 billion in digital advertising

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Spare Change

That’s a lot of fraudulent advertising.

Almost one-fourth of video ads and 11 percent of display ads are viewed by fake consumers created by cyber crime networks seeking to take a chunk of the billions of dollars spent on digital advertising, according to a new research report released on Tuesday.

The study, by digital security firm White Ops and the Association of National Advertisers, is one of the most comprehensive looks to date at the persistent criminal activity involving online advertising. Specifically, it addresses “bots,” automated entities that mimic the behavior of humans by clicking on ads and watching videos.

These bots siphon money away from brands by setting up fake websites or delivering fake audiences to websites that make use of third-party traffic. The report estimates that advertisers will lose $6.3 billion to bots next year.

The study included 36 ANA member companies, including Anheuser-Busch InBev SA, Ford Motor Co Verizon Communications Inc and Pfizer Inc.

 

(click here to continue reading Fraud from bots represents a loss of $6 billion in digital advertising – Yahoo News.)

If I were a corporation like Ford, Verizon or Pfizer, and I cared, I’d demand a meeting with my ad agency, and insist upon receiving a detailed audit of the last year of digital advertising. Well, maybe not, because then I’d discover that a lot of the annual budget was knowingly pissed away and my ad agency kept the commission anyway.

Bots are computers hijacked by viruses that are programmed to visit sites and mimic human behavior, creating the illusion of authentic Web traffic to lure in advertisers. Contrary to what many in the industry believe, that bot traffic doesn’t exist just in the dark corners of the Internet, White Ops found; it infects mainstream sites and services, too. A quarter of the bot traffic logged during the study was found across the top 1,000 sites on the Internet, according to White Ops Chief Executive Michael Tiffany.

“The most interesting part of this study to me is not the top-line numbers; it’s that fraud is happening in the well-lit parts of the Internet,” Mr. Tiffany said

Online display ads bought through automated or “programmatic” channels were 55% more likely to be served to bots than display ads purchased through other channels, according to the study. Some advertisers said they expected the discrepancy to be even higher.

“It was helpful for us to learn that this is a problem that affects everyone, and that the method of procurement didn’t make as much of a difference as we thought it might,” said Fernando Arriola, vice president of media and integration at ConAgra Foods .

Marketers say they hope the ANA research will force publishers, ad brokers, and agencies to police ad fraud more aggressively. For starters, they plan to begin including language in their agreements with online publishers and other suppliers to specifically address “nonhuman” traffic. The ANA recommends that all marketers take that step.

(click here to continue reading Advertisers Pay Billions for Bogus Web Traffic – WSJ.)

The thing is, savvy corporations already were aware of this problem:

Concerns over ad fraud, viewability and overall inventory murkiness are causing Kraft to reject up to 85% of all impressions offered via real-time ad marketplaces, Kraft’s Julie Fleischer said today at the Ad Age Data Conference in New York.

The massive number reveals that talk of digital advertising supply-chain corruption is indeed leading to action among top brands. Kraft, one of Ad Age’s 100 leading national advertisers, spent $35.9 million on digital advertising in 2013, according to Ad Age Datacenter.

“That 75% to 85% is either deemed to be fraudulent, unsafe or non-viewable or unknown,” Ms. Fleischer, the company’s director of data, content and media, said, referring to the rejected impressions. “Think about what this means for us as an industry. When we’re rejecting 75% to 85% of the impressions available, that’s a problem.”

(click here to continue reading Kraft Says It Rejects 75% to 85% of Digital Ad Impressions Due to Quality Concerns; Big Spending Advertiser Wants No Part of Fraud )

[Editor’s note – Full disclosure: a year or so ago, we met with a startup that purported to have invented tools and procedures that would ferret out this kind of digital advertising fraud, but nothing ever came of the meeting, we never used nor resold their services. I think a large advertising corporation ended up purchasing this startup]

Written by Seth Anderson

December 9th, 2014 at 9:22 am

Posted in Advertising

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Ghost Brands

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Gelber Bros - Ghost Sign
Gelber Bros – Ghost Sign.

Comfort marketing is amusing, and yet a bit sad. Steve Jobs would be appalled: he didn’t even want to keep old computers around, much less old brands.

Now, the vintage Smith Brothers brand of cough drops is poised to try a comeback, keeping its familiar brand symbol of a pair of bearded brothers and expanding into a line of health and wellness products.

The campaign is an example of an effort to breath new life into what is known as a ghost brand: a once-popular mainstay among packaged goods that fell dormant or out of favor because of a loss of consumer interest and advertising spending. Some ghost brands disappear from stores altogether, while many others remain but are banished to bottom shelves in supermarkets or drugstores and get little or no marketing support.

Other examples of ghost brands include Aim, Ammens, Aqua Velva, Armour, Barbasol, Breck, Brylcreem, Bromo-Seltzer, Brut, Camay, Close-Up, Comet, Duncan Hines, Fab, Hydrox, Kretschmer, Lava, Log Cabin, My-T-Fine, Oxydol, Parkay, Pepsodent, Pert Plus, Prell, Schlitz, Spic and Span, Sure, Vitalis and White Rain.

