Twitter banned Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab from buying ads

The U.S. government isn’t the only one feeling skittish about Kaspersky Lab. On Friday, the Russian security firm’s founder Eugene Kaspersky confronted Twitter’s apparent ban on advertising from the company, a decision it quietly issued in January.

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“In a short letter from an unnamed Twitter employee, we were told that our company ‘operates using a business model that inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices,’” Kaspersky wrote.

“One thing I can say for sure is this: we haven’t violated any written – or unwritten – rules, and our business model is quite simply the same template business model that’s used throughout the whole cybersecurity industry: We provide users with products and services, and they pay us for them.”

He noted that the company has spent around than €75,000 ($93,000 USD) to promote its content on Twitter in 2017.

Kaspersky called for Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to specify the motivation behind the ban after failing to respond to an official February 6 letter from his company.

“More than two months have passed since then, and the only reply we received from Twitter was the copy of the same boilerplate text. Accordingly, I’m forced to rely on another (less subtle but nevertheless oft and loudly declared) principle of Twitter’s – speaking truth to power – to share details of the matter with interested users and to publicly ask that you, dear Twitter executives, kindly be specific as to the reasoning behind this ban; fully explain the decision to switch off our advertising capability, and to reveal what other cybersecurity companies need to do in order to avoid similar situations.”

In a statement about the incident, Twitter reiterated that Kaspersky Lab’s business model “inherently conflicts with acceptable Twitter Ads business practices.” In a statement to CyberScoop, Twitter pointed to the late 2017 Department of Homeland Security directive to eliminate Kaspersky software from Executive Branch systems due to the company’s relationship with Russian intelligence.

“The Department is concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks,” DHS asserted in the directive at the time.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/20/twitter-kaspersky-ban/

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Twitter is down again for some [Update: It’s Back]

Rough week to be in Twitter support. Three days after the site experienced downtime across the globe, the site was hit by another outage. Status.io’s service site is currently listing an “active incident,” leaving many users unable to tweet. In other cases, the site isn’t loading at all, instead serving up internal server errors or messages stating that the service is “over capacity.”

Here in the States, at least, the issue doesn’t appear to be quite as widespread as Tuesday’s incident. We’ve reached out to Twitter for comment and will update as soon as we hear more.

Update: Twitter says it’s resolved the momentary outage, telling TechCrunch in a statement, “Earlier today, people were unable to send Tweets for about 30 minutes. We’ve resolved the internal issue and we’re sorry for the disruption.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/20/twitter-is-down-again-for-some/

Facebook starts its facial recognition push to Europeans

Facebook users in Europe are reporting that the company has started giving them the option to turn on its controversial facial recognition technology.

Jimmy Nsubuga, a journalist at Metro, is among several European Facebook users who have reporting getting notifications asking if they want to turn on face recognition technology.

Facebook has previously said an opt-in option would be pushed out to all European users, and also globally, as part of changes to its T&Cs and consent flow.

In Europe the company is hoping to convince users to voluntarily allow it to deploy the privacy-hostile tech — which was turned off in the bloc after regulatory pressure, back in 2012, when Facebook began using facial recognition to offer features such as automatically tagging users in photo uploads.

But under impending changes to its T&Cs — ostensibly to comply with the EU’s incoming GDPR data protection standard — the company has crafted a manipulative consent flow that tries to sell people on giving it their data; including filling in its own facial recognition blanks by convincing Europeans to agree to it grabbing and using their biometric data after all.

Users who choose not to switch on facial recognition still have to click through a ‘continue’ screen before they get to the off switch. On this screen Facebook attempts to convince them to turn “face recognition” on — using manipulative examples of how facial recognition technology can “protect” them.

As another Facebook user who has received the notifications — journalist Jennifer Baker — points out, what it’s doing here is incredibly disingenuous — because it’s using fear to try to manipulate people’s choices.

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Under the EU’s incoming data protection framework Facebook cannot automatically opt users into facial recognition — it has to convince people to switch the tech on themselves. So it is emphasizing that users can choose whether or not to enable the technology.

But data protection experts we spoke to earlier this week do not believe Facebook’s approach to consent will be legal under GDPR.

Essentially, this is big data-powered manipulation of human decision-making — until the ‘right’ answer (for Facebook’s business) is ‘selected’ by the user. In other words, not freely given, informed consent at all.

Legal challenges are certain at this point.

A Facebook spokeswoman confirmed to TechCrunch that any European users who are being asked about the tech now, ahead of the May 25 GDPR deadline, are part of its rollout of platform changes intended to comply with the incoming standard.

“The flow is not a test, it is part of a rollout we are doing across the EU,” she said. “We are asking people for opt-in consent for three things — third party data for ads, facial recognition and the permission to process their sensitive data.”

She also confirmed that Facebook did run a test of “a very similar version of this flow to a small percentage of users in the EU back in March”, adding: “The flow + wording was broadly the same. At all times it was opt-in.”

The problem is, given Facebook controls the entire consent flow, and can rely on big data insights gleaned from its own platform (of 2BN+ users), this is not even remotely a fair fight. Manipulated acceptance is not consent.

But legal challenges take time. And in the meanwhile Facebook users are being manipulated, with selective examples and social engineering, into agreeing with things that align with the company’s data-harvesting business interests — handing over sensitive personal information without understanding the full implications of doing so.

