Store adds new dimension to online shopping

From Retuers

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) – Consumers looking to avoid crowded malls and the tedium of online shopping can now shop in a virtual 3-dimensional store.

Specialty retailer Brookstone Inc. opened the virtual doors to its 3-dimensional store, which combines a Second Life-like visual experience with real merchandise customers can buy.

“The 3-D brings that fun part of shopping back. When you go into a physical store, there is that sort of energy around ‘what am I going to find?’ and there’s always that discovery process,” Greg Sweeney, a vice-president at Brookstone, said in an interview.

The virtual store replicates the look and layout of a real store. Customers can move through the aisles and browse and zoom on products using a mouse and keyboard. Detailed information is available by stopping in front of an item.

“We think it really appeals to a younger audience for us, a demographic probably 25 to 40… because of the almost gaming nature of it,” said Sweeney.

Certainly those adept at navigating through a virtual world will find the environment familiar. For new users, it will take some getting used to, Sweeney added.

Brookstone.com will still offer its wares in the conventional way, but offers the 3-D store as an alternative.

“It really helps the evolution of the internet shopping experience,” said Sweeney.

(Reporting by Naomi Kim; editing by Patricia Reaney)

Ad dollars flood Web, but will they go far enough?

An article from yahoo news / Reuters

Ad dollars flood Web, but will they go far enough?

By Paul Thomasch Fri Oct 12, 12:42 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Companies will spend a record $31 billion this year to advertise everything from toothpaste to home loans on the Internet, supporting countless news sites, social networks, video exchanges and blogs.
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But some media veterans worry that expectations for online advertising may be getting out-sized.

Increasingly, they say, too much media depends on advertising as the only source of revenue. With new players from software makers to cable operators also trying to cash in, the dollars simply may not stretch far enough.

“I’m getting to the point where I feel like every answer to every business development pitch is ‘We’re going to be advertiser supported’,” said Beth Comstock, president of Integrated Media at NBC Universal, which this year set up a fund to invest in media and digital companies.

“It’s just not going to be possible,” she said at a recent advertising conference. “There are not going to be enough advertising dollars in the marketplace. No matter how clever we are, no matter what the format is.”

NBC Universal’s television networks, cable channels and Web sites compete for advertising dollars with everything from niche blogs to big media peers like Time Warner Inc and Walt Disney Co. In addition fast-growing Internet companies like Google Inc are snatching up advertising budgets.

But new rivals are entering the market. Comcast Corp., the largest U.S. cable operator, expects at least $1 billion in online advertising in the next five to six years.

Verizon Communications and AT&T are looking at advertising opportunities on their video and wireless services, while startups like social network Facebook are seen as a new frontier for Web marketing.

Even Microsoft Corp has made a bold move into advertising with its purchase of Web marketing firm aQuantive.

THE MONEY FLOW

Until recently, the focus was squarely on how much money is moving into online advertising, rather than whether too many companies are making a grab for it.

There is little doubt today that a hefty portion of advertising dollars will shift to the Internet from TV, radio, print and elsewhere in the coming years. ZenithOptimedia forecasts that online ads worldwide will rise 28 percent in 2007, while the rest of the market grows at 3.7 percent.

Next year, ZenithOptimedia forecasts it to rise by 21 percent, and climb another 13 percent to $43 billion in 2009.

At that point, Web advertising would represent almost 10 percent of the $495 billion spent on advertising worldwide — yet would trail spending on newspapers, magazines, and TV.

“There are billion of dollars that can still move,” said Craig Lambert, Chief Digital Director of Colangelo, an integrated marketing agency based in Darien, Connecticut.

“Is there enough money flowing to support the businesses out there? I’d guess there is, just because there’s so much money that has always been spent on TV and print,” he added.

BIG SITES GET BIG DOLLARS

Others also take the position that there should be sufficient advertising money to spread around.

Jeff Brooks, Chief Executive of digital and direct marketing agency Euro RSCG 4D, sees a “huge gap” between the amount of time people spend on digital media and the amount of advertising money it attracts.

“The thrust of ad spending online, while dramatic in its growth quarter over quarter, still represents a disproportionately small percentage of total advertising dollars,” he said.

The catch, according to some, is that much of the money flowing toward the Internet is concentrated on a few dozen of the most popular sites. That has left smaller, less well-known sites at a severe disadvantage when it comes to attracting advertising money and surviving.

In the United States, the top 50 Web sites accounted for more than 90 percent of the revenue from online ads in the first half of 2007, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The top 10 sites accounted for 70 percent of the revenue.

All the while, the number of Web sites continues to grow, creating more competition for audiences — and advertisers — who can also choose among video games, movies, TV, portable music and every other type of media entertainment.

