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Advertisers Urge Google to Stop Selling Ads on YouTube

March 24, 2017 Leave a comment

NATHAN

When did Noah build the Ark, Gladys?  Before the rain…

From Spy Game, written by Michael Frost Beckner

Google’s got real problems with its failure to impose its YouTube terms of service before YouTube pipes dreck into your house by every means they can.  (We have yet to hear from cable operators about that, by the way.)  The whole point of having terms of service is to keep people from using the service in ways that violate those terms.  If YouTube lets videos onto its network and declares them in violation after their caught, isn’t that at least a bit like Noah building the Ark after the rain?  This is the fundamental reason Google are suffering the costs of scandal this week and looks like it will do for weeks and weeks to come.

Not only are Google loosing a pile of cash as advertisers withdraw from YouTube, Google’s stock price is down over 4% in a week.  Despite the colossally tone deaf efforts of the most senior Google executives to try to play down the scandal, brand after brand is cutting off YouTube and as near as I can tell, the entire Google network.  This doesn’t include search advertising as yet, but can search be far behind?  If Google can’t live up to the promises it has made to advertisers on YouTube, why would anyone believe them at all?

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman and former CEO, told Maria Bartiromo just today that Google could not guarantee advertisers the brand safety that the monopolist Google promised them:  “What we do is, we match ads and the content, but because we source the ads from everywhere, every once in a while somebody gets underneath the algorithm and they put in something that doesn’t match.”  It’s not Google’s fault, you see, it’s actually the advertiser’s fault.

Schmidt then rather nonsensically doubled down and blamed advertisers for attempts to “sneak [ads] in underneath our rules and violate our terms of service.”  Right…because advertisers want to have their money go to hate groups so much that they hack the Google advertising algorithms?

The ISBA, the trade association for British advertisers, has announced what seems like a very reasonable approach to the problem that Google has created for itself:

ISBA would further encourage Google to withdraw immediately from sale any advertising inventory which it cannot guarantee as a safe environment for advertising, to restore advertiser confidence and to allow a thorough review of systems, processes and controls to take place. As a specific example, ISBA urges Google to review the practice of placing advertising immediately against newly-uploaded YouTube content, before it has been classified. Google should ensure that content is quarantined until properly categorised.

Don’t sell advertising on YouTube unless Google can live up to its promises.  Sounds reasonable, don’t it?  There’s a certain logic to it.

But the Daily Mail reports that “Google Still Don’t Get It“:

Matt Brittin, [Google’s] European boss, told a London advertising conference yesterday: ‘I want to start by saying sorry. We apologise when anything like that happens. We don’t want it to happen and you don’t want it to happen, and we take responsibility for it.’

But he added: ‘I’ve spoken to … some brands that are affected. In general I’ve found that it has been a handful of impressions and pennies not pounds.’

Household names and Government departments have been horrified after an investigation found their adverts running alongside YouTube videos by Islamic State preachers and white supremacists.

Google, whose motto is ‘Don’t be evil’, hands a slice of the revenue generated by adverts to the user who posted the content.

According to independent marketing experts, extremists have made around £250,000 from advertising on YouTube.

If Google’s blathering about “pennies and not pounds” sounds vaguely familiar, it should be.  These are essentially the same arguments Google made about brand sponsored piracy at the SOPA hearings (or as I call the hearings, the apotheosis of bullshit).

It really does come down to this:  When brands consider the risks of advertising on YouTube and Google’s own finding that 56% of digital ads served are never seen by humans, is it really worth it or can a brand find better ways to spend their money?  YouTube is going to have a hard time explaining whey they can’t keep the bad stuff out–aside from not wanting to bother with it until they get caught.

Blaming the advertisers or downplaying payments to the bad guys is just not the way to go here.

