Tag Archive | "virtual"

Virtual Restaurants Helping Power Uber Eats Growth

“Virtual restaurants is a very interesting initiative,” says Uber Eats EMEA head Rodrigo Arevalo. “Basically by leveraging the data on our platform, we can partner with other restaurants in order to cuisine types that only exist on food delivery platforms. If there is not a restaurant in a certain neighborhood we will partner with restaurants to make that happen. In the UK we are already doing 200 virtual restaurants and we are expanding throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.”

Rodrigo Arevalo, head of EMEA at Uber Eats, discusses how virtual restaurants are helping power Uber Eats Growth in an interview on Bloomberg:

Virtual Restaurants Helping Power Uber Eats Growth

Virtual restaurants is a very interesting initiative. Basically, by leveraging the data on our platform we can partner with other restaurants in order to cuisine types that only exist on food delivery platforms. That has two benefits. The first one is that it helps restaurants utilize their kitchens a lot more. The second one is that it increases their revenue on their top line. It’s a very interesting initiative to provide more choice and to increase business for restaurants. 

If there is not a restaurant in a certain neighborhood we will partner with restaurants to make that happen. In the UK we are already doing 200 virtual restaurants and we are expanding throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It’s a type of local exercise that we are trying to tack on. It’s going really well and we’re excited about that.

Uber East Demonstrates the Potential of Uber’s Logistics Platform

Uber Eats fits into Uber’s overall strategy and portfolio in the way that it demonstrates the potential of Uber’s logistics platform. Just in three and a half years, we’ve been able to build a multi-billion dollar business and today we are already the biggest food delivery app outside of China. It’s all about the logistics network that we have built and how we can leverage the potential of that platform. 

It’s about focus for us. We want to make sure that we deliver on the plan, deliver on the vision that (Uber CEO) Dara Khosrowshahi has set for the company. Focus is basically three pillars for Uber Eats. The first one is restaurant selection, providing consumers choice. The second one is customer experience for eaters, for restaurants, and for delivery partners. The third one is underpinning that with great technology and a great product that people would love to use every single day. 

Uber Eats Partners With 220,000 Restaurants Globally

We partner today with 220,000 restaurants globally and there is a vast variety of selection from every kind of meal that you would like; comfort food to the healthiest options such as vegan, salads, etc. We believe selection. We believe in consumer choice. We want to make sure that we provide all of those options to them. We very much focus on providing that information, providing those options, and making sure that consumers make an informed choice.

When it comes to packaging we already partner with several companies that provide sustainable packaging. Given our platform, particularly in the UK, we already look for ways to facilitate sustainable packaging for restaurant partners, making sure we do our part in that sense.

Virtual Restaurants Helping Power Uber Eats Growth – Uber Eats EMEA head Rodrigo Arevalo

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Walmart, Verizon, BMW Having Success With STRIVR Virtual Reality Training Technology

“We started the rollout to all of the Walmart retail environments at the end of 2019 and so far so good,” says STRIVR CEO Derek Belch. “We’ve had almost a million Associates go through different training modules. Doug McMillon actually in their earnings report a month ago did reference employee training as being one of the reasons that their earnings are what they are. So it’s definitely something that we’re seeing have a very positive effect as it relates to placing employees in these simulation-based learning environments that virtual reality affords.”

Derek Belch, founder and CEO of STRIVR, discusses the success that enterprise companies such as Walmart, Verizon, and BMW are having with their virtual reality employee training technology in an interview on CNBC:

Walmart VR Training Positively Impacting Earnings

We started the rollout to all of the Walmart retail environments at the end of 2019 and so far so good. We’ve had almost a million Associates go through different training modules. Doug McMillon actually in their earnings report a month ago did reference employee training as being one of the reasons that their earnings are what they are. So it’s definitely something that we’re seeing have a very positive effect as it relates to placing employees in these simulation-based learning environments that virtual reality affords. It’s been really cool.

Walmart VR Training – Oculus x Walmart x STRIVR

We have about 30 customers in the Fortune 500 right now. It’s definitely crossing the chasm. We’re still on our way up here in the early adopters’ phase but we’re seeing this catch on. There’s definitely product-market fit for immersive learning as we call it. This is the real deal. This is very similar to pilots in a flight simulator. Historically, we’ve trained employees or we’ve assessed employees via PowerPoint’s, videos, and lectures. Candidly, we don’t know if people are half asleep or if they’re actually engaged. 

Now with virtual reality, we’re able to put people through simulation-based learning, simulation-based training, simulation-based assessment, and it’s catching on. I think by this time next year if you’re not doing something (with VR training) you’re behind in the Fortune 500. We’re seeing that this is the real deal.

