Google admits to accidentally collecting e-mails, URLs, passwords

Google admitted in a blog post Friday that external regulators have discovered that e-mails, URLs and passwords were collected and stored in a technical mishap, while the vehicles for Google’s Street View service were out documenting roadway locations.

According to Google, data was mistakenly collected in more than 30 countries, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, some of Europe, and parts of Asia.

In the blog, posted by Alan Eustace, senior vice president of engineering and research, he noted "we failed badly here" and added that Google has spent months analyzing how to strengthen their internal privacy and security practices.

"We want to delete this data as soon as possible, and I would like to apologize again for the fact that we collected it in the first place," Eustace wrote.

Google announced in May that it had collected unencrypted WiFi data by mistake through its Street View service, but the severity of the situation was unknown.

According to a Google spokesperson, the company first became aware of the problem when the Data Protection Authority in Germany asked Google to review all of the data collected through its Street View cars as part of a routine check. The spokesperson added that in addition to street locations, Street View cars also collect WiFi data about hot spots in order to improve the location database for things such as Google Maps for mobile.

When Google went back and looked at the data, it turned out that in addition to WiFi hot spots, they were mistakenly collecting information that was being sent across unencrypted networks.

For the information to have been collected by Google, a person had to have been sending something over an unencrypted network at the same time that a Street View car was collecting data in that same location.

According to Google, the vast majority of the data is in fragments, but in the past week several countries have issued reports that they have found entire emails and passwords.

The data has since been segregated and secured, and WiFi data is no longer being collected from Street View cars.

Google has deleted the data collected from Ireland, Austria, Denmark and Hong Kong, but other countries have opened their own investigations, and Google has not been given permission from authorities to delete the data.

In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said, "This alarming admission that Google collected entire e-mails and passwords validates and heightens our significant concerns. Our multistate investigation, led by Connecticut, into Google’s alleged invasion of privacy through wireless networks is continuing."

In the blog post, Eustace outlined the steps that Google is taking to strengthen its internal privacy and security practices including appointing a director of privacy across both engineering and product management and enhancing the core training that engineers and employees responsible for data collection receive.

"We are mortified by what happened, but confident that these changes to our processes and structure will significantly improve our internal privacy and security practices for the benefit of all our users," Eustace wrote.

Story by Marina Landis, CNN – www.cnn.com

Good Experiences Motivate Women to Share Product Info

Females care more about relating positive vs. negative word-of-mouth

Marketers looking to spur brand advocacy among women—or those worried about the possibility of negative brand buzz facilitated by social media—have another piece of evidence that good experiences are a key motivator of brand discussions.

A survey of online women in North America by female-focused marketing and communications firm Harbinger found that 92% of them turn to friends and family for product information, making word-of-mouth their top source. They consider it important to seek and share information on a variety of product categories, with appliances, restaurants, automobiles and entertainment leading the list.

In the food and beverage category, which more than two-thirds of female internet users said they were likely to share information about, 58% said they would do so because of a good experience. A bad experience would motivate 46% of respondents to speak up.

Top 5 Reasons Female Internet Users in North America Seek and Share Information on Food and Beverages, Spring 2010 (% of respondents)

Experiences with appliances—which 80% of women surveyed said they would spread the word about—were even stronger motivators. Four in five respondents reported they would share good experiences with others, while just under three-quarters said the same of bad experiences.

Top 5 Reasons Female Internet Users in North America Seek and Share Information on Appliances, Spring 2010 (% of respondents)

In every product category studied, sharing good experiences, and often a desire to help other consumers make smart purchases, came ahead of sharing bad experiences as a word-of-mouth generator. A truly negative brand experience may still garner negative buzz online or offline, but the women surveyed were more inspired by the positive.

And despite the popularity of social media among women—and marketers’ propensity to target them there and turn them into online brand advocates—those studied preferred to share information with friends and family face-to-face (92%). They were also more likely to share info in person with strangers or acquaintances (36%) than via a website (32%) or social networking site (27%).

Companies Struggle to Keep Social Media Content On-Message

Nearly three-quarters of blog posts don’t reflect corporate messaging

Marketers and other corporate communications professionals may sometimes feel they have a thankless task: carefully craft messages about their company’s thought leadership, social responsibility efforts and new product or service launches, only to find those messages distorted as they’re disseminated through the media.

PR and communications firm Burson-Marsteller analyzed more than 150 messages sent out by companies in the Financial Times Global 100 list of firms and discovered a large gap between the messages that went out and how they were covered on blogs.

Message distortion was highest for companies in Latin America and the US, with a global average of 69% of blog postings not reflecting the message companies were trying to send. According to the report, bloggers tended to include “opinions, personal experience, knowledge of competitors and products, and speculation.”

