Creators should look to blockchain to monetise digital video content

Content creators know that video can drive discovery, discussion, and consumption in authentic and innovative ways where other forms of content can fall short. These videocentric, highly-engaged audiences are highly prized by brands and publishers alike. They are influencers, they have disposable income and their appetite for compelling stimuli is insatiable.

Creators that can reach these audiences are in an incredible position to generate revenue from those brands, if they can align a brand with the right content and the right audience in a way that delivers influencer value as well as monetary value.

Where YouTube was once the leader and trend-setter of all things video, we’re seeing blockchain-based platforms and technology driving a period of evolution. These new technologies are pushing video towards decentralised marketplaces allowing everyone – users, advertisers, publishers and content creators – to win the monetised-video game.

In this new era, why should content creators and advertisers look to blockchain-based video platforms? Here are three reasons to consider:

Smart contracts

Before blockchain-based video platforms, content creators had little or no control over the monetisation models used to sell their work. This issue is addressed through smart contract technology, which is the backbone of how videos are monetised and shared on blockchain technology.

Depending on the platform, creators can be compensated in many different ways including pay-per-view, subscription, donations, or a combination of these options. Creators can also reward users for usage, such as embedding or seeding their video.

What makes smart contracts so attractive to creators? They have the power to decide how they’re compensated, and the revenue from pay-per-view (PPV), subscriptions, etc. goes directly to their wallets. Additionally, due to encryption, there is a high level of security associated with blockchain and smart contract technology, which is important when video content is shared globally via a decentralised market.

The Interactive Video and Experience Protocol (IVEP) is one such platform. An interactive video technology built on blockchain. It enables  audiences to engage with video to shop, chat, click, and share, using overlaying layers filled with interactive elements. It also allows and creators and advertisers to monetise and measure video content using the aforementioned layers. It provides free foundational smart contracts for creators and users within its core Layer. This includes the creation and use of digital currencies for transfer and settlement, registration of the IVEP experiences, and participant registration contracts that include trust scores and token accounting. The latter ensures reliable data minimises abuse of the system by disreputable advertisers and content creators alike.

This trust approach negates the need for the wide ranging demonetisation of channels that major streaming platforms have had to implement to avoid advertisers being inadvertently aligned with a small number of disreputable and offensive video types.

Decentralized marketplace

Another significant benefit of blockchain-based video platforms is that members dictate the use of the protocol, apps, and/or services to benefit all participants, something that is contrary to current dominant video platforms that continue to alter rules, demonetise select videos and channels, and favor key stakeholders; Audiences, and content creators, are not getting their fair share of the value they provide to publishers and advertisers who capture most of the gains while retention and engagement are decreasing.

Creation of decentralised marketplaces ensure content creators have a voice in video distribution and consumption – not just in its creation.

Smart objects

As retention and engagement decrease, new metrics and methods to assess video performance are necessary. Real human engagement metrics represent a significant improvement to existing attention-based metrics and can warrant a much higher premium for the participants who embrace such an approach.

Technologies such as IVEP can capture better metrics on interactions through the use of programmable smart objects and functions. IVEP can be used as a trusted and independent source by publishers, advertisers, and ad networks. It can be used to capture real human viewing data, engagement metrics, and user data.

One engagement feature offered through IVEP is a polling function. Surveying the audience right inside a video that is not tied to any one distribution platform allows marketers to access real-time insights from the audience and better identify customer needs, preferences and trends.

In addition to measurement enhancements, the IVEP’s programmable smart objects and functions also offer advanced monetisation features. One such feature available through its digital application (dApp) Store is a product placement tool for the digital world. IVEP allows digital products to be inserted into any video available on the open web, as well as into new digital experiences such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and live gaming. Video on-demand (VOD) services on all devices can benefit from digital product placement.

The community can also develop its own features, making use of the open architecture of the platform.

For content creators, the pros to joining a blockchain-based video platforms significantly outweigh the cons. From smart contracts allowing creators to have more say in how they’re compensated and how their work is distributed, to tools that are developed for the creator and marketer alike, everybody has a say.

While we’ve covered just three, more benefits will present themselves as content creators continue to shift their focus to video and monetisation features and as marketers continue to look for innovative video content and user experiences.

– by Fred Dionne

90% of UK video viewers regularly visit YouTube

YouTube has cemented its place as the undisputed leading platform for digital video in the UK, with eMarketer stating that the sites viewing is close to saturation point.