There are a couple of reasons it is common during uncertain economic times to seek to restore ghost brands to health. One reason is that it can be far less expensive to reintroduce a brand that was formerly well known than to bring out an entirely new product.

A second reason is that ghost brands fit a trend called comfort marketing, which uses nostalgia to appeal to shoppers in tough times. The belief is that consumers who are carefully watching their spending will be reassured by a product’s longevity and authenticity, deeming it of value because it has been around for decades.

(click here to continue reading Hey, Brothers, Can You Spare a Cough Drop? – NYTimes.com.)

Pipe To Industrial
Pipe To Industrial

Looks like this is an actual marketing trend, and not just something dreamed up by editors at the NYT:

What is inspiring the trend is a belief that shoppers — watching carefully what they spend in an uncertain economy — seek authenticity in brands because a product’s longevity suggests it has value and is thus worth buying.

“At General Mills, with cherished brands like Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, we are seeing an uptick in interest” in mainstay products, said Elizabeth Crocker, associate marketing manager for Cinnamon Toast Crunch at General Mills, “from both millennial consumers who enjoy the taste and fun, as well as older consumers.” (Yes, Elizabeth Crocker works for General Mills, home of another longtime brand character, Betty Crocker.)

Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story “Social media is helping to fuel the interest in historic brands and favorite icons,” Ms. Crocker said, citing popular memes like Throwback Thursday (#tbt) and Flashback Friday (#fbf). “For many fans of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, the cereal brings back happy childhood memories, so it’s an easy tie to fun #tbt social content,” she added.

(click here to continue reading Comfort of Longtime Brands Inspires Campaigns – NYTimes.com.)

Best In The Polish World - ghost sign
Best In The Polish World – ghost sign

Ghost signs predate ghost brands: wall advertising faded by weather and the passage of time. Sometimes the brand is dead, but not always.

Look for the Spear
Look for the Spear

Written by Seth Anderson

November 24th, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Advertising

Tagged with ,

Google Experimenting With Removing Google Ads for a Fee

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Cougle, Google's neighbor
Cougle, Google’s neighbor in the West Loop.

Almost sounds a little back-alley-ish: “hey, I’ve been deluging you with these ads for decades, but for a small fee, I’ll remove them, in certain circumstances…”

On Thursday, Google started experimenting with a new way to let users contribute to web sites in exchange for removing – or at least reducing – the number of ads. The service, called Contributor by Google, has users give between $1 and $3 a month to sites like The Onion and Mashable.

Once they pay, the ads that normally show will be replaced with a banner that says “Thank you for being a contributor.”

For Contributor, Google is only working with 10 sites, and it will take a small cut of the contributions. The sites may not be completely ad free: Google only has the power to remove ads it has served, so it should probably be described as a way to see “fewer ads” rather than no ads.

(click here to continue reading Google Experimenting With Removing Ads for a Fee – NYTimes.com.)

The only way I could see this working would be for low-traffic websites with a loyal leadership – it seems Google shares a slice of that fee with the publisher. I notice Google doesn’t disclose what the percentages actually are, it could be a 90-10 split for all we know, with Google retaining $2.70 of a $3 contribution. I doubt I’d ever use Contributor By Google, but you never know. Is the occasional visit to Urban Dictionary or The Onion worth $36 a year? Meh. Especially since I use Ghostery to block most ads in the first place, so the savings would be negligible, plus Google would be able to accumulate more data about me for their data mills.

Sophism Becomes You
Sophism Becomes You

I used to have Google Ads displayed over there on the right column, and when this blog sucked less1 and got more daily traffic, the ads paid me a few hundred dollars a year. That was quite a while ago though, certainly before Twitter and other social media soaked up my bandwidth, and the tumbleweeds started accumulating here. In fact, I removed the Google Ads several years ago, probably when Google started frequently being a bully and a thief.2

Footnotes:
  1. when Bush was in the White House []
  2. In the eyes of Steve Jobs at least []

Written by Seth Anderson

November 21st, 2014 at 9:37 pm

Posted in Advertising,Business

Tagged with ,

344-Year-Old Hudson’s Bay Tests Beacons in Several Markets

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 Hudson's Bay Company

I expect other retailers, museums and the like to follow with their own iBeacon programs this fall.

Hudson’s Bay Co., a pioneering North American business that was founded in 1670, is blazing trails in mobile marketing. Two of the Toronto-based company’s retail chains, Lord & Taylor and Hudson’s Bay, are getting on board the smartphone-triggered beacons trend with a test program rolling out today in 10 stores.

While Hudson’s Bay Co. certainly is not the first department store to experiment with beacons (Macy’s ran a test in New York and San Francisco last year), it claims to be the first to do so in multiple locations across the United States and Canada. The Lord & Taylor stores participating in the U.S. include New York’s flagship Fifth Avenue store, a location in Westchester, N.Y., and three shops in Massachusetts. North of the border, Hudson’s Bay stores in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa are testing the technology.