It’s not clear exactly how many Facebook users were part of the earlier flow test for its face recognition tech. It’s likely the company used the aforementioned variations in wording to determine — via an A/B testing process — which consent screens were most successful at convincing people to accept the highly privacy-hostile technology.

Last month — when Facebook said it would be rolling out “a limited test of some of the additional choices we’ll ask people to make as part of GDPR” — it also said it would start “by asking only a small percentage of people so that we can be sure everything is working properly”.

Interestingly it did not put a number on how many people were involved in that test. And Facebook’s spokeswoman did not specify when we asked.

The company was likely hoping the test would not attract too much attention — given how much GDPR news is flowing through its PR channels, and how much attention the topic is generally sucking up.

But depending on how successful those tests prove to be, at convincing Europeans to let it have their facial biometric data, millions of additional Facebook users could soon be providing the company with fresh streams of sensitive information — and having their fundamental rights trampled on, yet again, thanks to a very manipulative consent flow.

This article was updated with a series of corrections after Facebook confirmed the notifications are in fact the rollout of its new consent flow, not part of the earlier tests. It has also told us categorically that no users were auto-enrolled in facial recognition tech in Europe — even in the test. So we’ve updated this article accordingly. 


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/20/just-say-no/

Facebook has auto-enrolled users into a facial recognition test in Europe

Facebook users in Europe are reporting the company has begun testing its controversial facial recognition technology in the region.

Jimmy Nsubuga, a journalist at Metro, is among several European Facebook users who have said they’ve been notified by the company they are in its test bucket.

The company has previously said an opt-in option for facial recognition will be pushed out to all European users next month. It’s hoping to convince Europeans to voluntarily allow it to expand its use of the privacy-hostile tech — which was turned off in the bloc after regulatory pressure, back in 2012, when Facebook was using it for features such as automatically tagging users in photo uploads.

Under impending changes to its T&Cs — ostensibly to comply with the EU’s incoming GDPR data protection standard — the company has crafted a manipulative consent flow that tries to sell people on giving it their data; including filling in its own facial recognition blanks by convincing Europeans to agree to it grabbing and using their biometric data after all. 

Notably Facebook is not offering a voluntary opt-in to Europeans who find themselves in its facial recognition test bucket. Rather users are being automatically turned into its lab rats — and have to actively delve into the settings to say no.

In a notification to affected users, the company writes [emphasis ours]: “You control face recognition. This setting is on, but you can turn it off at any time, which applies to features we may add later.”

Not only is the tech turned on, but users who click through to the settings to try and turn it off will also find Facebook attempting to dissuade them from doing that — with manipulative examples of how the tech can “protect” them.

As another Facebook user who found herself enrolled in the test — journalist Jennifer Baker — points out, what it’s doing here is incredibly disingenuous because it’s using fear to try to manipulate people’s choices.

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Under the EU’s incoming data protection framework Facebook will not be able to automatically opt users into facial recognition — it will have to convince people to switch the tech on themselves.

But the experiment it’s running here (without gaining individuals’ upfront consent) looks very much like a form of A/B testing — to see which of its disingenuous examples is best able to convince people to accept the highly privacy-hostile technology by voluntarily switching it on.

But given that Facebook controls the entire consent flow, and can rely on big data insights gleaned from its own platform (of 2BN+ users), this is not even remotely a fair fight.

Consent is being manipulated, not freely given. This is big data-powered mass manipulation of human decisions — i.e. until the ‘right’ answer (for Facebook’s business) is ‘selected’ by the user.

Data protection experts we spoke to earlier this week do not believe Facebook’s approach to consent will be legal under GDPR. Legal challenges are certain at this point.

But legal challenges also take time. And in the meanwhile Facebook users will be being manipulated into agreeing with things that align with the company’s data-harvesting business interests — and handing over their sensitive personal information without understanding the full implications.

It’s also not clear how many Facebook users are being auto-enrolled into this facial recognition test — we’ve put questions to it and will update this post with any reply.

Last month Facebook said it would be rolling out “a limited test of some of the additional choices we’ll ask people to make as part of GDPR”.

It also said it was “starting by asking only a small percentage of people so that we can be sure everything is working properly”, and further claimed: “[T]he changes we’re testing will let people choose whether to enable facial recognition, which has previously been unavailable in the EU.”

Facebook’s wording in those statements is very interesting — with no number put on how many people will be made into test subjects (though it is very clearly trying to play the experiment down; “limited test”, “small”) — so we simply don’t know how many Europeans are having their facial data processed by Facebook right now, without their upfront consent.

Nor do we know where in Europe all these test subjects are located. But it’s pretty likely the test contravenes even current EU data protection laws. (GDPR applies from May 25.)

Facebook’s description of its testing plan last month was also disingenuous as it implied users would get to choose to enable facial recognition. In fact, it’s just switching it on — saddling test subjects with the effort of opting out.

The company was likely hoping the test would not attract too much attention — given how much GDPR news is flowing through its PR channels, and how much attention the topic is generally sucking up — and we can see why now because it’s essentially reversed its 2012 decision to switch off facial recognition in Europe (made after the feature attracted so much blow-back), to grab as much data as it can while it can.