The company’s first market forecast for YouTube shows that through its sheer ubiquity and its easy integration on other content platforms have both contributed to its video dominance. 2018 will see 40.4 million (or six out of 10 people) will watch a video on the platform’s app or website at least once a month.

Watching videos over the internet is now firmly embedded in the UK. The spread of smartphone ownership and the proliferation of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime mean that two thirds of the UK population now watch some form of digital video.

Facing competition

YouTube is not set in its position as top digital video dog, however, with competition coming from the popular streaming services. Another source of competition is a result of the increasing moves by consumers to watch content with their phone.

eMarkter is predicting that 64% of digital video viewers will use their mobile to view videos in the coming year. This means that YouTube will be competing with Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, all of whom have been investing significantly in video over the last few years.

“UK adults have been migrating their social media and video habits over to mobile for some time,” eMarketer senior analyst Bill Fisher said.

“It’s no surprise, then, that the social media platforms have been making major plays in the video space. YouTube viewership isn’t going to drop away, of course—it’s too well-established. But it’s going to have to compete for video-viewing time from a multitude of other options like never before.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Convergence communiqué: Designing your story based on media and message (part two)

Are you watching The Crown, a biographical series on Netflix about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom? Wrapped within this historical story, there is a marketing lesson to be learned.

Even the most steadfast, traditional “brands”, such as the British Royal family, need constantly to review their messaging – without being blinded by preconceived internal and external beliefs – and to understand how their messaging is being perceived and viewed by the end users, in this case the population of Great Britain.

In developing and interpreting their narrative, “the management team” (Royal and governmental) failed to recognise that the narrative was in need of change and even if those in power knew a change was needed, few within the inner circle would accept that change.

In the end, the change did occur, though it was not a controlled, manageable change but rather a disastrous public confrontation that occurred due to unexpected circumstances—the death of Diana, Princess of Wales.


The first question you need to ask yourself is: What is your message—not only what is your external messaging but what is your internal messaging and how is your messaging being perceived internally?

Digging deeper

Ask your sales team to analyze their messaging and to explain how their sales message relates to the overall corporate messaging. You may be surprised to discover the answer. My experience indicates that about 80% of your sales team has revised your messaging to make it fit their level of comfort in conveying the message (creating a type of personal imprimatur, if you like) while the 20% of your sales team who are likely the most productive are more closely following your corporate messaging.

Go outside

If you have sales partners, retailers, distributors, and other external outlets, determine how, why, and what they have done to your corporate messaging. Again I think you will be surprised to find out how different your messaging is in the field. For an analogy, think of the kids’ game Telephone, or Chinese Whispers.

Be advised: I am not talking about branding nor your visual icon or “look.” I am talking about your message face to the public, your narrative, your script, your deep corporate soul statement.

Ask yourself

Do a self-analysis. Do you understand your own message? Is your story comprehensible? Does your narrative prepare the reader/viewer/listener for the desired end result? Look back to the first article in this series, “Designing your story based on media and message”, and determine if your story comes across as real or is perceived as a fact-based novel that is being read as a work of fiction. You can see the problem.

Are the various views of your message consistent? If not (as in most cases), determine where they are different and how that difference is hurting/hindering your story.

Once you have determined the real-world execution of your messaging (yes, execution in many ways is the correct word), determine what steps you can, will, or must undertake in order to correct any incorrect flow of words or to revamp the story to match your corporate desires and directives. This may be the easy part. Make sure you also take into consideration that the media selected to deliver your messages plays an important role in the message presentation and believability and, in the end, impacts the believably of your brand, enterprise, or corporation.

Visual words

When you construct messaging, do you see the words you use as direct statements or also as visual, graphic images or icons that relate not only word-based meaning (denotation) but also relay visual imagery (connotation) to add additional value to your wordsmithing?

Need a few examples? For instance, which would you select: sales call, or a profit-based opportunity? Seating plan or office assignment? Start a talk or begin a discussion? Leeching a source or sharing information? The selection and use of the correct words or phrases, visual or not, will positively or negatively impact your messaging.

Using visual wording is a complex and difficult task, since readers/viewers/listeners interpret words in different ways. In fact, many skeptics argue that visual words are make-believe, non-words, words that cannot be defined. Is BOGO now a new icon word that best describes an offer? Maybe. But we now live and purchase in a visual world.

For example, emojis are the first stage in visual wording. These icons allow us to relate quick and simple messaging to fit our needs. But can a tool like emojis work for every corporate enterprise or for every purpose? I think not. For example, I don’t think a smiley face with a halo is going to convince most customers that you have a good product or service to offer.