“It’s not like the old days, when it was ‘if you build it, they will come,”‘ said Jonathan Sackett, Chief Digital Officer at Arnold Worldwide, a Boston-based advertising agency. “Now if you build it, they probably won’t.”

One alternative for Web sites would be to bank on subscriptions rather than advertising revenue, but few existing outlets have been successful with that model.

The reason is that unless the site offers extraordinary content, people simply refuse to pay for it, said Mark Miller, president of RMG Connect, an advertising and marketing agency.

“If Warren Buffett wanted to put out his own subscription newsletter online, well, I’m sure he’d get a bucketful of people to subscribe to it,” Miller said.

WE actually believe that the numbers will be much higher for internet ad dollars. Many small companies will see the light with google adwords and similar programs, and advances in technology will bring more viewing time to the internet as well. With cell phones and cheaper laptops getting more and more internet time, people habits will shift more to the web and so will more advertising for the companies who want to get their message out!

Myspace and skype team up for internet calls through popular social network

From Reuters / Yahoo news

Tue Oct 16, 6:25 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – News Corp’s (NWSa.N) MySpace social network site and eBay Inc’s (EBAY.O) Skype will offer MySpace members free Internet calling services, executives from the companies said, in a bid by both to expand their base of users and revenue.

The two were due to announce the deal on Wednesday.

Skype’s voice service will be folded into MySpace’s existing instant messaging technology, allowing MySpace members to place free calls to other people on the MySpace and Skype networks.

(Reporting by Michele Gershberg)

Maybe this move will get skype back on track to make money rather than losing millions and giving ebay big write offs to worry about. Perhaps skype will continue to tack hold and get in everyone’s head as a service that is common like At&t. Some myspace social network popularity would certainly help!

Social networks eye the myspace phenomenon – targeted ads and privacy issues move to forefront

Social networks seems to be all buzz this year, and for good reason. There have been many social network startups, and many social network software platforms (and even more) arriving for would be myspace clones. Boing Boing has added commenting to their posts, and digg has recently added profile pages to their already social posting site. Yahoo recently launched it’s mash social network (wonder what is going to happen to the 360 social network they had started?). Google has added some kind of google dating search to their dating search results. Social, personal, user generated data, it’s all exploding everywhere, and many people do not know the privacy consequences of their postings.
Myspace recently announced that they will be better targeting ads to the individual based upon profile information. I for one am still interested to see stories coming out about further data mining things like bulletins and chain posts that often contain a lot of personal information, and some of those questionares appear to have a few questions of interest to insurance companies, more disclosure would be prudent I believe.

A recent article found via yahoo / AP:

By GARY GENTILE, AP Business Writer Tue Sep 18, 7:06 PM ET

LOS ANGELES – News Corp.’s MySpace social networking site is using personal details contained on users’ profile pages and blogs to sell highly targeted advertising, the company said Tuesday.

The Web site started the first phase of its “interest targeting” experiment in July, culling likes and dislikes from its users’ pages to sell ads in 10 broad categories such as finance, autos, fashion and music.

MySpace advertisers can now get much more than the basic demographic data contained in site registration forms, Peter Levinsohn, who heads Fox Interactive Media, told an investor conference.

The site has more than 3 million users in each category and can place ads based on responses to questions about users’ likes and dislikes, favorite movies and music. Data is even extracted from blog entries, where users write at length about their lives.

Targeting ads well can be lucrative for MySpace and its corporate parent, but it can also backfire if users believe their personal expressions are being misused.

When MySpace rival Facebook last year introduced a feature that allows users to more easily track changes their friends make to profiles, many users denounced it as stalking and threatened protests and boycotts. Facebook had to quickly apologize and agree to let users turn off the feature so that others can’t easily see what they do.

Levinsohn said MySpace would only use information users have freely expressed on their pages.

MySpace should inform users it is using their profile information to sell more targeted ads, Beth Givens, director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a California-based nonprofit, said.

“Many young people don’t seem to have privacy protection instincts,” Givens said.

Levinsohn used the example of a user named “Jill” who identifies herself as a fashionista and wrote in her blog about the new fashion lineup.

“She even goes so far as telling us she needs new boots for the fall,” Levinsohn said. “How would you like to be an advertiser selling boots to her?”

Next, MySpace plans to broaden its categories so it can market ads for a movie such as “Fantastic Four,” for instance, to people who said they have an interest in comics, action films and even the film’s star, Jessica Alba.

“This is really just the beginning for us,” he said. “No one else in the marketplace can offer this kind of concentrated reach.”

At a conference in New York, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch remarked on the importance of creating categories for advertisers to buy on MySpace and vowed “to build it better than anybody.”