Rule Britannia

March 23, 2017 Leave a comment
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His Jackness

The word “never” is best heard in its original British.  Whether it’s the delicious Churchillian triplets we could all do well to remember at the moment or the grand old song by James Thomson and Thomas Arne that foreshadowed Churchill’s immortal usage.  With suitable forelocking by the chorus and accoutrement, I give you Sarah Patricia Connolly, Commander of the British Empire.

Jimmy Breslin RIP

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

Who among us can change someone’s life with a couple thousand words written on a deadline?  Who can look at the same event that maybe millions of others see but bring out that nugget that everyone else completely missed?  A nugget of humanity that is essential to the true perspective of the story and vital to the roundness of the truth?

People often ask me what is the best preparation for persuasive legal writing.   Is it a degree from a fancy law school?  No.  A job in a big law firm or a judicial clerkship? No. It’s right there in front of you in today’s paper.

These writers are sometimes called “deadline artists” and you’ll find their words in the opinion pages of contemporary newspapers every day and have done for a hundred years and more.  These are the eternal wordsmiths whether the name is H.L. Mencken or Langston Hughes, Mark Twain or Damon Runyon, Will Rogers or Art Buchwald.

Or Jimmy Breslin.

If you haven’t read or read many of Breslin’s columns, you really owe it to yourself.  A few  suggestions–“A Death in Emergency Room One” and “It’s an Honor” on the JFK assassination, “Fear in Queens” about Son of Sam (a strange history), “A Part of a Cop’s Past Lies Dead” about the murder of John Lennon or “A Smile Gone, But Where?” on 9/11.

When you read these short stories masquerading as newspaper columns, remember the man wrote for immediate publication and under a deadline.

And also remember what he said of himself:  “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

 

YouTube Finally Reaps What it Sows as UK Govt, The Guardian, the BBC and mega ad agency Havas cuta off ad spend

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

It began around the time of SOPA.  Sources tell me that after meeting with a global ad agency and explaining to them how their advertising buys supported piracy, the source got a call from a well-known Google lawyer threatening him if he continued making that case to Google’s big advertising accounts.  Presumably, that threat was because the agency jumped on Google.

But nothing changed.

Harvard Business School Professor Ben Edelman took the lead on making the case for an advertiser’s bill of rights so that brands could feel like they knew where their ad spending was going and were getting what they paid for.  Seems logical, right?

But Google essentially told brands that you give us money and we serve your ad wherever we want to.  And nothing changed.

Ellen Seidler called out Google for selling ads on Megavideo.  Absolutely clear evidence that Google was doing the very thing they told advertisers they were not doing.  The Megavideo indictment alleges that Google had a direct agreement with Megavideo, confirming Ellen’s research.

And nothing changed.

MTP readers will recall how I posted example after example of Google distributing jihadi recruiting videos, “how to” videos on shooting drugs (who can forget “Banging Up for Dummies” and “Femoral Fiesta”, and blatant advertising for illegal drug sites–the same kind that Google paid a $500,000,000 forfeiture for supporting after signing a non prosecution agreement with the Department of Justice.

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Obama

And nothing changed.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood tried to serve a subpoena–just a subpoena–on Google for violating that non prosecution agreement.

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At almost the exact moment, North Korea hacks Sony Pictures and Wikileaks releases thousands of internal emails from Sony that strangely enough contained only two from a google.com email address.  In another strange coincidence, a bill miraculously appeared in the Mississippi legislature that would have stopped funding for Hood’s investigation of Google.

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That’s m-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i…

Google fought Hood every step of the way and ended up settling the case.  Why would they do that?  In my view, they did it because they were guilty and they knew it.

And nothing changed.

We always said that the only thing–the only thing–that would get YouTube to clean up its act would be if advertisers pulled the plug.  Why?  Very simple–for all of Google’s Silicon Valley goo goo about being good people, there’s only one thing that motivates that company–money.  And over 90% of the Google money comes from advertising.  So until advertisers start making noise and stop paying money, Google doesn’t care.