But words are visions, and visions are becoming more and more important to you to sell your product. So, to help deploy your message, you might want/need to add a few appropriate or clever icons, symbolic terms that are supportive of your message and cannot be miss interpreted.

This link, from Emojipedia, explains how different platforms use emojis instead of words. There are 14 emoji’s that can be used instead of the word happy. There are more than 50 emojis to express confusion. Many are seasonal or event sensitive.

Words can be incorrectly used as well. Think, write and think again – but make sure your message is clear!

Next communiqué: Have you storyboarded your message?

Editor’s note: Read the first section here.

– by Thaddeus Kubis

Gen Z engaging with 10 hours of online content a day

One fact has become indisputable in the last few years: the British population is addicted to digital content. According to research by Adobe into the UK’s content consumption habits, millennials spend an average of 8.5 hours a day reading, watching, creating and engaging with content on their devices.

If this sounds high, it is above the UK average of 6.9 hours, but well below that of the generation below them. According to the research, Generation Z spend a whopping 10.6 hours engaging with online content every single day.

The survey 1,000 UK consumers found that the smartphone is by far the most popular method of content consumption. Millennials spend an average of 5.2 hours a day consuming content on their phones, compared to 5.9 hours for Gen Z.

54% said that they use multiple devices at any one time, with the average being 1.8 devices.

Recent events have made the average content consumer more savvy and cautious. The rise of fake news has made people much more sceptical of the authenticity and quality of the content they consume. 77% reported being more cautious about what they engage with now then they were half a decade ago.

One of the main effects of this has been to make people more likely to engage with content that comes from a trusted source. 58% would share content from friends and family, compared to only 29% for a well-know YouTuber or the 26% that would share from a known brand.

The frequency with which people share has also dropped. 18% of respondents said that they share content daily, while the vast majority (61%) only do so monthly.

Brand opportunities

The research also pointed towards the fact that consumers still responded strongly to branded content as long as it ticks the boxes of being authentic, well designed and relevant. 46% said that content that provides a good experience influences their purchasing decisions, while 24% would share it with their friends.

Bad content, however, can have pronounced negative consequences for brands. Consumers pointed to badly written content (49%), irrelevant (44%) and poorly designed (35%) as their biggest content gripes. 71% said they would not buy from a brand that published this kind of content.

“With the rise of fake news and ‘click-bait’ content, consumers are increasingly looking for engaging content that provides them with an authentic and relevant experience,” John Watton, Senior Marketing Director, Adobe EMEA, said.

“Whether it’s across social, online, blogs, or email communications, branded content has to be well-designed, optimised for the device, and offer a genuine experience that goes beyond selling products. Brands that succeed will drive customer acquisition and loyalty; those that don’t will see customers swipe their screen in search for content that offers them a better experience.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Snapchat quarterly figures break losing streak

Snapchat has reported quarterly sales and user growth for the first time since going public in March 2017.

The news that the beleaguered social media company had soundly beaten Wall Street’s estimates sent its stock rocketing by over 20% on Tuesday. This was the closest the parent company, Snap, has come to topping its IPO price of $17 since July 2017.

The centrepiece of the positive results was a 72% jump in sales from this time last year to $286 million. This was heralded as a vindication of the decision to transition to an automated ad sales auction in the style of Google and Facebook.

There was also a growth in the number of users, with 8.9 million daily active users coming to the site in the last three months of 2017. Snap reported that consumers were staying longer on the Android version of its app.

Analytics firm FactSet puts the total amount of daily active users at 187 million as of the end of December 2017.

Industry insight

Aaron Goldman, CMO, 4C Insights:

“Snap benefited from some of the seasonality that’s expected during the holidays as advertisers heavy up but also saw some new brands come in and test the platform as a place to engage hard-to-reach audiences. In November, Snapchat unveiled a redesign that separated out peer-to-peer interaction and curated/professional content.

“In fact, ad spend through 4C increased 29% in Q4 to close out the first full year of self-serve Snap Ads. This shows current users are happy to spend time leaning back and watching brand-safe videos even with ads interspersed throughout. More original content for Discover will only make the platform even more valuable as a complement to linear television, along with the ability to measure more on the platform.

“It’s time for brands to embrace each of the “social” platforms as unique advertising vehicles.”

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers:

“Despite growth expectation from analysts and a forecasted record of about $254.8 million in the fourth quarter revenue, Snapchat is still a long way behind its rivals for advertising dollars, Facebook and Instagram in terms of audience size. The lack of reach currently offered by Snapchat, especially outside of North America, remains a limiting factor for marketers looking to leverage the platform’s full potential.