Distortion of Company Messages Conveyed by Blogs, by Region, May 2010 (% of messages analyzed)

Distorted messages are not a new phenomenon; they have been a problem in mainstream media as well. Still, the message gap between companies and the traditional media is significantly smaller: Less than half of all messages in mainstream media failed to reflect company messages, and here the US performed above average.

Distortion of Company Messages Conveyed in Mainstream Media, by Region, May 2010 (% of messages analyzed)

But as blogs continue to grow in importance and become integrated in mainstream outlets, along with the growth of other forms of social media, the chances for message distortion are likely to be high.

One way companies can combat the message gap is to make the most of owned media. If companies create their own compelling content and distribute it across social networks, there is no room for such a gap. Bloggers are not likely to simply reprint such old-media items as press releases, but relevant branded content can attract links across Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social web.

According to the “2010 Social Media Usage, Attitudes and Measurability” study from King Fish Media, HubSpot and Junta42, 73% of US companies with a social media strategy were using branded content they created in their campaigns. Such original content was considered the most important part of a successful social campaign, with nearly half of respondents calling it “extremely important.”

iPad Owners Valuable to Advertisers

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iPad owners demonstrate a number of demographic trends that make them valuable to advertisers, according to research from The Nielsen Company.

iPad Owners Skew Younger, Male
iPad owners skew younger and more male than owners of many other portable computing devices. Sixty-five percent of them are male and 63% of them are younger than the age of 35.

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In terms of likelihood to be male, the only device researched by Nielsen that even approaches the iPad is the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP), with 62% male ownership. In terms of age, iPad owners skew slightly older than iPod Touch owners (66% younger than 35) and PSP owners (68% younger than 35).

iPad Owners Open to Ads
iPad owners show rates of advertising receptiveness that are favorable compared to iPhone owners and overall connected device owners. In particular, iPad owners have positive response rates roughly double those of iPhone and overall connected device owners in the areas of clicking on ads that incorporate multimedia events, enjoying ads with interactive features, clicking on simple text ads, finding ads on their connected device new and interesting, liking to see what connected device ads can do, and enjoying viewing connected device ads.

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iPad Owners More Likely to Make Ad-related Purchases
Compared to overall connected device owners, after viewing a connected device ad, iPad owners are more likely to make a purchase via PC (36% compared to 27%), make a store purchase (24% compared to 10%), make a telephone purchase (12% compared to 7%) and make a direct purchase via connected device (8% compared to 5%).

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40% of iOS Device Users Make $75K-plus
In other good news for advertisers, about 50% of both iPad and iPhone users earn $75,000 or more annually, according to other recent Nielsen research. Within this income bracket, slightly more iPad users than iPhone users earn more than $100,000 annually.

In contrast, about 30% of all mobile subscribers earn more than $75,000 annually, with a much smaller proportion earning $100,000 or more than the proportion of iOS device users. Divided into featurephone and smartphone users, the income demographics of featurephone users are similar to those of overall mobile subscribers. However, about 45% of smartphone users (which includes iOS device users) earn $75,000 or more annually, with roughly the same proportion earning more than $100,000 annually as iOS device users.

About the Data: Nielsen’s new Connected Devices Playbook surveys more than 5,000 consumers who already own a tablet computer, eReader, netbook, media player or smartphone, including 400 iPad owners.

Can Twitter Turn a Revenue Trickle into a Stream?

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twitter_logo It’s been four months since Twitter announced its long-awaited Promoted Tweets advertising platform, so it seems a good time to assess the service’s initial campaigns.

Early participants included Virgin America, NBC Universal’s Bravo and Red Bull. Virgin America used Promoted Tweets to announce an expansion into Toronto and a 50%-off promotion for the first 500 travelers who flew from two California airports into the Canadian city. Adweek reported that the promotion sold out in 3 hours.

Bravo used Promoted Tweets to highlight an Earth Day promotion whereby consumers were invited to find out their “green IQ” on NBC Universal’s website. In 2 hours, the promotion hit 300 retweets, the maximum allowed under the program. And by the end of the first day, Bravo had received an estimated 200,000 impressions, according to a company representative. Red Bull did not provide metrics but reported “engagement rates … higher than typical cost-per-click and CPM advertising.”

It all sounds positive, but to put these numbers in perspective, 500 tickets does not seem like a huge volume for an airline the size of Virgin America, especially considering that the routes involved the most populous state in the US and the largest city in Canada.

The same could be said of Bravo’s promotion. Its site received more than 1.1 million unique visitors in May 2010, according to Compete. That 300 of them retweeted the Earth Day promotion does not point to a huge success. And the company did not give details of what it meant by “impressions.” Similarly, Red Bull’s statement of high “engagement rates” was nonspecific. And none of the companies revealed how much they spent on the promotion.