“We recognize the appetite for mobile experiences that cater to our customer’s needs and provide a seamless shopping experience,” said Michael Crotty, Hudson’s Bay Co. evp and marketing chief.

Upon entering the stores, consumers with these apps open will receive a welcome message. Certain departments like ladies’ shoes, cosmetics and Lord and Taylor’s Black Brown label will then send out specific messages around the store. Areas of the store that sell Michael Kors and Alex and Ani also plan to push out offers that are tailored towards specific groups. Approximately 10 beacons are deployed in each store, which are tied to an average of seven different messages.

(click here to continue reading 344-Year-Old Hudson’s Bay Tests Beacons in Several Markets | Adweek.)

Cell Phone Evolution
Cell Phone Evolution

For the record, if you haven’t yet heard of Apple’s iBeacon, here’s a brief overview:

The term iBeacon and Beacon are often used interchangeably. iBeacon is the name for Apple’s technology standard, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. In essence, iBeacon technology allows Mobile Apps to understand their position on a micro-local scale, and deliver hyper-contextual content to users based on location. The underlying communication technology is Bluetooth Low Energy.

Why is iBeacon a Big Deal?

With an iBeacon network, any brand, retailer, app, or platform will be able to understand exactly where a customer is in the brick and mortar environment. This provides an opportunity to send customers highly contextual, hyper-local, meaningful messages and advertisements on their smartphones.

The typical scenario looks like this. A consumer carrying a smartphone walks into a store. Apps installed on a consumer’s smartphone listen for iBeacons. When an app hears an iBeacon, it communicates the relevant data (UUID, Major, Minor, Tx) to its server, which then triggers an action. This could be something as simple as a push message [“Welcome to Target! Check out Doritos on Aisle 3!”], and could include other things like targeted advertisements, special offers, and helpful reminders [“You’re out of Milk!”]. Other potential applications include mobile payments and shopper analytics and implementation outside of retail, at airports, concert venues, theme parks, and more. The potential is limitless.

This technology should bring about a paradigm shift in the way brands communicate with consumers. iBeacon provides a digital extension into the physical world. We’re excited to see where iBeacon technology goes in the next few years.

(click here to continue reading What is iBeacon? A Guide to Beacons | iBeacon.com Insider.)

more from Business Insider:

To state the obvious: Modern, smartphone-toting humans spend most of their time indoors.

 But indoor spaces often block cell signals and make it nearly impossible to locate devices via GPS. Beacons are a solution. Beacons are a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop — that use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet. They are poised to transform how retailers, event organizers, transit systems, enterprises, and educational institutions communicate with people indoors. Consumers might even want to deploy them as part of home automation systems.

In a new report from BI Intelligence, we explain what beacons are, how they work, and how Apple — with its iBeacon implementation — is championing this new paradigm for indoor mobile communication. We also take a look at the barriers in the way of widespread adoption.

People are confused about Apple iBeacon because it has yet to take a true physical form. Apple hasn’t manufactured a physical beacon. Instead, Apple’s iBeacon is built into its devices and iOS7 mobile operating system. Already, 200 million iOS devices can already serve as transmitters and receivers. But third-party manufacturers have built beacons that can send iBeacon messages to Apple devices.

(click here to continue reading Beacons And iBeacons Create A New Market – Business Insider.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 10:40 am

Posted in Advertising,Apple,Business

Tagged with , ,

Coconut Water Changes Its Claims

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A Favorite Breakfast Beverage
A Favorite Breakfast Beverage

Funny how that works. A few years ago, coconut water was being marketed as a panacea for each and every thing wrong with you. And now? Not so much. However, people still repeat those initial, miracle-drug claims. Shows you the power of advertising, doesn’t it?

When coconut water broke into the American market 10 years ago, it was billed as a miracle drink able to fight viruses, kidney disease and other ailments like osteoporosis. Global sales now reach $400 million a year, and many consumers believe that the beverage has a wide variety of health benefits. But they may be unaware that the drink’s marketers have sharply scaled back their claims.

The minerals in coconut water are what prompted the early claims of curative power, but their amounts are quite modest and they are widely found in other foods. A banana, for example, has 422 milligrams of potassium, compared with 660 milligrams in a typical container of coconut water. The water’s big three minerals are potassium (19 percent of the daily recommended intake), calcium (4 percent) and magnesium (4 percent).

Coconut water taps into a “deep consumer vein,” Tom Pirko, a beverage industry analyst, wrote in an email. “It is not seen as a ‘manufactured’ concoction, but rather the issue of Mother Earth.” And it seems poised to become just the first in a wave of natural waters; already for sale are bottled waters from maple and birch trees, barley, cactus and artichokes, with their own exuberant promotions.

 

(click here to continue reading Coconut Water Changes Its Claims – NYTimes.com.)

I do think coconut water is tasty, occasionally refreshing, but I would not expect it to cure anything. But then I’m a natural born skeptic…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 28th, 2014 at 8:54 am

Posted in Advertising,health,science

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