“Despite the improvements made on the platform towards the end of 2017, Snapchat’s ad product offerings need to improve to measure up to its competitors. They need to offer improved viewability metrics for marketers if they want to increase their ad revenue and be successful moving forward.

“Currently, having a programmatic access (APIs) to the Snap platform requires special permission from the platform. This means that both marketers and advertisers have no programmatic access to learn about the audience and know what content to create and how to target. Snapchat will face another huge growth barrier in 2018 if they continue to only open its API to a selected number of brands.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Twitter posts its first ever profitable quarter

Twitter’s shares jumped over 20% on news that the social media company returned to revenue growth after reporting its first-ever profitable quarter.

The company’s performance in the last three months of 2017 brings a positive end to an otherwise difficult year. The company instituted a number of changes aimed at making it more competitive with regards to advertising.

The company, which has long trailed being Google and Facebook in terms of building a userbase and advertising revenue, brought in live-streaming video function and doubled its tweet character limit.

But the quarterly figures show that monthly active users remained flat in Q4 2017 at 330 million. Daily active users, however, were up by 12%.

But the company reported that its net income for the quarter was $91 million. This is compared to the $167 million of losses the company took in the same period the year before.

Industry comment

Aaron Goldman, CMO, 4C Insights:

“Twitter’s strong quarter is a clear reflection of brands steadily increasing their investment to capitalise on multi-screen marketing. Twitter has become the defacto place for the world to react to news, politics, sport, TV, weather and more.

“As such, it’s a great aperture for brands to deliver timely messages to targeted audiences. We are seeing this momentum carry over into Q1 with major tentpole events like the Golden Globes, GRAMMYs, Super Bowl, Winter Games, and Oscars.”

Nick Fletcher, Vice President, Rakuten Marketing:

“This is a momentous occasion for Twitter. It’s not too surprising, there’s been plenty of talk of the last quarter being a particularly strong one for the platform with monthly active users on the rise again. The compelling question is whether Twitter’s popularity has been driven by Facebook’s recent moves to restructure the news feed less in favour of advertiser and publisher content.

“It remains to be seen whether Zuckerberg’s belief that less time on social media will result in a higher quality of engagement, there’s certainly an argument for it, but for now brands are clearly happy with Twitter’s accomplishments in video and live broadcast and see a growing role for the platform in campaigns.”

Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO, Socialbakers:

“Slowed user growth remains a concern when it comes to Twitter, however, live video will be a critical investment for Twitter as content formats and ways to engage with audiences continues to evolve. Twitter has Live video from the Periscope acquisition and now would be the right time to ramp up the Live content format given the reach and engagement brands are seeing from it on other platforms.

“Twitter is clearly trying to make story-telling easier by allowing even more context to its algorithms to make them smarter when it comes to serving ads, with the addition of live formats to its features. This should ultimately help continue to differentiate the platform, drive user engagement and increase the user base.

“At the same time, investment in live videos makes Twitter an even more important platform to consider, providing marketers with new opportunities to define how advertising funds are spent on social media platforms and richer options to share content across multiple ad formats (Live, Pictures, Text) to capitalize on the attention of target audiences.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Third UK consumers will exercise GDPR right to be forgotten

Over a third of British consumers are planning to use their ‘right to be forgotten’ when GDPR comes into effect, according to research by independent media agency the7stars.

In a survey of over 1,000 UK consumers, 34% said that currently want to use their new powers to ensure that companies do not use their personal data for marketing purposes. The research revealed that concerns over data protection and privacy are weighing fairly heavily on the mind of consumers.

Only 19% of those surveyed were confident that their personal data was being used in the “best possible way. GDPR had prompted 58% of respondents to question the amount of personal data businesses currently hold.


Despite concerns over the ways that companies are using data generated by their online activity, the research shows that there is still a large degree of misunderstanding about GDPR among consumers. 27% said that they had a good understanding of how GDPR will affect them when it comes into effect.

75% believed that it was the job of the government to make clear what GDPR is, particularly with respondents aged over 65 (88%).

The regulations are generally viewed favourably, with 58% saying they are a positive development. The regulations could be good news for brands too, with 32% of respondents they would trust brands more with their data after May 25th.

“With ‘Implementation Day’ now less than 100 days away, time is running out fast for brands, advertisers and marketers to get their data ducks in a row,” Frances Revel of the7stars said.

“Given the importance of data to business operations, the fact that over a third of people are looking to exercise their right to be forgotten represents a real threat that cannot be ignored.

