Signal May 20: Yumblr, Data Vizes, and the Programmable World

Welcome to the Future — A Programmable World. Photo: Courtesy of Wired.

Welcome to the Future — A Programmable World. Photo: Courtesy of Wired.

In this week’s Signal: Tumblr joins Yahoo! (though it’s not officially official yet); The potential of a ‘programmable world’; social command centers that allow brands to think and act in the moment; apps that turn the personal into the predictive; the Bing Crosby/Nazis/Silicon Valley connection; quality, not velocity, is the future of online news; “Behind the Banner“ helps to understand how the ad tech ecosystem works; battling fraud: a tough fight; a human-values driven approach to privacy; stop dreaming, interactive TV is already here; baby boomer marketers don’t understand millennials; and more!

*A quick note: This week marks the New York debut of OpenCo, and FMP will be hosting a session in its NY offices. If you are going to OpenCo, sign up to attend our session. If you don’t know what OpenCo is, but will be in NY, check out OpenCo here.*

To the links ….

Yahoo Reportedly Moving Forward with Tumblr Acquisition as its Board Mulls $1.1B All-Cash Offer (TNW) According to Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka of AllThingsD, Yahoo’s board was slated to meet yesterday to vote on (and, apparently, to approve) a $1.1 billion cash offer for Tumblr. Yahoo is also said to be vetting video giant Hulu as another potential target for acquisition.

UPDATE: It seems the deal is indeed done, though the official word is not set to come till Monday morning, after this newsletter goes to press. Here’s a good overview from GigaOm, and here’s my take: Yahoo! And Tumblr: It’s About Display, Streams & Native at Scale.

Behind the Banner, A Visualization of the Adtech Ecosystem (Battelle Media) In which we introduce “Behind the Banner,” a visualization produced with Adobe and Jer Thorp and his team from The Office for Creative Research. The project is underwritten by Adobe as part of next week’s CM Summit, and began with a quest to understand the world of programmatic trading of advertising inventory – a world that “at times feels rather like a hot mess, and at other times, like the future of not only all media, but all data-driven experiences we’ll have as a society, period.” Read all about about it in this release.

In the Programmable World, All Our Objects Will Act as One (Wired) Bill Wasik, a senior editor at Wired, goes in depth on the subject of programmable data. Imagine a future world in which of all the devices, appliances and other ‘things’ in your home, office or anywhere talk to one another: the alarm clock to the coffeepot, thermostats to motion sensors, lights to stereo receivers, etc. “In this future,” writes Wasik, “the intelligence once locked in our devices now flows into the universe of physical objects. Technologists have struggled to name this emerging phenomenon. Some have called it the Internet of Things or the Internet of Everything or the Industrial Internet—despite the fact that most of these devices aren’t actually on the Internet directly but instead communicate through simple wireless protocols. Other observers, paying homage to the stripped-down tech embedded in so many smart devices, are calling it the Sensor Revolution. But here’s a better way to think about what we’re building: It’s the Programmable World.”

Inside Mastercard’s Social Command Center (Digiday) Several brands have designed social command centers to act as a hub where they can collect, analyze and then act on relevant social media conversations. Mastercard’s “conversation suite,” an open floor plan workspace is one. In the space, “a dedicated team of four sits and listens to what stakeholders are saying about the brand. When this team is sleeping, its counterpart in Singapore, Dubai and Australia takes over,” writes Giselle Ambramovich. “The tool is Web-based, so all 60 of Mastercard’s global PR staff have access to it. And some marketing and product specialists can access it as well. The main team (U.S.) of four collaborates internally with PR, marketing, product and customer service teams to better engage stakeholders.” Mastercard’s command center is not just monitoring social conversations, but also looking at everything from share of voice by region to pulling in all the press coverage that has included significant mention of Mastercard.

How Cisco Listens in Social (Digiday) Centralized social command centers, such as the three put in place at Cisco, help to ensure that social data eventually gets turned into some kind of action. Giselle Abramovich explains: “At one, the company identifies spikes in negative mentions that need to be investigated and influencers mentioning Cisco. The data is then sent to the appropriate business unit so that they can act on it. Another six-screen listening center allows Cisco sellers to show customers their social data in the hopes of winning new business. The last is a two-screen kiosk version of the listening center just outside the CEO and CMO’s office and displays social activity around topics such as earnings, acquisitions, launches or campaigns. This is a way of making sure social data reaches the very top of the organization.”