Sales of targeted ads could help Web sites earn more per ad sold. Earlier this year, Yahoo Inc. launched SmartAds, a platform for delivering customized display ads, while Time Warner Inc.’s AOL bought the behavioral-targeting company Tacoda.

The research company eMarketer projects that spending on behavioral targeting will nearly double to $1 billion next year and hit $3.8 billion by 2011.

Advertising is getting more targeted, but I have already seen some backlash in the form of people swearing to put all fake information in their profiles, and more use of adblock software. Sometimes too personal is just too personal. More people are blogging about the info that advertisers are using from web surfing habits, and google recently announced that serious privacy decisions need to be made within 5 years, although I think that is a realistic timeline, really, much should be decided and publicly presented much sooner in our over connected world.
google privacy article from Reuters: * Links added by co-author of this post, not original author!

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) – National regulators need to agree on a basic set of global privacy protections for the Internet within the next five years, a senior official with web searcher Google said on Monday.

Peter Fleischer, the firm’s global privacy counsel, said three quarters of countries had no Internet privacy standards at a time when the amount of sensitive personal and financial data on the Web was soaring.

Google — itself criticized for the threat it poses to personal privacy — says the firm’s business agenda, the world economy and the Internet could suffer unless more is done to ensure basic privacy on the Web.

“What we’re saying is that the Internet is making this particularly urgent and that the Internet develops at a different speed than the speed at which traditional lawmaking and policy-making discussions take place,” Fleischer said.

“I think this is something that needs to happen within five years. That’s just us saying what we think is realistic as an urgent action,” he told Reuters in an interview.

Google, unhappy with what it calls a patchwork of conflicting privacy rules in some countries and a complete lack in many others, is pressing for action amid criticism about the enormous access to personal information on the Web.

“I think everyone has acknowledged that the status quo is not good enough any more,” said Fleischer.

Google wants countries to adopt privacy principles agreed by several Asia-Pacific countries. Fleischer said some backed this idea while others wanted to focus on what the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is doing.

“That’s fine. The important thing from Google’s perspective is that there is a focus and debate around moving forward on global privacy standards,” he said.

“If we can … improve the standards in three quarters of the countries in the world, regardless of which model they follow, that is a huge step forward.”

He said perfect harmonization was unlikely, but the basic model could combine laws, codes of conduct and best practices.

Even if nations did not agree on standards within five years, Google would consider it progress if some countries without Internet privacy rules took action, said Fleischer.

“We’re playing a very long game here. We believe we’re working for the success of Google services over a very long period of time … and one of the things that everybody needs to improve is an understanding of privacy,” he said.

There have been some articles about people who are shocked that employers, and police are using myspace, facebook and similar social networks to look into your life, but I do not think there has been enough in the media about it, nor easy to use options to stop info you want to share with friends from being put out into the public. Ex lovers and future love interests of course may also be stalking your myspace page, as well as your friend’s kids I come to find out.
from the college recruiter blog:

Facebook and MySpace Used by Employers, Schools, and Police

If you’re like most college and even high school students, you have posted your profile to Facebook, MySpace, or another social networking site. But did you realize that your profile can easily be accessed by potential employers, schools, law enforcement agencies, and others? As much as that revelation may be a shock for students, it also came as a shock to those who set up the sites because they never intended outsiders to use the information for purposes other than benign social networking.

The terms of service of these sites typically prohibit their use for commercial purposes. Facebook’s terms of service page, for example, states that users understand that the service is available for “personal, non-commercial use only.” No reasonable person could argue with a straight face that recruitment is a non-commercial use, but just because such use is prohibited doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening.

Let me be clear that I love Facebook, MySpace, and the other social networking sites. They’re wonderful tools to help students and others connect with people who share their interests. But they also must be used carefully. You should assume that anything that you post on-line is going to be read by your old-fashioned grandmother. If you’re fine with her reading your profile, then its contents should be fine. Few would talk with their grandmothers about getting drunk, sexual experiences, breaking laws, etc. so why would they post such information on-line for anyone and everyone to read? Perhaps it is our exhibitionist culture. Today’s college students have grown up in an era where the most celebrated stars are on reality TV shows, so how can we blame them for believing that such behavior is to be celebrated rather than pitied?

web 2.0 boot camp from the electronic frontier foundation – EFF

From the EFF a seminar I am hoping will be recorded, edited and available on the web, for I can not afford the travel to make it out to Cali right now. It’s a great price for those who can make it, and the topics are important, with experts offering advice worth more than the price of travel and admission. If you are thinking about starting a social network or already have a site that harnesses user generated content check it out:

What

One-Day bootcamp. EFF’s staff attorneys will be teamed with private attorneys specializing in the various legal issues. We’ll give you the basics on the key topics and you’ll leave better able to protect your customers, your company and your job.