“However, there is still time for Government and brands to come together to tackle consumer concerns around data protection and privacy head on, and the brands who get this right stand to gain the most.”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

Five ways to combat shopping cart abandonment

It’s February, and that means only one thing – its 11 months until the next set of January sales.

A few years ago, consumers would have to battle huge crowds, trudging from shop to shop in the freezing cold, elbowing people out the way to get the best deals only to find they’ve run out of stock…but, this year it is likely that many of us were getting our hands on cut price products from our warm and cozy living rooms.

In 2018, sales shopping on the high street is but a distant memory for many of us. Sales figures continue to fall as we increasingly choose to browse and buy via our laptops or mobile phones.

It’s true, we love online shopping. But it’s not without its flaws. In fact, online shopping is in the throes of a crisis. 76% of people who visit an online store abandon their carts without finishing their purchase. And a report by Barclays showed that this means UK retailers are missing out on a whopping £3.4bn worth of potential sales.

Why does this happen at such an alarming rate? The truth is, just like heading out to Oxford Street, the path to the final purchase online is often also long and arduous, fraught with unnecessary payment obstacles, unexpected costs or complicated delivery methods. Really, it’s no surprise that so many customers end up giving up on their purchase before payment.

Of course, there’s no denying that since online shopping is minimal effort, it’s a lot easier for a customer to fling something in their cart with no real desire to buy it in the first place. In fact, data from Statista claims that 38-40% of shoppers have no intention of purchasing the items in their shopping cart.

But the study also exposed issues with the shopping experience: 56% of consumers were shown to have abandoned cart due to unexpected costs, 25% because the navigation was too complicated, 21% felt the process took too long and 17% because of concerns about security. These are issues that retailers can easily rectify.

So how, exactly, can you make the road to purchase as smooth as possible so the customer pushes their virtual cart all the way across the finish line? Here are some practical tips:

1. Optimise the omnichannel experience

Everyone shops differently. But nobody wants a clumsy user experience. Whether they’re scrolling on an iPhone or an Android or clicking on a Mac or a PC, the online shopping experience needs to be seamless on every possible device. That’s easier said than done considering there are over 24,000 unique Android devices alone, each with their own nuances.

25% of shopping cart abandonment is because of complicated navigation – make sure there’s a straightforward path from cart to checkout on every single device a customer might be using. You can do this by testing the customer journey on as many different devices and for as many different groups as possible – have all bases covered. Thorough attention to detail during the testing process will pay off.

2. Keep the admin to a minimum

Don’t make it hard for the customer by asking them to fill out every last personal detail or redirecting them to third party sites. 46% of total shopping cart abandonment happens at payment stage, according to Internet Retailer. Entering endless bits of unnecessary information isn’t only time-consuming, it also reminds the user that their details are going to be fed into your omnichannel marketing machine.

The site’s design should reflect this simplicity. It’s worth remembering that the payments page is the very last stage of the customer’s journey – now is not the time to distract them. Don’t redirect them to another site, don’t offer them marketing material – just make sure that all they have to do is pay.

3.  Provide options for check-out

Don’t force new customers to make an account with a password and a profile if they don’t want to. Instead, you should provide a guest checkout option. You won’t lose out on their details – they have to include them for shipping and payment – and this way, they won’t feel like they’re being mined for their data.

On the flip side, however, you should give users who plan to return the option to create profiles where they can store valuable information. This means that next time, they can simply sign in and go, with no need to re-enter details.

And as the number of payment options continues to increase, particularly with the rise of mobile wallets, the main take-away for retailers is that no matter the method they should be able to support how each customer choose to pay.

4. Ensure trust

Purchasing online requires the customer putting their faith in an e-retailer. When consumers are handing over their personal and financial information, they must be reassured that it’s not going to be misused. Security breaches aren’t exactly uncommon – seldom does a week go by without a major one being reported. And it’s increasing – more data was lost and stolen in the first half of 2017 (1.9 billion records) than the whole of 2016 (1.37 billion).

It’s key that your customers have enough trust in the buying process to enter their data. The easiest way to do this is to show them that their information is secure. You should also display trust symbols on your site, particularly well-known security logos: Verisign, or PayPal Verified, for example.

5. No hidden surprises

There’s nothing worse than making it to checkout, preparing to take your card out of your wallet, but then to be presented with a nasty surprise: a delivery cost you weren’t prepared for.