Inside the Digitas ‘Social Bullpen’ (Digiday) Two years ago, Procter & Gamble posed a challenge to integrated brand agency Digitas: Figure out a way to act more quickly and together, because the speed of social channels didn’t mesh with the slow agency-client process. The result: BrandLive, a ‘social bullpen’ embedded in six Digitas offices and designed to drive quick collaboration. “In New York, execs from certain client teams are surrounded by six plasma screens displaying all sorts of social content and data from which Digitas can mine and then create content in the moment,” writes Josh Sternberg. “Digitas calls the room ‘the stew,’ named because it’s where execs can ‘stew’ on ideas. The ever-present screens, pulsing with social activity data, are affectionately called ‘the wire.’ In the best-case scenario, this is where data means inspiration that quickly translates into action.” This type of nerve center can represent the physical manifestation of a mindset shift for a brand to think in the moment, according to Digitas execs.

With Personal Data, Predictive Apps Stay a Step Ahead (MIT Technology Review) New apps based on machine learning software can present users with timely information even without being directly asked for it. For example, they might automatically pull up your boarding pass just as you arrive at the airport, or tell you of a traffic jam that requires you to leave early for your next meeting. “These apps benefit from improved data mining techniques,” writes Tom Simonite, “but they’re also succeeding partly because of how they are presented to users. They are not cast as artificial butlers, a staple of science fiction that Apple tried to mimic with the voice-operated app Siri in 2010. Instead, apps like Google Now are intentionally made without personality and don’t pretend to be people.”

How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley (New Yorker) In the 1940s, one of the things Americans discovered when picking through German technology remains was magnetic tape. The Nazis had been using tape recording to broadcast propaganda across time zones. Engineers brought the discovery to Bring Crosby, who was a hugely popular radio personality at the time, making $30K a week as host of the “Philco Radio Hour.” Crosby was more than just interested. He saw this as a way to advance his art. So, he handed fifty thousand dollars to Ampex corporation to give birth to a new technology. Suddenly audio—recorded media—was flexible. And as tape recording caught on, along came computers with stored programs.

This Is What Happens When Publishers Invest In Long Stories (FastCo) Because Fast Company’s top editors had long felt that the discrete article format was insufficient for covering very large and complicated topics, they decided to experiment with a new, super-long article format akin to ‘”slow live blogging.” When they looked at the resulting traffic charts, their jaws dropped. Here’s what they learned about long form stories — and why quality, not velocity, is the future of online news.


40+ CEOs, CMOs, VCs and media leaders in two days of unscripted conversation. (Recently added: Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann.) Come to the CM Summit to join the conversation about “Bridging Data and Humanity.” New York City, May 21-22. The only conference this year curated by your faithful correspondent. UPDATE: CM SUMMIT IS SOLD OUT, but we’ll keep the link open for any readers who might want to buy a last minute ticket. More than 500 people are registered!

Also, if it suits your information consumption goals, sign up for Signal’s email newsletter or RSS feed on the Signal home page (upper right box).


Buyers Need to Help Clean Up Ad Tech (Digiday) Walter Knapp, GM and EVP of Media for Federated Media Publishing, discusses the battle against fraudsters that cheat or steal from legitimate marketer-publisher advertising transactions in the ad tech ecosystem. Federated has ramped up its anti-fraud efforts, but to win, according to Knapp, both the supply and demand side will have to lock arms. “This isn’t a supply-side problem or a demand-side problem; it’s a fundamental shared responsibility and a market problem.” Until the sides band together and collectively put the squeeze on the bad guys, the efforts of his teams and others’ to keep the networks scrubbed will go unnoticed by the ecosystem at large.

Devising A Personal Google Glass Privacy Policy — Future Participle (Medium) With Google Glass, we’re pretty far along into the process of learning to live in a world where a handheld recording device is in nearly everyone’s pocket. What does that mean for privacy? “Glass wearers permanently don the mediation between themselves and others — it’s constantly threatening,” posits Ryan Singel. “They’ve embraced being the uncle who won’t put down the video camera at the family gathering, despite pleas to put it away.” So Singel suggests a simple “humans.text” policy that offers a less technical and more human-values driven approach to privacy.