Millions of Europeans could be having their fundamental rights trampled on here, yet again. We just don’t know what the company actually means by “small”. (The EU has ~500M inhabitants — even 1%, a “small percentage”, of that would involve millions of people… )

Once again Facebook isn’t telling how many people it’s experimenting on.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/20/just-say-no/

Twitter doesn’t care that someone is building a bot army in Southeast Asia

Facebook’s lack of attention to how third parties are using its service to reach users ended up with CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking questions from Congressional committees. With that in mind, you’d think that others in the social media space might be more attentive than usual to potentially malicious actors on their platforms.

Twitter, however, is turning the other way and insisting all is normal in Southeast Asia, despite the emergence of thousands of bot-like accounts that have followed prominent users in the region en masse over the past month.

Scores of reporters and Twitter users with large followers — yours truly included — have noticed swarms of accounts with generic names, no profile photo, no bio and no tweets have followed them over the past month.

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These accounts might be evidence of a new ‘bot farm’ — the creation of large numbers of accounts for sale or usage on-demand which Twitter has cracked down on — or the groundwork for more nefarious activities, it’s too early to tell.

In what appears to be the first regional Twitter bot campaign, a flood of suspicious new followers has been reported by users across Southeast Asia and beyond, including Thailand, Myanmar Cambodia, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, Sri Lanka among other places.

While it is true that the new accounts have done nothing yet, the fact that a large number of newly-created accounts have popped up out of nowhere with the aim of following the region’s most influential voices should be enough to concern Twitter. Especially since this is Southeast Asia, a region where Facebook is beset with controversies — from its role inciting ethnic hatred in Myanmar, to allegedly assisting censors in Vietnam, witnessing users jailed for violating lese majeste in Thailand, and aiding the election of controversial Philippines leader Duterte.

Then there are governments themselves. Vietnam has pledged to build a cyber army to combat “wrongful views,” while other regimes in Southeast Asia have clamped down on social media users.

Despite that, Twitter isn’t commenting.

The U.S. company issued a no comment to TechCrunch when we asked for further information about this rush of new accounts, and what action Twitter will take.

A source close to the company suggested that the sudden accumulation of new followers is “a pretty standard sign-up, or onboarding, issue” that is down to new accounts selecting to follow the suggested accounts that Twitter proposes during the new account creation process.

Twitter is more than 10 years old, and since this is the first example of this happening in Southeast Asia that explanation already seems inadequate at face value. More generally, the dismissive approach seems particularly naive. Twitter should be looking into the issue more closely, even if for now the apparent bot army isn’t being put to use yet.

Facebook is considered to be the internet by many in Southeast Asia, and the social network is considerably more popular than Twitter in the region, but there remains a cause for concern here.

“If we’ve learned anything from the Facebook scandal, it’s that what can at first seem innocuous can be leveraged to quite insidious and invasive effect down the line,” Francis Wade, who recently published a book on violence in Myanmar, told the Financial Times this week. “That makes Twitter’s casual dismissal of concerns around this all the more unsettling.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/20/twitter-doesnt-care-that-someone-is-building-a-bot-army-in-southeast-asia/

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

The lessons Rand has learned from building and growing Moz are almost old enough to drive. From marketing flywheels versus growth hacks, to product launch timing, to knowing your audience intimately, Rand shares his best advice from a decade and a half of marketing Moz in today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday.

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Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we are going to chat about some of the big lessons learned for me personally building this company, building Moz over the last 16, 17 years.

Back in February, I left the company full-time. I’m still the Chairman of the Board and contribute in some ways, including an occasional Whiteboard Friday here and there. But what I wanted to do as part of this book that I’ve written, that’s just coming out April 24th, Lost and Founder, is talk about some of the elements in there, maybe even give you a sneak peek.

If you’re thinking, “Well, what are the two or three chapters that are super relevant to me?” let me try and walk you through a little bit of what I feel like I’ve taken away and what I’m going to change going forward, especially stuff that’s applicable to those of us in web marketing, in SEO, and in broader marketing.

Marketing flywheels > growth hacks

First off, marketing flywheels, in my experience, almost always beat growth hacks. I know that growth hacks are trendy in the last few years, especially in the startup and technology worlds. There’s been this sort of search for the next big growth hack that’s going to transform our business. But I’ve got to be honest with you. Not just here at Moz, but in all of the companies that I’ve had experience with as a marketer, this tends to be what that looks like when it’s implemented.

So folks will find a hack. They’ll find some trick that works for a little while, and it results in this type of a spike in their traffic, their conversions, their success metrics of whatever kind. So they’ve discovered a way to game Facebook or they found this new black hat trick or they found this great conversion device. Whatever it is, it’s short term and short lasting. Why is this? It tends to be because of something Andrew Chen calls — and I’ll use his euphemism here — it’s called the “Law of Shitty Click-through Rates,” which essentially says that over time, as people get experienced with a sort of marketing trend, they become immune to its effects.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

You can see this in anything that sort of tries to hack at consciousness or take advantage of psychological biases. So you get this pattern of hack, hack, hack, hack, and then none of the hacks you’re doing work anymore. Even if you have a tremendously successful one, even if this is six months in length, it tends to be the case that, over time, those diminish and decline.