Make sure your shipping costs are totally transparent before the customer has added it to their basket. You can even add a delivery calculator before checkout to estimate the costs. And it goes without saying that a surefire way to your customer’s heart is to offer free shipping where possible, or at least discounted shipping based on the order value.

Another way of avoiding shipping charges is to offer in-store pick-up. This is a growing trends – a survey conducted by Internet Retailer in August 2016 showed that 57% of respondents had chosen to buy online and collect their item in-store, saving money on shipping and eliminating the need to wait at home for a package.

There you have it: whilst shopping cart abandonment may be an irritation, it’s not hard to solve. The key is to make the potential customer’s journey go as smoothly as possible: no potholes, no unexpected tariffs, no endless data entry. By making the process as easy as possible, there shouldn’t be any reason for a potential customer not to become a returning customer.

-by Sam O’Meara

Consent and security: GDPR in the adtech ecosystem

GDPR will come into effect on 25 May 2018, representing the biggest change to data protection across the EU in a decade.

Talking to a lot of advertisers, you could be forgiven for thinking that the sky is falling. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and the change does represent significant opportunities for companies smart enough to take them.

Tiffany Morris is General Counsel & Vice President of Global Privacy at Lotame, and has been having 3 – 5 GDPR-related calls a week with her clients over the last few months. Lotame has two parts to its business, both of which are going to be heavily affected by the incoming regulations.

On one hand the company operates a data management platform with a heavy client base in Europe. On the other is the Lotame Data Exchange, one of the larger third party data exchanges for licensing third party data.

So, Morris is definitely a good person to speak to about GDPR.

“We can’t escape it, it really is at the core of what we are doing in both areas,” she says.

Setting a standard

For Morris, one clear effect of the approaching implementation date is an increased desire for cooperation among the company’s clients, especially with regards to some key areas where there is still a huge amount of uncertainty.

“One of the areas that we are really focused on with clients is how to handle consent,” she says. “How do we handle lawful means of processing in a world where we are placing third party tags? We are investigating universal consent management solutions.” Consent is going to be one of the biggest issues for many companies, but the guidance available so far hasn’t been clear. The IAB released its standards for consent in November 2017 which while useful, left many companies undecided on how they are going to implement them.

“GDPR is also a nice opportunity to explain to clients in a lot of detail about how some of the functionality works and what role we have vis-à-vis the data versus how they are controlling their own data,” says Morris. “So, one positive of GDPR is being able to get down in the weeds with clients and really show the value that we bring to the table.”

The data exchange side of the business adds a further layer of complication to the process. The recently released EU Article 29 Working Party consent guidelines lacked any specificity around the responsibilities of third parties in the ecosystem. “So, we are faced with this challenge moving forward of having a lot of data aggregators that are getting data from a lot of sources,” continues Morris. “We like the scale but we know that we need quality data, we need to know the provenance of that data, we need to be able to establish that there was a lawful means of collecting and processing it.”

Another clear effect of entering the final straight before the implementation date is the division of clients into those that have a good idea of what they need to do and are working hard to get a handle on the many grey areas. Others, however, are still struggling.

“There are ones that know what they need to do, are trying to figure it out and have the capital to hire advisors if they need them,” Morris says. “You also have those clients that are publishers and already have challenging business models and when you layer GDPR on top of that they can struggle to get their heads around the economic challenges that media businesses may be facing. It’s a pretty broad spectrum.”

The issue of consent

There are a whole host of potential obstacles for companies to stumble over in their quest for compliance. The huge diversity of data management and processing systems, as well as the wide range of data sources could all combine with faulty governance to create a serious headache for companies.

For Ari Levenfeld, Chief Privacy Officer at the world’s largest independent buy-side ad platform Sizmek, the numbers of non-complying companies could be high: “GDPR is a potentially major risk for companies that don’t take steps to comply. A recent Forrester study predicted that as many as 80% of all companies will not comply with the GDPR by the May 25 deadline – half of which will choose not to comply. Conversely, companies that have decided to invest significant time and resources into GDPR compliance are positioned not just to protect themselves from regulatory scrutiny and massive fines, but also protect the interests of their customers.”

Morris thinks the biggest challenge, especially in the adtech ecosystem, is going to be establishing what the lawful means for processing data, and passing it on through the ecosystem. Every partner involved in a particular ecosystem will have to prove that they have gained consent and that they have the right means to process the data in question.

“That’s the most challenging because if you look at how a transaction is processed and how many partners data flows through before an ad is actually served, and how many of those transactions are processed through the use of third party tags. It’s very difficult envision how you get that chain if you are relying on consent for example,” she says.