Topic areas

  • Defamation, harassment, and other accusations of bad behavior.
  • Fair use, free culture, and the right to remix.
  • Copyright take-downs and put-backs: Understanding the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
  • How to respond to cops, crooks, and courts who want your customers’ communications and other private information.
  • How to avoid becoming the next Napster and stay on the safe side of the Copyright Wars.
  • The rights of anonymous speakers.
  • Porn, predators, and the pressure to police.
  • Lightning rounds on Creative Commons licenses, webcasting and what to do when you’ve been hacked.

Who should attend

People who do front-line or mid-level work for companies and projects that rely on user-generated content and communications. This includes compliance, customer service and community management workers.

Info orignally found via boing boing

Blog Feeds Provide New Security Threat

How are we going to fix this one? Just keep turing off java, flash and every other cool web service that makes the net great?

Blog Feeds Provide New Security Threat

How are we going to fix this one? Just keep turing off java, flash and every other cool web service that makes the net great?

Blog Feeds Provide New Security Threat
From XBIZ

By Steve Javors

LAS VEGAS — Exploiting the vulnerability of blog feeds, hackers have found a new medium to surreptitiously attack PCs.

Bob Auger, a security engineer with SPI Dynamics, said that hackers could insert malicious JavaScript in blog updates that are delivered to subscribers’ machines via Really Simple Syndication (RSS) or Atom feeds. Auger presented his findings during the annual Black Hat Briefings, an Internet security conference.

Auger said blog feeds can be compromised in two ways: hackers setting up a corrupted blog and getting users to subscribe to its RSS feed, or more likely, inserting malicious code into a popular blog’s comments section, which often have their own feed.

Attackers also can send malicious code to mailing lists that offer feeds to attack compromised systems, Auger said. Feeds have risen to prominence because they allow users to consolidate information from websites into a single interface. This eliminates the need for clicking on a plethora of different websites.

Many RSS or feed readers do not include security software that can filter out malicious code. Auger said these applications should prevent JavaScript from running.

“A large percentage of the readers I tested had some kind of an issue,” Auger said. Vulnerable feed readers include Bloglines, RSS Reader, RSS Owl, Feed Demon and Sharp Reader, according to Auger.

Filtering out JavaScript at the feed reader level can get complicated because many readers use the code to deliver ads like one would see if they accessed the blog homepage.

Web 2.0 – what it may be and where it is going

From Business Week:

But behind the peculiarities, Web 2.0 portends a real sea change on the Internet. If there’s one thing they have in common, it’s what they’re not. Web 2.0 sites are not online places to visit so much as services to get something done — usually with other people. From Yahoo!’s (YHOO) photo-sharing site Flickr and the group-edited online reference source Wikipedia to the teen hangout MySpace, and even search giant Google (GOOG), they all virtually demand active participation and social interaction (see BW Online, 9/26/05, “It’s A Whole New Web”). If these Web 2.0 folks weren’t so geeky, they might call it the Live Web.

And though these Web 2.0 services have succeeded in luring millions of consumers to their shores, they haven’t had much to offer the vast world of business. Until now.

Read more from Business Week…

A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace

A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace
From Boing Boing

A terrific Slate piece by Paul Boutin about the factors contributing to YouTube’s success: it’s easy to use, and it doesn’t “tell you what to do.” Snip:

The guys behind YouTube hit the sweet spot. Most important, they made it head-slappingly easy to publish and play video clips by handling the tricky parts automatically. Given up on BitTorrent because it feels like launching a mission to Mars? If you’ve sent an e-mail attachment, you’ve got the tech skills to publish on YouTube.

To post your own video, sign up for a free account and go to the Upload page. Select your file, click the Upload Video button, and you’re done! YouTube’s servers convert your vid to a standardized format, but you don’t need to know what that format is. If you send the URL to your aunt, it’ll play in her browser without spraying the screen with pop-ups and errors.

You don’t have to upload video to use YouTube. If you just like to watch, it’s even easier. There’s no software to install, no settings to muck with. The video auto-plays as soon as you load the page, without launching more windows—why can’t CNN do that?

Three months ago, I predicted Google Video would become the hottest thing on the Net. I was wrong, and I think Google has failed to take off for the simple reason that it’s more annoying to use than YouTube. To begin with, you have to install Google’s special uploading application. When I tried to upload the same clips I’d posted to YouTube, Google’s app wouldn’t let me. I combed through the FAQ and found this: “While we also support other digital formats such as QuickTime, Windows Media, and RealVideo … submitting your files in these formats may significantly delay us from using them on Google Video.” Come on, guys. Whatever happened to “I’m Feeling Lucky?”

Link