Rights of data owners in a mashed-up world

The decision by Amazon-owned web traffic monitor Alexa to close access to its data API raises interesing questions about the rights of data owners and the viability of businesses built on the free use of that data by other parties.

Alexa’s move was apparently designed to stop Statsaholic (previously known as Alexaholic) from presenting Alexa data in what many users felt was a superior format.

Michael Arrington summarises the issue at TechCrunch with one commenter on his posting (a lawyer) suggesting that Statsaholic was within its rights to use the Alexa data, given that Alexa knew it was happening and allowed it to continue.

Statsaholic, meanwhile, has posted instructions on how to get around the Alexa ban, at least for users of the Firefox browser.

DoubleClick-Microsoft rumour intrigues analysts

Whether or not Microsoft is actually trying to purchase ad-serving giant DoubleClick (as reported in the Wall St Journal on Wednesday), the idea could cause big problems for DoubleClick by alienating it from some of its biggest customers. Kate Kaye summarises the problems for DoubleClick at ClickZ News. [dead link removed]

On the other hand, Larry Dignan of ZD Net sees advantages in such a merger for both DoubleClick and Microsoft.

Bot infections on the rise

Bob Sullivan at msnbc.com has posted part 1 of a lengthy two-part series on the increasing threat to internet users, and the net itself, posed by armies of bots that hijack personal computers.

The main points: the number of infected computers is rising, infiltration of your computer may be so subtle that you have no indication that your PC is infected, bots are increasingly responsible for crime (not just mischief), and the problem may be growing beyond what the IT security industry can deal with.

Why mobile search is different

An interesting item by Omar Tawakol at SearchInsider on why mobile search needs to be different from desk-top search.

…assuring a pleasing mobile search means a number of things, including: providing consumers a click-saving experience that returns answers instead of links; inferring a consumer’s context from his or her device, location and other information within ranking algorithms; balancing the subscriber’s short-term and long-term preferences to present personalized, relevant results that adapt to a consumer’s changing context; and providing rich client interfaces with streamlined interfaces including custom shortcuts, auto-completion of search terms, or voice inputs to simplify the user experience.

Video ads encourage click-throughs

Online ad-serving company DoubleClick says video ads get roughly twice the interaction of static image ads on websites. The findings are part of a study of 300 online video ads last year.

The video control consumers are most likely to click is the “Play” button. At 0.32 per cent, consumers are roughly twice as likely to play (or replay if a video starts automatically) an online video ad unit, as they are to click through on a standard JPG or GIF ad (the standard CTR for image ads is between 0.1 and 0.2 per cent).

The study also found that video ads are typically played two-thirds of the way through.

Beyond simply interacting with the video, DoubleClick says web users are much more likely to actually click through from a video ad to the advertiser’s own site, with a CTR between 0.4 and 0.74 per cent.

Lottery corp quick with online PR

OLG ad on thestar.com 
Part of the front page of thestar.com this afternoon

The Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation wasted no time trying to convince us of its integrity on the day it was slammed by the provincial ombudsman over millions of dollars in prizes paid to lottery retailers and their staff.

Prominent ads for the government-owned OLG, headined “Making it even better”, appeared on the front pages of thestar.com [screenshot above] and canada.com, only centimetres from stories quoting the ombudsman’s scathing condemnation of the corporation’s conduct.

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Comments on comments

Rob Hyndman asks whether 608 comments at the bottom of a blog item is really “a conversation” or just a way for people to scrawl “I was here”. I think it’s a good point.

To be sure, switching on the comments is an easy way for a news site to look like it is trying to engage with its readers. And there are times when a story or issue generates many more insightful comments than will ever make it into a newspaper’s limited space for letters to the editor. So the web can give everyone an opportunity to be heard.

But, acknowledging that many comments are nothing more than “I agree” or “I think you’re nuts” and do nothing to advance “the conversation”, what are we to make of the Globe and Mail website’s current campaign encouraging people with daft opinions to have them published?

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nzherald top stories – week of March 18

These were the most-read stories this week on nzherald.co.nz

1. TV stars can no longer afford their home
2. Lahar photos: Inspection confirms lahar likely to be over
3. Photos: Lahar could have been much worse
4. Pakistan coach died ‘of stress or heart attack’ – son
5. One missing after $3m trimaran hits fishing boat

Source: New Zealand Herald

CBC.ca reveals most-popular stories

The CBC website this week added a list of its most-viewed stories, sortable according to popularity over the previous 24 hours or previous seven days.

This is a good service (although not nearly as data-rich as the BBC’s) but it’s not easy to find. You need to be looking at the news front page (not the site front page) and, even then, the link is hard to spot as light grey text in a tab above the headlines list.

I’ve added a link direct to the CBC top stories list in the blog sidebar, where it joins the BBC and nzherald.