All of this translates to a service that’s flapping its wings but has yet to take flight. When you consider that Facebook is on track to produce $1.3 billion in ad revenue this year, Twitter has lots of catching up to do to monetize its audience.

But there is hope. The three top motivators for US Twitter users to follow companies are to get updates on future products, to stay informed about the activities of a company and to receive discounts and promotions, according to an ExactTarget study. If brand marketers can use Promoted Tweets creatively to achieve these goals, they will find a receptive audience at the other end of the Twitter stream.

Motivation to Follow a Company or Brand on Twitter, April 2010 (% of US Twitter users)

Twitter also launched its @earlybird Exclusive Offers program. This is a Twitter account that tweets limited-time deals and discounts from participating advertisers to users who follow the account. Twitter has teamed up with some of its potential competitors in the online deal space, including Groupon and Gilt Groupe.

Disney used @earlybird to promote its film release “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.” The movie opened July 16 to mostly negative reviews and is already considered a flop, so it’s not a good barometer of the effectiveness of @earlybird to get the word out about a film premiere, or any other product launch for that matter.

A better gauge of @earlybird’s early momentum is the number of followers. In its first month as an active account, it has already racked up 164,000. As more companies experiment with the service, some of them are bound to hit pay dirt. This should create a virtuous cycle of more consumers jumping on board, thereby enlarging the addressable audience for future promotions.

The question is whether Twitter can use these platforms to transform itself from a social phenomenon to a revenue generator before its investors run out of patience. It will take some big success stories to turn these baby steps into giant strides.

Social Network Ad Spending to Approach $1.7 Billion This Year

6.7% of all US online ad spending to go toward social networks this year

Social network advertising is getting renewed attention in 2010. The US’s gradual economic recovery, combined with marketers’ incessant focus on reaching consumers in social media, has led companies to make big increases in social network ad spending in the first half of 2010.

eMarketer estimates US advertisers will spend $1.68 billion on social networking sites this year, a more than 20% increase over 2009. Spending will rise even further by 2011 to more than $2 billion.

In December 2009, eMarketer forecast $1.3 billion in social network ad spending for 2010. Strong performance from online ad spending in general, and Facebook in particular, has resulted in the increased forecast.

US Social Network Ad Spending, 2009-2011 (billions and % change)

Facebook will receive half of all social network ad spending in the US while MySpace continues to diminish in importance. Twitter, which finally launched its ad business earlier this year, is incorporated into eMarketer’s forecast for the first time. While spending on the microblogging service will be low in 2010, the potential for 2011 and beyond could be dramatic if it proves that its “resonance” model of measuring advertising effectiveness works.

Spending on social network advertising will grow even more quickly elsewhere in the world. In 2010, eMarketer estimates just over half of social network ad spending worldwide will come from the US, but 2011 will bring a reversal in that proportion.

Social Network Ad Spending Worldwide, US vs. Non-US, 2009-2011 (billions and % of total)

Another important development in the social network space is the role of online social games and applications. Advertising is not a primary revenue stream for game companies such as Zynga or Playdom, but their large audiences are drawing the interest of marketers. eMarketer expects such companies will attract $293 million in spending worldwide in 2011, up from $220 million in 2010.

Marketers Put More Lead Gen Budgets Online

Online channels most effective—especially when rigorously measured

Lead generation budgets were slashed by many companies in 2009, but now that the economy is on the uptick again, dollars are flowing and acquiring new customers is a priority.

According to the “2010 Lead Generation Optimization Key Trends Analysis” from CSO Insights, more than 91% of companies worldwide reported increasing new customer acquisition was one of their top strategic marketing objectives for 2010.

Based on the quantity and quality of leads generated, companies said email was their best lead generation program, followed by live events, website registrations and webinars. The effectiveness of online channels, coupled with the fact that prospects indicate the web is the first place they look for more information, makes it natural for companies to be increasing their investments in web design, email marketing and search engine optimization.

Change* in Lead Generation Investments, 2010 (% of companies worldwide)

Investments in new media are also on the rise, even if it remains less effective than more traditional channels.

At the same time, the web was the area companies were most likely to say needed improvement in its ability to execute lead campaigns. For many marketers, there has already been significant improvement: 51% said the web did not meet expectations in 2010, compared with 68% who said the same in 2009.

Ability of Marketing Tactics to Effectively Execute Lead Campaigns, 2010 (% of companies worldwide)

In addition, marketers’ ability to measure their own success affected whether they thought the web was an effective channel. Among those companies that had not adopted a lead generation management system, 65% were dissatisfied with the performance of web-based lead generation efforts. But among marketers that did have a system in place to track leads, only 37% agreed—putting the web on par in effectiveness with traditional media advertising and ahead of direct mail or telemarketing.

“As more lead generation efforts shift to the Internet, tools to help develop, execute, and track campaign effectiveness will become a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have,’” said the report.