Conversely, a marketing flywheel is something that you build that generates inertia and energy, such that each effort and piece of energy that you put into it helps it spin faster and faster, and it carries through. It takes less energy to turn it around again and again in the future after you’ve got it up and spinning. This is how a lot of great marketing works. You build a brand. You build your audience. They come to you. They help it amplify. They bring more and more people back. In the web marketing world, this works really well too.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So most of you are familiar with Moz’s flywheel, but I’ll try and give it a rough explanation here. We start down here with content ideas that we get from spending lots of time with SEOs. We do keyword research, and we optimize these posts, including look at Whiteboard Friday itself.

What do we do with Whiteboard Friday? You’re watching this video, but you’ll also see the transcript below. You’ll see the podcast version from SoundCloud so that you can listen to the text rather than watch me if you can do audio only for some reason. Each of these little images have been cut out and placed into the text below so that someone who’s searching in Google images might find some of these and find their way to Whiteboard Friday. A few months after it goes up here, hosted with Wistia on Moz, it will be put up on YouTube.com so that people can find it there.

So we’ve done all these sorts of things to optimize these posts. We publish them, and then we earn amplification through all the channels that we have — email, social media, certainly search engines are a big one for us. Then we grow our reach for next time.

Early in the days, early in Moz’s history, when I was first publishing, I was writing every blog post myself for many, many years. This was tremendously difficult. We weren’t getting much reach. Now, it’s an engine that turns on its own. So each time we do it, we earn more SEO ranking ability, more links, more other positive ranking signals. The next time we publish content, it has an even better chance of doing well. So Moz’s flywheel keeps spinning, keeps getting faster and faster, and it’s easier and easier. Each time I film Whiteboard Friday, I’m a little more experienced. I’ve gotten a little better at it.

Flywheels come in many different forms

Flywheels come in a lot of forms. It’s not just the classic content and SEO one that we’re describing here, although I know many of you who watch Whiteboard Friday probably use something similar. But press and PR is a big one that many folks use. I know companies that are built on primarily event marketing, and they have that same flywheel going for them. In advertising, folks have found these, in influencer-focused marketing flywheels, and community and user-generated content to build flywheels. All of these are ways to do that.

Find friction in your flywheels

If and when you find friction in your flywheel, like I did back in my early days, that’s when a hack is really helpful. If you can get a hack going to grow reach for next time, for example, in my early days, this was all about doing outreach to folks in the SEO space who were already influential, getting them to pay attention and help amplify Moz’s content. That was the hack that I needed. Essentially, it was a combination of the Beginner’s Guide to SEO and the Search Ranking Factors document, which I’ve described here. But that really helped grow reach for next time and made this flywheel start spinning in the way that we wanted. So I would urge you to favor flywheels over hacks.

Marketing an MVP is hard

Second one, marketing an MVP kind of sucks. It’s just awful. Great products are rarely minimum viable products. The MVP is a wonderful way to build. I really, really like what Eric Ries has done with that movement, where he’s taken this concept of build the smallest possible thing you can that still solves the user’s problem, the customer’s problem and launch that so that you can learn and iterate from it.

I just have one complaint, which is if you do that publicly, if you launch your MVP publicly and you’re already a brand that’s well known, you really hurt your reputation. No one ever thinks this. No one ever thinks, “Gosh, you know, Moz launched their first version of new tool X. It’s pretty terrible, but I can see how, with a few years of work, it’s going to be an amazing product. I really believe in them.” No one thinks that way.

What do you think? You think, “Moz launched this product. Why did they launch it? It’s kind of terrible. Are they going downhill? Do they suck now? Maybe I should I trust their other tools less.” That’s how most people think when it comes to an MVP, and that’s why it’s so dangerous.

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So I made this silly chart here. But if the quality goes from crap to best in class and the amplification worthiness goes from zero to viral, it tends to be the case that most MVPs are launching way down here, when they’re barely good enough and thus have almost no amplification potential and really can’t do much for your marketing other than harm it.

If you instead build it internally, build that MVP internally, test with your beta group, and wait until it gets all the way up to this quality level of, “Wow, that’s really good,” and lots of people who are using it say, “Gosh, I couldn’t live without this. I want to share it with my friends. I want to tell everyone about this. Is it okay to tell people yet?” Maybe it’s starting to leak. Now, you’re up here. Now, your launch can really do something. We have seen exactly that happen many, many times here at Moz with both MVPs and MVPs where we sat on them and waited. I talk about some of these in the book.

MVPs, great to test internally with a private group. They’re also fine if you’re really early stage and no one has heard of you. But MVPs can seriously drag down reputation and perception of a brand’s quality and equity, which is why I generally recommend against them, especially for marketing.

Living the lives of your customer/audience is a startup + marketing cheat code

Last, but not least, living the lives of your customers or your audience is a cheat code. It is a marketing and startup cheat code. One of the best things that I have ever done is to say, “You know what? I am not going to sequester myself in my office dreaming up this great thing I think we should build or I think that we should do. Instead, I’m going to spend real time with our customers.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

So you might remember, at the end of 2013, I did this crazy project with my friend, Wil Reynolds, who runs Seer Interactive. They’re an SEO agency based here in the United States, in Philadelphia and San Diego. They do a lot more than SEO. Wil and I traded houses. We traded lives. We traded email accounts. I can’t tell you how weird it is answering somebody’s email, replying to Wil’s mom and being like, “Oh, Mrs. Reynolds, this is actually Rand. Your son, Wil, is answering my email off in Seattle and living in my apartment.”

