Technology journalist Bill Bennett discusses Russia’s move to crack down on virtual private networks. Also, two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising; and the day the music died: the Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia.
New technology – Bill Bennett
From my speaker notes:
Virtual Private Networks
Virtual Private Networks allow people to surf the next anonymously. They also help keep data safe from online criminals.
A VPN is a safe tunnel, usually from your computer, phone or tablet to an end-point elsewhere on the internet. They are a form of encryption.
You can use a VPN to make it look as if you are connecting from elsewhere in the world. So, if you want to see content that can only be accessed from, say, the UK, choose an endpoint in the UK.
Earlier this week Russia followed China cracking down on VPNs.
Putin pushed a law banning VPNs through the Duma. China has been cracking down on VPNs since January. I had personal experience of issues with a VPN when I was in China last year.
Apple pulls VPNs from Chinese app store
Also this week, Apple pulled VPNs from its App Store in China.
Critics say Apple should have stood up to China and refused, even though that would mean losing sales maybe even pulling out of the Chinese market. On the other hand, it is complying with the law. Chinese law says VPNs need to be licensed.
The consequences of pulling out of China are huge. It is Apple’s second largest market. What’s more, China is where most of the company’s products and the components in its products are made. Bloomberg’s Gadfly has an interesting take on this.
Meanwhile… perhaps New Zealanders ought to be more familiar with VPNs
Symantec, which sells a Norton-branded VPN service, says New Zealanders take risks with public wi-fi – something that a VPN can protect against. About two thirds of NZers think they are safe with public wi-fi and the same number take no precautions when using it. Hardly any NZers know whether they are transmitting data safely or not. I wrote about this earlier today.
Online advertising failures and successes
Two conflicting takes on the power of online advertising:
Procter and Gamble cut US$100 million from its online advertising spend in the last quarter and noticed no discernible impact on its business. This is taken as evidence online advertising doesn’t work. Part of this is a lot of ads turn up at dubious sites and are only seen by fake traffic or bots.
Sounds like a lot of money, but P&G spent a total of US$2.5 billion on ads in the quarter.
Also says niche advertising on Facebook didn’t work either.
Motorola is a much smaller company, but it reports the money it spent on Facebook ads did nothing to help its campaign to relaunch its phone brands. It too spent on highly targeted Facebook campaigns that didn’t work.
…And yet: The New Scientist reports that ad campaigns that used artificial intelligence to target voters on Facebook were enough to swing both the US Presidential election and the Brexit referendum.
So why does one type of advertising work and the other fail?
My take is that you don’t need to shift wavering individual voters by much to swing their vote. That’s part of it. The other part is that you don’t need to influence that many voters in a tight ballot. Clinton actually won the US popular vote by around two percent, but a tight focus on key states meant moving only a tiny fraction of voters was enough to win it for Trump.
One set of researchers also pointed out that it can be more important to persuade some people to vote or not vote, than to change their choice.
The day the music died…
Pandora music service closes in New Zealand and Australia. Meanwhile Apple has dropped almost all its non-iOS iPod models. The two stories are closely related. First, the streaming music market is consolidating. That was always going to happen. Global scale is important here. It also seems users don’t like the advertising supported model much.
Meanwhile Apple’s iPhone, which, arguably is a brand extension of the iPod has eclipsed its granddad and rendering it almost obsolete. Cue squeals from people, like me, who still love their old-school iPads.