One reason they care about advertisers is the obvious one–advertisers can cut off the money and that’s a whole lot less ooh la la for Eric “Uncle Sugar” Schmidt.

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But the other reason, the less obvious one, is that there’s no safe harbor for advertising fraud.  No DMCA, no CDA.  State attorneys general have the absolute right to protect their citizens–corporate or human–from fraud.  And then you’re talking real money.

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So now we find that the UK government, the Guardian, the BBC and the Havas mega ad agency are cutting off YouTube according to the Christian Science Monitor:

As an al-Shabab militant called for jihad inside Kenya, an ad at the base of his YouTube video urged viewers to “Book Now” for a Sandals tropical vacation. An armed neo-Nazi promoting Combat 18 was paired with a call to volunteer for the hospice charity Marie Curie.

Last month, an investigation by The Times of London detailed these as two examples of how major brand names frequently appear alongside hateful YouTube content. A separate article by The Guardian wrote that the UK revenue from these ads amounts to about £250,000, or $318,000, for “extremists and hate preachers.”

On Friday, ad agency Havas Media, whose high-profile clients include Hyundai and the Royal Mail, announced that it would stop placing ads on YouTube and its parent company, Google. The tech giant – which commands more than 30 percent of global online ad revenue and draws 90 percent of its own revenue by placing ads – was quick to respond.

We’ve begun a thorough review of our ads policies and brand controls, and we will be making changes in the coming weeks to give brands more control over where their ads appear,” wrote Google UK managing director Ronan Harris.
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Ronan Harris–who looks suspiciously like one of those CAA mail room kids who got sent for coffee in their own 7-Series–had a typically Googlely response:
However, with millions of sites in our network and 400 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, we recognize that we don’t always get it right. In a very small percentage of cases, ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies. We promptly remove the ads in those instances, but we know we can and must do more.
Note the switch from hard numbers (“400 hours of video”) to “a very small percentage of cases [when] ads appear against content that violates our monetization policies.”  Google always switches from hard numbers to percentages when they are trying to deflect bad behavior.  So let’s say that 1% of the videos on YouTube were jihadi recruiting videos, how to build a bomb, white power, sell illegal drugs, or whatever.  That’s  4 hours of video per minute being uploaded to YouTube.  Oh that’s OK, right?  Because it’s a very small percentage….
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They really don’t get it, do they?  And isn’t the important thing that YouTube shouldn’t be distributing the videos in the first place?  It’s not just about the money, kids.  Money may have been what got their attention, but it’s not just about the money.
YouTube frequently tries to pass itself off as the new television (and they have a point there).  But if that’s true, can you imagine a network saying that they were broadcasting hate videos into your home just a small percentage of the time?
Google’s problems all come down to the same reason–YouTube is user generated with no controls other than after the fact if and when they get caught.
What would really get their attention would be if the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice opened a serious investigation into YouTube’s advertising practices.  That may well be coming since advertiser fraud is still advertiser fraud whether it happens in the U.S. or in Europe.

 

@legrandnetwork: ‘Outrage’ at Trump’s proposal to eliminate arts agencies — Artist Rights Watch

March 20, 2017 Leave a comment

The US music community has expressed outrage at the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate two publicly-funded agencies dealing with the arts – the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities – as well as terminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which helps fund public TV broadcaster PBS and National Public Radio….

For singer/songwriter Blake Morgan, who is at the origin of the #IRespectMusic, the NEA is part of a personal narrative. “I’m a professional musician today in large part because of the National Endowment for the Arts,” he told Music Week. “My mother, the author Robin Morgan, won an NEA endowment when I was a child. With that money, we were able to pay off some bills, buy winter coats, and my mother used the remainder to pay for piano lessons for me, as well as my first entrance into music school. Without the endowment, neither would have been possible at the time.”