Marketing Lessons Learned from 16 Years of Building Moz - Whiteboard Friday

That experience was transformational for me, especially after having gone through the pain of building something that I had conceptualized myself but hadn’t validated and hadn’t even come up with the idea from real problems that real people were facing. I had come up with it based on what I thought could grow the company. I seriously dislike ideas that come from that perspective now.

So since then, I just try not to assume. I try not to assume that I know what people want. When we film a Whiteboard Friday, it is almost always on a topic that someone I have met and talked to either over email or over Twitter or in person at an event or a conference, we’ve had a conversation in person. They’ve said, “I’m struggling with this.” I go, “I can make a Whiteboard Friday to help them with that.” That’s where these content ideas come from.

When I spend time with people doing their job, I was just in San Diego a little while ago meeting with a couple of agencies down there, spending time in their offices showing off a new links tool, getting all their feedback, seeing what they do with Open Site Explorer and Ahrefs and Majestic and doing their work with them, trying to go through the process that they go through and actually experiencing their pain points. I think this right here is the product and marketing cheat code. If you spend time with your audience, experiencing their pain points, the copy you write, what you design, where you place it, who you try and get to influence and amplify it, how you serve them, whether that’s through content or through advertising or through events, or whatever kind of marketing you’re doing, will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

Whatever kind of marketing you’re doing will improve if you live the lives of your customers and their influencers.

All right, everyone. Hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday. If you have feedback on this or if you’ve read the book and checked that out and you liked it or didn’t like it, please, I would love to hear from you. I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Source: https://moz.com/blog/marketing-lessons-learned

Reddit hires former Time Inc. exec Jen Wong as COO

Reddit, one of the internet’s largest hubs for both traffic and controversy, announced today that it has hired former Time Inc. President of Digital Jen Wong to take on the role of COO.

She will be tasked with managing Reddit’s business strategy, working out of the company’s New York office. Wong left Time Inc. earlier this year when the company was acquired by Meredith Corp for $1.84 billion.

In a blog post, the company detailed the scope of her role as COO. A major focus will be building the company’s advertising strategy:

Her goals as COO will align closely with her past experience at Time, PopSugar, and AOL: using her media, publisher, advertising, and operations expertise to help us build out our offerings for users, advertisers, and partners; applying her experience building successful digital advertising offerings for internet media giants to our own ads platform; and, through it all, working to grow our business while staying true to the things that make Reddit unique.

Despite claiming 330 million monthly active users, Reddit is still a relatively small operation by Silicon Valley standards. A major part of that is that they’ve been slow to build out a sophisticated advertising product, though in recent months they’ve begun rolling out native ads in the company’s mobile apps.

“Jen is a seasoned digital veteran and successful executive at some of the biggest media companies in the world, her experience and vision will help carry Reddit’s momentum forward in the years to come,” Reddit CEO Steve Huffman said in a statement.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/reddit-hires-former-time-inc-exec-jen-wong-as-coo/

Russia’s game of Telegram whack-a-mole grows to 19M blocked IPs, hitting Twitch, Spotify and more

As the messaging app Telegram continues to try to evade Russian authorities by switching up its IP addresses, Russia’s regulator Roskomnadzor (RKN) has continued its game of whack-a-mole to try to lock it down by knocking out complete swathes of IP address. The resulting chase how now ballooned to nearly 19 million IP addresses at the time of writing, as tracked by unofficial RKN observer RKNSHOWTIME (updated on a Telegram channel with stats accessible on the web via Phil Kulin’s site).

As a result, there have been a number of high-profile services also knocked oput in the crossfire, with people in Russia reporting dozens of sites affected including Twitch, Slack, Soundcloud, Viber, Spotify, Fifa, Nintendo, as well as Amazon and Google. (A full list of nearly forty addresses is listed below.)

What’s notable is that Google and Amazon themselves seem still not to be buckling under pressure. As we reported earlier this week, a similar — but far smaller — instance happened in the case of Zello, which had also devised a technique to hop around IP addresses when its own IP addresses were shut down by Russian regulators.

Zello’s circumventing lasted for nearly a year, until it seemed the regulator started to use a more blanket approach of blocking entire subnets — a move that ultimately led to Google and Amazon asking Zello to cease its activities.

After that, Zello’s main access point for its Russian users was via VPN proxies — one of the key ways that users in one country can effectively appear as if they are in another, allowing them to circumvent geoblocking and geofencing, either by the companies themselves, or those that have been banned by a state.

It’s important to note that the domain fronting that Google is in the process of shutting down is not the same as IP hopping — although, more generally, it will mean that there is now one less route for those globally whose traffic is getting blocked through censorship to wiggle around that. The IP hopping that has led to 19 million addresses getting blocked in Russia is another kind of circumvention. (I’m pointing this out because several people I’ve spoken to assumed they were the same.)

Pavel Durov, Telegram’s founder and CEO, has made several public calls on Telegram and also third-party sites like Twitter to praise how steadfast the big internet companies have been. And others like the ACLU have also waded into the story to call on Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft to hold strong and continue to allow Telegram to IP hop.