Digital Migration Hurts Traditional Media Revenues More than Expected

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The ongoing migration to digital media is damaging traditional media categories more than expected, according to a new white paper from PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Digital Migration Slams Publishing, Radio
The annual decline in 2009 revenues in several traditional media categories was more severe than originally forecast, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers research. Most striking was the decline in out-of-home revenues, which fell approximately 13% in 2009, compared to a forecast of about 7%. In addition, radio revenues declined about 9%, compared to an approximately 7% forecast.

The other two media categories which had a 2009 revenue decline more severe than originally predicted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers were newspaper publishing (approximately 12% compared to a forecast of slightly more than 10%) and consumer magazine publishing (about 11% compared to a forecast of about 9%).

Most Digital Categories Grow Beyond Expectations
In contrast, most digital media categories which experienced annual revenue growth in 2009 increased more than originally forecast. Most significantly, internet advertising revenues, which were predicted to decline about 3% in 2009, rose about 4%.

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In addition, revenue growth significantly outpaced expectations in categories such as internet access (about 8% compared to a forecast slightly more than 5%) and filmed entertainment (3% compared to about 1%).

The only exception was the revenue stream from video games, which only grew about 3%, compared to a forecast of about 8%. PriceWaterhouseCoopers analysis suggests this was primarily due to a number of high-profile developers delaying the release of new games originally scheduled for 2009.

Print Media Ad Spending Mostly Lags
Print media, on the whole, continued to lag the overall ad market in Q1 2010, according to recent data from Kantar Media. Consumer Magazine spending fell 3.9% from a year ago, while Local Newspapers dropped 5.6%. There was improvement in some narrow segments, as Sunday Magazine expenditures jumped 13.7% and National Newspapers increased 9.1%, primarily from gains at the Wall Street Journal, according to Kantar.

Location-Based Content Draws Mobile Users

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Research from Wi-Fi provider and mobile ad server JiWire buttresses reports on the effectiveness of mobile advertising, especially in apps and location-based services.

The company found that most users of its public Wi-Fi services had downloaded at least 10 smartphone apps and about two-thirds spent more than 30 minutes a day using the applications. In addition, 63% said they “frequently” use apps that require them to give their location to serve specific content.

JiWire’s audience was somewhat less likely to say they would allow an app to access their location just to serve more relevant advertisements, but more than one-half reported they would.

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While users seem to understand the trade-off of advertising for free content, with 76% saying they prefer ad-supported, free apps to paid ones, they are more ready to disclose location-based information for improved content than just for ads.

Nearly two-fifths of respondents said they were more likely to click on a mobile ad that was tailored to their specific location, while about one-half said it would not make a difference.

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Overall, more than one-half of mobile device users studied said they had engaged with in-app advertising within the past month, either by clicking an ad, going to the advertiser’s Website or making a purchase.

The Mobile Marketing Association and Luth Research found that location-based mobile ads had the highest response rates but a low ad recall rate of 9%. More than one-quarter of US mobile content users, by contrast, reported seeing in-app advertising.

Women May Welcome Targeting

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Tailored ads provide valuable, relevant info to female Web users

Perception is everything when it comes to targeted advertising. Web users must feel comfortable with targeting for the practice to pay off for marketers, and many don’t. March 2010 research from predictive behavioral targeting services company Q Interactive suggests that women have positive perceptions of targeting and want to see more of it.

The vast majority of female Internet users surveyed wanted more targeted offers from trusted brands. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they thought it was “cool” when they saw an online ad that was tailored to their interests, compared with only 10.8% who thought it was “weird.”

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“Women, who are so entrenched online, are creating new expectations of brands, agencies and marketers,” said Emily Girolamo, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Q Interactive, in a statement. “They are past any fear or suspicion when they get a targeted ad online—and now just expect, want and seek out brands online with meaning for their busy lives.”

More than one-half of women surveyed said they formed relationships with brands and Websites, indicating that a pre-existing level of trust may be important for ad targeting. Nearly two-fifths of respondents said they considered brands “good partners” that sent them relevant information they needed and used, while another one-fifth said brands were straightforward about deals and offers.

The top way for brands to win a good relationship with women was to give them things such as deals, following by getting to know them and providing them with valuable information. Discounts are a major reason people appreciate advertising in general, targeted or otherwise.

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“A number of surveys reveal significantly divergent perspectives among consumers about the intersection of privacy, data collected about them and their relationship with targeted online advertising,” said David Hallerman, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the report “Audience Ad Targeting: Data and Privacy Issues.”

“So, it’s not surprising that survey results from Q Interactive show great acceptance of targeted offers from brands, since the company sells behavioral targeting services,” said Mr. Hallerman. “And at the same time, offers such as discounts and deals appeal to most consumers, as a recent survey from Econsultancy also shows.”