Morgan added: “I’m outraged at this nonsensical attack on American artists, and the arts in general. Every authoritarian leader in history does two things when they rise to power: first they attempt to discredit journalists, and then they attack and repress artists. This particular leader is no exception. American artists – of every discipline – will fight him, and anyone who attempts to do the same. And I will be on the front lines of that fight.”

via @legrandnetwork: ‘Outrage’ at Trump’s proposal to eliminate arts agencies — Artist Rights Watch

Loopholeapalooza! Spotify Files 247,112 “Address Unknown” NOIs

March 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Spotify NOIs

Just in time for SXSW, Spotify became one of the latest to move aggressively to take advantage of the “we can’t find them” loophole in the Copyright Act.  Rightscorp informs me that after uncompressing the NOI file from the Copyright Office site, Spotify has filed “address unknown” NOIs for 247,112 songs.  MTP readers will recall that this loophole allows digital streaming services to claim that the service cannot “identify” a song copyright owner in the public records of the Copyright Office even if the song owner could easily be identified elsewhere, like in the records of the digital service itself (such as Content ID) or in the files of the services licensing agent, or with the U.S. PROs, or after a simple search.  (See also my interview for Music Tech Solutions on the subject with Rightscorp’s CEO Christopher Sabec.)

The punchline, of course is that the service will claim the protection of the compulsory license and will not pay royalties until the song owner is identified in the public records of the Copyright Office.  When might that happen?   When the song owner files a copyright registration or other recordation in the Copyright Office which they are not obligated to do in order to enjoy many of the rights of a copyright owner, including being paid mechanical royalties.  The “address unknown” loophole will ring especially hollow with songwriters who reside outside of the U.S. and who are members of a non-US PRO.

One can understand more readily how a U.S. company not familiar in the ways of the international system might find the mass NOI filing attractive, but it is a bit harder to understand how the U.S. affiliate (Spotify USA) of a European company (Spotify AB) doing business with European songwriters all the livelong day could possibly make this unforced error.

In fairness, it’s also important to recognize the need for the address unknown filing as long as you’re going to have a notice-based compulsory license.  Musak’s filing, for example, is a handful of songs that do look genuinely obscure.  I’d suggest that’s an example of a company using the statute the way Congress intended.

On the other hand, Spotify joins the artist-friendly ranks of Google (6,041,943 NOIs), Amazon (19,509,450 NOIs) and Pandora (1,193,346 NOIs) in piling on to the loopholeapalooza currently happening at the Copyright Office that has received over 30 million address unknown NOIs since April 2016 based on Rightscorp’s calculations.  Spotify’s case is particularly bizarre because of the high profile settlement the company entered with the NMPA that established a claiming service for those who signed up in time.

If you call out these services on the subject and ask why they need to get a royalty free license, their representatives will sometimes say that the lack of a royalty was not the motivation for loopholeapalooza–their companies were just trying to avoid liability for copyright infringement class action lawsuits.  They’ll tell you informally that their companies intend to pay every penny they owe or some other swiss cheesy statement like that.

They may even say that they intend to pay retroactively once the song copyright owner is identified.  But since the loophole only requires that they pay going forward, a retroactive payment is not required and therefore they don’t “owe” it.

See what they did there?

They haven’t put that retroactive payment promise in writing to the world by any means and they also don’t send statements to the Copyright Office.  How would a songwriter ever know what they were due either retroactively or prospectively?  (It’s also important to know that there is no audit right under a compulsory license, so as soon as a songwriter agrees to take that compulsory license without a struggle, the songwriter is essentially waiving a right to past certified accountings required under the compulsory license and to audit for either the past or the future.)

The Spotify “address unknown” NOI filing of 237,000 plus songs doesn’t pass the laugh test in many cases.  It includes titles from Timothy B. Schmidt (formerly of The Eagles), a number of artists signed to “WM Spain” which after a 2 minute search appear to be songs performed by artists signed to Warner Music Spain, as well as artists signed to Parlophone UK and well-known catalog artists like Uriah Heep.  (Parlophone was owned for many years by the former employer of one of Spotify’s former Chief Content Officers.)