But what could happen next?

I’ve contacted Google, Amazon and Telegram now several times to ask this question and for more details on what is going on. As of yet I’ve had no replies. However, Alexey Gavrilov, the CTO and founder of Zello, provided a little more potential insight:

He said that ultimately they might ask Telegram to stop — something that might become increasingly hard not to do as more services get affected — and if that doesn’t work they can suspend Telegram’s account.

“Each cloud provider has provisions, which let them do it if your use interferes with other customers using their service,” Gavrilov notes. “The interpretation of this rule may be not trivial in case when the harm is caused by third party (i.e RKN in this case) so I think there are some legal risks for Amazon / Google. Plus that would likely cause a PR issue for them.”

Another question is whether there are bigger fish to fry in this story. Some have floated the idea that just as Zello preceded Telegram, RKN’s battles with the latter might lead to how it negotiates with Facebook.

As we have reported before, Facebook notably has never moved to house Russian Facebook data in Russia. Local hosting has been one of the key requirements that the regulator has enforced against a number of other companies as part of its “data protection” rules, and over the last couple of years while some high-profile companies have run afoul of the these regulations, others (including Apple and Google) have reportedly complied.

Regardless, there’s been one ironic silver lining in this story. Since RKN shifted its focus to waging a war on Telegram, Gavrilov tells me that Zello service has been restored in Russia. Here’s to weathering the storm. 

We’ll update this post as and when we get responses from the big players. A more complete list of sites that people have reported as affected by the 19 million address block is below, via Telegram channel Нецифровая экономика (“Non-digital economy”). Some of these have been disputed, so take this with a grain of salt:

1. Sberbank (disputed)
2. Alfa Bank (disputed)
3. VTB
4. Mastercard
5. Some Microsoft services
6. Video agency RT Ruptly
7. Games like Fortnite, PUBG, Guild Wars 2, Vainglory, Guns of Boom, World of Warships Blitz, Lineage 2 Mobile and Total War: Arena
8. Twitch
9. Google
10. Amazon
11. Russian food retailer Dixy (disupted)
12. Odnoklassniki (the social network, ok,ru)
13. Viber
14. Дилеры Volvo
15. Gett Taxi
16. BattleNet
17. SoundCloud
18. DevianArt
19. Coursera
20. Realtimeboard
21. Trello
22. Slack
23. Evernote
24. Skyeng (online English language school)
25. Part of the Playstation Network
26. Ivideon
27. ResearchGate
28. Gitter
29. eLama
30. Behance
31. Nintendo
32. Codeacademy
33. Lifehacker
34. Spotify
35. FIFA
36. And it seems like some of RKN’s site itself


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/russias-game-of-telegram-whack-a-mole-grows-to-19m-blocked-ips-hitting-twitch-spotify-and-more/

Is Facebook Organic Reach Really Dead? Here’s How to Break Through It for More Social Engagement

Every now and then, the overlords of the Internet decide to change things up in the digital marketing world.

And with how fast things change, it can sometimes be easy to miss a noteworthy tidbit of news.

One such tidbit recently came to light, and it’s definitely worth your attention.

Namely, Facebook has started taking steps to change the Organic Reach of pages on their platform.

And that has some implications for everyone.

It doesn’t matter if your Facebook Page shares memes, connects a community, or is a landing page for your brand.

You’re going to see some changes, and chances are they will come sooner rather than later.

To help cut through the clutter and keep a clear picture of the path ahead, I’m going to lay out what’s actually changing.

And at the end, we’ll give you some insightful ways to come out ahead.

Hopefully, you’ll be able to take action accordingly and still have a healthy Facebook presence.

But first, let’s talk a bit more about what Organic Reach actually is, and why it’s changing.

What is Facebook Organic Reach?

Organic Reach on Facebook is simply a measurement of how many people can find you on Facebook for free.

It’s much like organic rankings on a search engine, although in the case of Facebook it’s based on aspects like popularity, post frequency, and other contributing factors.

And when you think about the current state of Facebook, it seems logical that Facebook would be making some big changes.

With more and more content being generated and shared, plus with how the News Feeds curates the content you see, it’s natural that Facebook would need to fine-tune their system from time to time.

And so Facebook is making changes.

Specifically, they’re changing Organic Reach to look and feel a little more like the Paid Reach measurements.

jaspers market organic reach on facebook

The newer look really only changes a few minor elements, but the numbers will look bad nonetheless.

Previously, Facebook counted Organic Reach as any time an unpaid post appeared in someone’s News Feed.

Now, Organic Reach will only give you a hit if your unpaid post actually enters a person’s screen.

The changes don’t affect how your post is shown to anyone, nor does it really change anything about how posts are displayed at all.

It just affects how Organic Reach is tallied, but that makes a difference.

The seeming paradox then is that you can expect your Organic Search traffic to take a big hit, but that particular metric should be a lot more accurate.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, there’s a good reason for the death of Facebook’s Organic Reach:

“Recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.”

He goes on to discuss how Facebook will be changing to mitigate this issue.

Specifically, Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be better geared to curate content that builds meaningful relationships.

And it’s worth mentioning that Zuckerberg himself lost about $3.3 billion because of this decision.

But what exactly is this “death” in terms anyone can understand?

More importantly for you, how might this affect your business?