“How do you pass that chain of consent along in real time to what may be 30 different partners before the ad is served? That is specific to our industry, and we have to figure it out as an industry because I don’t think we are going to see that guidance coming from regulators.”

The problem this creates is significant. Consent needs to start with the consumer, but they can’t be involved in providing consent at every step in the ecosystem chain, especially when they don’t have enough fingers to count the number of companies involved in using the data generated by the initial transaction.

“So much of the law is driven around the idea that consumers should understand how their data is being collected and used and that they should really have a lot of authority in deciding how it is used,” Morris explains. “That works well in a 1-2-1 relationship.

“But what is more complicated is that a hypothetical retailer is relying on a multitude of partners to use and process that data in different ways. And, particularly in adtech, so many of those partners would never have a direct relationship with the consumer, and most consumers, not because they are uneducated but because they haven’t been exposed, doesn’t understand how this ecosystem works.”

Providing the kind of robust disclosure that this theoretically require, where a company lists the 10 or so ways they are planning to use and sell on a customer’s data, could mean going into so much detail that the disclosure becomes essentially indigestible for the consumer. “I think that is a really, really big challenge,” agrees Morris.

The issue of security

The focus of GDPR is principally about the privacy of consumers, about giving European citizens more control over the online data that is generated as they interact with companies. This creates responsibilities for companies not just around gaining consent to use data, but also handling it in a way that ensures it remains safe.

Security in this context means more than just making sure that the data isn’t stolen or compromised, it means guaranteeing that it is not subject to unauthorized or unlawful processing. For Levenfeld, this has created concerns among many brands that they might be lacking the technical and organisational measures needed to comply with the new requirements.

“The GDPR has numerous, specific compliance requirements around data governance and policy,” he says.

“For example, privacy by design is no longer an easy checkbox that companies may say they have considered when developing their products. Instead, considering privacy by design under the GDPR requires real effort and proof.”

At the very least companies are going to need to complete Data Protection Impact Assessments for each product or service they sell that utilises personal data. “Companies also need to explicitly define and publish their data retention periods,” Levenfeld says. “Companies should build data governance mechanisms to govern how data is collected and processed, to help ensure that they are only processing when they have a lawful basis to do so.”

With regards to the security in the adtech world in particular, the emphasis for companies will be making sure that they know exactly who has access to the private data transactions with consumers generate, both internally and externally.

“Measuring the effectiveness of your security systems with penetration testing by security specialists, regular updates and patching of software, and the creation of a Technical Organizational Measures (TOM) document are important ways to keep up to date and document your efforts,” continues Levenfeld.

“Security also includes putting a plan in place to respond to breaches and mitigate damage should one occur. At Sizmek, we recommend that companies complete table-top exercises to run through their breach response plan so key team members have experience practicing how to follow a breach response process before it actually happens.”

Focusing on quality

Another important consideration for international companies that do a large proportion of their business in Europe is whether they carry these changes over to the other parts of their operations. “I think, if you look at a few years ago, and I was guilty of it too, you would have different discussions with US clients then you would have with European or global ones around privacy,” says Morris.

In this sense, GDPR could really set a global standard for the way that businesses are expected to deal with security. “It doesn’t make sense from a cost perspective to handle privacy differently in the US and India and so on then you do in Europe. I think what you’ll see companies doing is adopting the European standard for everything, and it will become the bar.”

So, while the regulations are set to leave lasting changes across the adtech landscape, it is not an entirely negative picture. The majority of press coverage, especially in the UK, around GDPR has painted a picture of a doomsday scenario where no one is ready on the implementation date. What has been largely absent so far is any talk of opportunities that the new laws present to companies smart enough to exploit them.

“It is an opportunity for companies to really dig in cross functionality and understand how their various business units are using and processing data,” agrees Morris. “That is helpful and is a valid exercise for any company, and maybe prior to this law people weren’t doing enough in this area.

“We really see this as an opportunity to focus on data quality, because the costs of compliance are higher under GDPR, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be throwing around large quantities of data without really understanding where it has come from and whether it brings a ROI to data buyers.”

At the heart of GDPR is the necessity to change the focus of data collection and processing from quantity to quality. It is no longer going to be a reasonable strategy for companies to just hoover up as much data as they can and then try to decide what to do with it after the fact. Companies are going to be required to have clear aims and clear strategies for what they are going to do with the data they collect, and be able to articulate them in a way that doesn’t turn off consumers.