For starters, the idea that Spotify can’t find Tim Schmidt is simply ridiculous.  But more troubling is a common thread through the mass NOI filings by the big services–there seem to be an awful lot of ex-US or non-Anglo American releases which presumably include songs by songwriters who probably don’t know the loopholes of U.S. law or who might have the strange idea that maybe the Berne Convention’s prohibition on formalities might prevent their falling subject to this stunt.

At least in some spot checks, it seems like many of these “address unknown” NOIs are faulty and possibly noncompliant for a host of reasons.  In Spotify’s case, though, it’s particularly hard to understand given that their NMPA settlement barely has dried ink and already they are back at the shenanigans for at least some songwriters who are easily found.

I guess you can’t find them who you don’t look for.

We’re from Amazon and We’re Here to Help: Amazon Wants to Commoditize Festivals

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

It probably drives Amazon crazy that they haven’t found a way to commoditize music festivals like they have all other aspects of retail, using brick and mortar retailers as Amazon showrooms.  So it should come as no surprise that Amazon is going to try to fix a problem that doesn’t exist for anyone but them–the fan experience at music festivals.

According to Music Business Worldwide, Amazon is going to force their way into the festival business–without taking any of the risk, of course.  Good news is that most festivals can control who gets to set up shop on the festival grounds, the bad news is that Amazon will probably waive a bunch of cash under the promoters noses to buy their way in.

And here’s the pitch from Amazon for “Senior Program Manager, Music”–and the complete lack of music business experience is striking.  Maybe they should have added, “Can hump trap case up 4 flights of stairs” or “Handy with a baseball bat when braced by bikers”:

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Thirty-two million people attend music festivals in the United States each year. Amazon wants to dramatically improve their festival experience through our signature focus on innovating on behalf of our customers. The Senior Program Manager, Music will take an idea – to have a physical festival presence with on-site food and product delivery, custom tour merchandise for purchase, artist meet and greets, and convenience amenities such as free Wi-Fi, water, charging stations, and restrooms – and bring it to life. If you are passionate about the role of music in our everyday lives, surprising and delighting customers, creating unique and memorable events, and making something out of nothing, this is the role for you.

The ideal candidate will be a self-starter comfortable with ambiguity and data-driven, fast-paced environments. You must be able to seamlessly pivot between big picture strategic thinking and scrappy, on-the-ground, tactical execution. This role is inherently cross-functional and you will rely heavily on influence over authority to drive project deliverables. Communication and persuasion skills will be key as you will need to convince both internal and external parties to lean in and partner.

Key responsibilities will include gathering business requirements, documenting functional and design specifications, identifying appropriate resources needed, and developing the milestones and launch schedule to ensure timely and successful delivery of the initial pilot project. The Senior Program Manager will assess and manage risks, measure and report on progress, anticipate and resolve bottlenecks, provide escalation management, anticipate and make tradeoffs, and balance the business needs with the technical constraints.

BASIC QUALIFICATIONS

· Bachelor’s degree
· 5+ years relevant business experience (product/program/project management, retail buying, marketing, or management consulting)
· Excellent oral and written communication skills with the ability to influence others internally and externally
· Strong analytical and quantitative skills with the ability to use data and metrics to back up assumptions, recommendations, and drive actions

PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS

· MBA or Master’s degree in relevant field
· 7+ years of experience
· Experience communicating with technical and non-technical stakeholders across multiple business units
· High level of comfort communicating effectively across internal and external organizations
· Extensive experience in product, program, and/or project management in leading cross-functional teams in delivery of major new products or services

Yes, we’re from Amazon and we’re here to help.  Whether you like it or not.  Maybe they’ll track fans around the festival grounds to see which stages they pause in front of,  have drones scalping tickets, or cross-post compromising selfies on your Facebook page and Instagram account.

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