To give you an idea, you have to look back a little bit.

Because as of June 2016, the Organic Reach of a Facebook Page had fallen to a mere 2%.

facebook reach annual decline

That’s a crazy drop from just four years prior, and Facebook and Zuckerberg still think that there’s too much Organic Reach for a Page.

So it’s pretty clear that if 2% reach is too much, we’re nearing the end of an era in terms of Organic Reach being the best viable option for spreading your brand on social media.

And the implication is pretty clear for business owners.

Your page is going to have less Organic Reach.

And with Reach dropping, you can fully expect that engagement is going to go with it.

So at this point, you’re probably wondering if there is any hope beyond the doomsday hype?

The answer is yes.

Because Organic Reach is not totally gone, and it probably won’t ever be.

The key here is to simply understand the changes taking place in the Organic Reach algorithms.

The consensus is that Facebook waging war against low-quality content, which means there are still avenues you can take that will help your Organic Reach.

You simply need a different strategy than saturation.

So now that you know what’s going on, let’s look at some ways you can use these changes to your advantage.

Tip #1: Focus on quality, not quantity

First and foremost, you need to understand that Facebook is changing to emphasize quality over quantity.

I’m going to repeat that for emphasis: Quality over quantity is the first place to start.

There’s been a long-running misconception that posting more or less on Facebook equates to more reach, but that’s as ludicrous as treating a “Like” as a useful metric.

You’re just making things worse for yourself if your goal is to post as frequently as possible, especially with the new changes.

And posting infrequently doesn’t do you any favors either.

Because the data points to a truth that couldn’t be further from a quantity-driven approach.

First of all, studies have shown that a moderate amount of posting seems to edge out posting too much or too little.

facebook one post per day

So when there are fewer posts, it becomes less likely that a post gets lost in your audience’s feed.

Which means your Organic Reach is going to do better with just a few, high-quality posts.

But don’t get carried away thinking high-quality posts can still be posted as often as possible.

Because the data still points in the opposite direction.

Buffer conducted some tests that help prove this point beyond any doubt.

average facebook posts per day

They started by evaluating how many posts were being created per day on their Page.

As you can note, over the course of 2016 and into 2017 they say a fairly significant drop in how many times they posted.

To be precise, they were posting at half the peak rate by the middle of 2017.

And oddly enough, this trend helped them increase their Organic Reach:

average facebook reach

They went from capping out with an Organic Reach of ~70,000 to a top reach of ~170,000.

That’s a 100,000 Reach spike that can be directly related to the frequency with which they posted on their Page.

And what’s more, they also saw a boost in direct engagement from this study as well:

average facebook daily engagement

This is a powerful illustration of how simply posting less and focusing on quality can improve your overall Organic performance on Facebook.

And this isn’t just a fluke.

It starts and ends with original and share-worthy content that will actually engage your audience.

Which means you need to focus less on pumping out content and focus more on crafting something that’s truly shareworthy.

You’ll see better Organic Reach, and you won’t regret it.

Tip #2: Know what your audience is looking for

A high-quality post isn’t just going to come from nowhere.

It starts with a more concerted effort to offer higher-quality content around your brand as a whole.

That means finding topics that are meaningful and then generating something that’s both shareworthy and relevant.

The more specifically targeted your approach, the better off you’ll be.

facebook targeted approach

Small changes go a long way in improving quality, and the ultimate application is up to your unique brand.

The only way to truly know what “quality” means for your Page is to create some, test it, and then start making changes.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any other direction before you just start creating content.

One place you can start is simply by knowing which posts are right on Facebook, such as video.

Sharpie does a great job of creating interesting video that generates views and shares throughout their audience.

Here’s a recent example of one of their videos that partners Sharpie with NBA star Chris Paul:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FSharpie%2Fvideos%2F10160286088165344%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Even if you can’t partner with a celebrity, you can use video to help boost your Organic Reach and increase engagement.

And success on Facebook through video isn’t just speculation either.

There are plenty of success stories, like this one from Audi:

audi success on facebook

Even in the highly competitive automotive industry, they were able to boost their lead generation by almost 12%.

And if that doesn’t convince you, I highly recommend you go check out more success stories.

It doesn’t even have to be long video either, as Facebook recently launched their own Boomerang application.

And whether you use video or not, just remember that high-performing and popular Facebook posts are a mixture of entertaining and educational.

Don’t mistake that as an either/or situation.

You need a mix of both if you want to succeed.

Most importantly, I recommend looking into what online audiences are actually consuming these days.

content consumers pay attention to

You might love creating and sharing your podcast for a blog post, but you’ll get more facetime with a sharp video or even just a simple photo.

And then there’s also the problem of engagement baiting, which Facebook has started to crack down on.

baiting on facebook

You might think it’s okay to ask for Likes, Shares, or “votes,” but the dark days of those posts are behind us.

Facebook now filters posts like these and gives them a lower priority than posts with more engaging content and imagery.

So all things considered, you have a lot to consider when you’re trying to pin down what your audience wants to see.

But if you put in the effort, you can develop a system that keeps your brand in the spotlight without dipping into your ad budget.

Tip #3: Consider your timing

You may have heard the news already, but there is such a thing as an “optimal time” when you’re posting to Facebook.

It just depends on a few essential elements.