Because under GDPR a business does need to tell consumers what they are planning on doing with the data, not just what data they are using. “That is what is hard for the initial party that has the direct relationship with the consumer because they may be using that data in so many different ways and working with so many different partners all doing different things, and under the law, in theory, they need to disclose every use of how they are collecting and processing the data and obtain consent or establish a lawful means of processing for each use,” explains Morris.

A retailer, for example, could find themselves having to tell their consumers that they collect their personal information so that they can make sure that the shipping and delivery get a purchased product to the right place. The consumer is likely to give consent for this. But, the retailer will also have to say that they also sell the data to a third party so that they profit from their consumer data, and then go through the 15 – 20 other ways that they are going to use the data. The retailer is theoretically required to gain consent for each of these individual uses.

“A consumer could theoretically say that they are fine with the use of data to ship them products, but are not ok with it being sent to third parties,” says Morris.

Costs of compliance

Perhaps one of the most frequent questions that Morris is asked is whether the incoming regulations will lead to a heavier cost of compliance for companies. The answer will really depend on what type of data a company is dealing with. Many US companies could see a rise in the cost of compliance due to the wider classification of what constitutes personal data.

US companies have historically viewed personal data as being things like names, street addresses and government IDS. Data that is capable of immediately identifying an individual. European law, and especially GDPR, widens this definition of personal data to include things like cookies IDs and device identifiers.

“For companies like us, who only have cookie and device identifiers, it’s a big change to treat that in the same way we would if we were collecting social security numbers,” says Morris.

This could affect the cost of compliance because if you are trading data, names and government IDs are always going to have more value than mobile advertising IDs. “So, now you take a company that has been trading only in these device identifiers, the perception is that those have lower economic value,” says Morris. “You earn less money from processing those types of data, but they are now held to the same compliance standard as a company like a bank that’s processing financial information like names and account numbers. That seems a little incongruent.”

In the end, perhaps the biggest question is what the result of GDPR will be for consumers. Will implementation actually result in a more personalized ad landscape for consumers? Is there going to be any noticeable benefit for consumers at all?  For Morris, it really comes down to what consumers actually want:

“I think what they want more than anything is access to free content. That’s the world in which we have been operating, where I get access to lots of free content on the internet because I put up with the word of online advertising. I really think that is what consumers want. I think that what regulators don’t realize is, if you take away that online advertising component, which this law along with the proposed ePrivacy regulation makes a potential outcome. This means that consumers lose free content as companies put up paywalls as they need to recoup the revenue they lost from decreased advertising.”

This leads to a worry that what might appear to be a good development for consumers in the short term may end up having detrimental effects in the years to come.

“I worry that it’s going to be ‘hey, we thought we wanted more flexibility around how companies use our data and what types of ads we see, but now I’m paying for Facebook and I didn’t ever really want to do that.’”

– by Colm Hebblethwaite

4 Popular SEO Beliefs That Are Undeniably Wrong

People read a lot of bad information about SEO – but they don’t know it’s bad information.

As a result, people believe in things that make no sense at all.

That’s why, in our industry, there’s no shortage of posts about SEO myths.

However, these lists of myths often fail to mention some of the biggest myths that real SEO professionals refuse to let go of – but should.

Here are four beliefs that truly are very popular in the SEO community – and are also provably and undeniably wrong.

Also, “number four will shock you.”

This should be fun!

SEO Belief 1: Correlation Studies Tell Us How the Algorithm Works

A lot of major SEO blogs publish lists of “ranking factors”:

There’s just one problem.

These aren’t lists of ranking factors.

We don’t know every Google ranking factor.

The only ranking signals we know for sure that Google uses are the ones Google has told us.

Google does not, for the most part, tell us what information they use in order to rank sites.

Most of the things that we suspect as ranking factors are based on inference and speculation, as well as personal experience.

These lists of “ranking factors” are actually lists of how much certain things we can measure based on publicly available data are correlated with rankings.

Correlation is the mathematical way of saying “these two things happen together more often than we would expect based on pure chance.”

Correlation does not mean that the thing we are measuring is a thing that the search engine is using to rank websites at all. It has never and will never mean that.

Google does not rank websites based on “Domain Authority,” even if “Domain Authority” is a metric Moz uses.

Correlation studies are valuable because they tell us some properties of URLs that Google is ranking well. This can be a useful jumping off point for your own experiments.

A correlation study should never act as a substitute for your own experimentation and personal experience.

The best way to identify what improves rankings is to identify specific strategies, put them to use, and measure the results. If that strategy consistently causes your rankings to increase, it is a strategy you should continue using.

It’s that simple, and that complicated.

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