No Need to Dream of Interactive TV — It’s Already Here (Ad Age) We’ve all been waiting for interactive TV, but have we been waiting for it on the wrong screen? Yes, posits Jonathan Nelson: “Today’s TV is increasingly a laptop, mobile or tablet experience, unless it arrives on a ‘proper’ TV screen through a broadband-enabled device like an Xbox or Roku. It’s not coming through the cable operators that, at one time, were thought to hold the keys to iTV. … Given the rapid embrace of iTV services, it is not worth waiting around for the day when seamless, TV-based interactive video is a reality. Let’s accept that the hardware — the devices and infrastructure — are in place, but the ‘software’ — the partnerships and standards for iTV —are not.”

Baby-Boomer Marketers Are Misreading Millennials’ Media Behavior (Ad Age) Senior marketers seem convinced the methods and media that have worked over the past 30 years of their careers will continue to produce results with tech-savvy millennials, even though they have vastly different media habits. Why? Bonnie Fuller asks, and answers.

Facebook ‘Fatigue’ Stirs Concern from Investors (Financial Times) Though their views are mostly based on anecdotal evidence rather than hard statistics, many investors believe people under 25 are suffering from “Facebook fatigue” and defecting to other services, such as Twitter and WhatsApp. “Concern runs high,” writes Robert Cookson, “because people in their teens and early 20s will be critical for Facebook’s future – just as they drove its adoption a decade ago. Young people are often the first to use new technologies before being followed by rest of the population.” But Facebook’s biggest challenge might be the speed with which internet users – particularly younger ones – are shifting to mobile. (Registration necessary.)

The Design that Conquered Google (New Yorker) Over the past two years, smartly designed products marked by tasteful typography, artful use of white space and flatness, full-bleed imagery, and a general sense of restraint have emerged from Google. Google Now is one of those products. Now’s design was a culmination of everything that Google had done before. But it evolved in a mature, new direction, so that it looked quite unlike anything else Google had created. Nearly a year later, the crisp design cues of Google Now and other products are set to become one of the dominant ways in which Google presents certain types of information to users.

Why Is the Sound-Effects Guy From “Police Academy” Talking About Robots and Web Ads? (ATD) Solve Media has published an e-book, called “Bot or Not,” about robots, fake clicks and their effect on the Internet advertising business. The cool thing is that they hired actor Michael Winslow, the sound-effects guy from the “Police Academy” movies, to read it to kids, with a camera rolling. (Video.)

Does Joe Lunchpail Care ‘What They Know’? A Roundup Of Surveys On Ad Tracking Sentiment (Ad Exchanger) Research shows that in the age of social media a lot of consumers are willing to give a little more information about themselves if it results in a better experience. And that’s a big ‘if.’ “A lot of the impressions we’re making on the customer may have a detrimental impact on the relationship with that customer,” said Bob Dutcher, VP of marketing for InsightsOne. “The frustration is, and where marketers and companies can get in trouble, if they are leveraging that information but not giving something back to the consumer, not giving them a better experience. It has to be a two-way relationship.” The balance between protecting consumers’ privacy and reaching them with relevant targeted ads is a constant struggle for the online ad industry.

10 Lessons from the Top 25 Most Engaged Brands on Twitter (Forbes) Brands that have mastered Twitter understand the power of engagement and are creating extraordinary opportunities for their organizations. From Notebook to Disney, there are lessons to be learned.

YouTube Forecast to Make $4 Billion from Ads in 2013 (Beet TV) YouTube viewers have probably noticed that the service is upping the frequency of its pre-roll ads. According to analyst Ian Maude of Enders Analysis, YouTube will generate about $4 billion in advertising revenue this year. Data also shows that YouTube is now more popular than BBC iPlayer on UK cable operator Virgin Media’s connected TiVO service. “Overall TV viewing is growing, but that’s largely being driven by older people,” Maude added. “We’re seeing a divergence between what the under-35s and over-35s are doing.”