The basics are pretty simple though.

Knowing when Facebook tends to be most active overall can help you time your posts accordingly.

facebook best times to post

Studies show that sharing at different times will affect Likes, Shares, and overall engagement statistics.

You can also try to take advantage of multiple spikes like this, but remember you want quality over quantity.

One or two posts per day will do just fine.

If you post at the right time, it’s more likely that your audience will actually be on to see your post.

That by itself could increase your Organic Reach and help you engage with your followers.

But keep in mind that performance can be industry specific as well, so do your homework before you simply start changing all of your posting times.

And once you check your own industry’s trends, make sure that the information you uncovered accurately matches your own audience by examining your own Facebook Page’s Insights tab.

facebook post insights

Your goal here is to simply avoid posting at times when your audience is unlikely to see posts.

If there’s a verifiable time when engagement and Reach dips, you might not want to share your best content at those times.

And there are a lot more studies on this topic than just the ones above.

Kissmetrics has put together research that verifies the science of timing posts.

Source: https://blog.kissmetrics.com/is-facebook-organic-reach-dead/

Crypto-collectibles and Kitties marketplace Rare Bits raises $6M

Rare Bits wants to be eBay for the blockchain, where you buy, sell, and trade non-fungible crypto-goods. After CryptoKitties raised $12 million from Andreessen Horowitz last month for its digital collectibles game, there’s been an explosion of interest in the space. But without a popular marketplace, it’s hard to find the goods you want at the right price. Now a team of former Zynga staffers is building out its crypto-collectible auction and commerce site with a $6 million round led by Nabeel Hyatt at Spark Capital, and joined by First Round Capital, David Sacks’ Craft Ventures, and SVAngel.

Because of the Ethereum ledger, for the first time, users can truly own their digital items” says co-founder Amitt Mahajan. “Previously in mobile or social games, virtual items earned through play or by spending money were actually owned by the company operating the game. If they shut down their servers, the items would go away and users would be out of luck. We believe this new asset class represents a paradigm shift in digital property whereby centralized assets will be moved onto decentralized systems” For now, Rare Bits isn’t slapping any extra fees on its marketplace, compared to paying 1 percent to 4 percent on other marketplaces like Open Sea and Wyvern Exchange. Instead, if a crypto-item developer charges a fee on secondary sales, say 5 percent, they’ll split that with Rare Bits for arranging the transaction.

Users get the benefit of having all their crypto-collectibles in a single wallet. They can see historical pricing before they buy anything thanks to the transparency of the Ethereum ledger, whether they want to “Buy Now” or win an auction. They collectors can also see related items rather than transacting in a vacuum.

Rare Bits founders from left: Danny Lee, Payom Dousti, Dave Pekar, and Amitt Mahajan.

Mahajan, Danny Le, and Dave Pekar all met after selling their gaming startups to Zynga. [Disclosure: I know Pekar from college] Their fourth co-founder Payom Dousti worked at crypto VC fund 1/0 Capital and sold his sports analytics startup numberFire to FanDuel. With experience across the gaming, virtual good, and crypto space, Mahajan tells me “We thought long and hard about potentially building blockchain-based games ourselves but ultimately decided that there was a larger opportunity in focusing on crypto-based property as a whole.” The Rare Bits exchange launched in February and did over $100,000 in transactions in its first month.

With some CryptoKitties selling elsewhere for as much as $200,000, investors liked the idea of taking a cut of everyone’s transactions rather than just launching another digital trading card. That led Rare Bits to raise a $1 million seed from Macro Ventures and angels like Steve Jang and Robin Chan. As scaling issues threaten to prevent the Bitcoin and Ethereum blockchains from supporting micropayments and mainstream commerce, new use cases like crypto-collectibles are taking the spotlight.

Now with the $6 million Series A, Rare Bits is bringing in some heavyweight angels from the world of gaming. That includes Emmet Shear and Justin Kan, the co-founders of Twitch. Former Dropbox execs and married couple Ruchi Sanghvi and Aditya Agrawal are also in the round, alongside Greenoaks Captial MD Neil Mehta and Channel Factory CEO Tony Chen.

The team hopes the runway will help it secure partnerships with developers and creatives to publish new collectibles for the blockchain that have a home on Rare Bits. “While today most of these items are items from games and collectibles, we envision that we will see licenses, tickets, rights, even tokenized physical goods represented as digital assets” Mahajan tells us.

Rare Bits will have to deal with the inherent scaling troubles of the Ethereum blockchain it operates on. For now, it’s refunding users the “gas” it costs to execute purchases and sales on its marketplace in a timely manner. Thos range from a few cents to a few dollars depending on network congestion. But Rare Bits could be looking at a steep bill or be forced to push those fees onto users if it gets popular enough.

There’s always the danger that CryptoKitties and the like are just the new Beanie Babies — valued today, but worthless when the fad dies. Rare Bits benefits from getting to follow the trend to whatever crypto-collectible is in vogue, and just has to hope the whole concept doesn’t fade.

“Our ultimate goal is to convince millions of new people to begin owning and transacting crypto-based property” says Mahajan. But the founders will probably be okay regardless. “Like anyone crazy enough to start a crypto app company this early, we started buying and HODLing BTC and ETH years ago.”


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/04/19/rare-bits-crypto-marketplace/