VR Technology Finding Its Legs As a Useful Tool In the Enterprise

At this point, we’ve talked to everybody. There isn’t a company in the Fortune 500 that we have not talked to in some way, shape, or form. We are not working with Amazon currently. We have talked to them on and off and we’ll see where that goes. To be honest, I’m not really worried about anyone doing this themselves. This is still the very early days of virtual reality. We work very closely with Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, they’re a great partner of ours. 

We take a lot of pride at STRIVR and what we call the end-to-end solution which is basically, hey,  in the early days while you’re an early adopter and the technology is certainly viable and ready it’s also really difficult to scale. So we do a lot of heavy lifting for our partners, Walmart being one of them along with Verizon and BMW. We just do a lot of work for them up front while the technology is finding its legs to get to the point where computers, iPads, and cell phones are right now as a useful tool in the enterprise. I’m not worried about anybody in the next 18 months or so doing this on their own but certainly, we’ll see as the ecosystem evolves where it goes from there.

STRIVR VR Technology Being Used by Verizon

As it relates to the viability of using this as a predictive tool, this is how the Walmart use case came about with using this for assessments. Were actually patent pending right now on what we call an engagement algorithm to see how engaged somebody is during a simulation. We tell our partners all the things we’re working on behind the scenes and Walmart said they wanted to test that out to see if this would be a good use case for them. 

We Take Pride That Our VR Experiences Won’t Lead To Nausea

This (disorientation) is an issue for sure. That question always comes up in every demo. “Hey, am I going to get sick? Oh, I’m good, I don’t need to put it on. I got sick last time.” This is all about how the brain works and your equilibrium. If you’re sitting or you’re standing and you put on a headset and now you’re on a rollercoaster or you’re running through an active shooter game or something like that, yeah you’re going to get nauseous because your body is static but your brain thinks that it’s doing something else.

We take a lot of pride in making sure that the experiences we build along with some of the subtle things we do in the software aren’t going to lead to nausea.

Walmart, Verizon, BMW Having Success With Virtual Reality Training Technology – STRIVR CEO Derek Belch

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David Hauser: Founder Of Virtual Telephone Company Grasshopper (Acquired By Citrix For $170 Million) Explains How He Builds SAAS Companies

[ Download MP3 | Transcript | iTunes | Soundcloud | Raw RSS ] I can remember listening to many podcasts over the years that featured a certain sponsor – Grasshopper, a company that provides virtual telephone services. David Hauser is the founder of, among many companies, Grasshopper, by far his most successful business. It reached $ 30 […]

The post David Hauser: Founder Of Virtual Telephone Company Grasshopper (Acquired By Citrix For $ 170 Million) Explains How He Builds SAAS Companies appeared first on Yaro.Blog.

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Ask the SMXpert – Optimizing for voice search & virtual assistants

SMXpert Upasna Gautam continues the Q&A from SMX Advanced and discusses a number of topics including creating the right content, using homonyms, stressed words and quality metrics when optimizing for voice search.



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Study: Google Assistant most accurate, Alexa most improved virtual assistant

While one new study on voice assistants compares the quality of different providers’ answers, the other drills into Google’s data sources for 22 verticals.

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Virtual Real Estate

Wrastlin With The News

The current presidential cabinet includes a WWE co-founder & this passes for modern political discourse:

CNN promised vengeance.

Something To Believe In

The pretense of objectivity has been dropped:

These reporters aren’t ideologues. They’re just right-thinking people who lean left. Somewhere along the line, they stopped pretending to be objective about Trump. … People don’t just disagree with each other. They can’t imagine how a decent caring human being could disagree with their own view of race or the minimum wage or immigration or Trump. Being a member of the virtuous tribe means not only carrying the correct card in your wallet to reassure yourself. You have to also believe that the people carrying any other card are irrational, or worse, evil. They’re not people to engage in conversation with. They are barriers to be ignored or pushed aside on the virtuous path to paradise. This intolerance and inability to imagine the virtue of the other side is the road to tyranny and chaos. It dehumanizes a good chunk of humanity and that in turn justifies the worst atrocities human beings are capable of.

The WSJ, typically a right-leaning publication, is differentiating their coverage of the president from most other outlets by attempting to be somewhat neutral.

The news is fake. Even historically left-leaning people are disgusted with outlets like CNN.

  • “I think the president is probably right to say, like, look you are witch-hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof.” – CNN supervising producer John Bonifield
  • “When you do shitty reporting like CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times & Rachel Maddow especially. When you do that & it is revealed to be bullshit, what you’re doing is building up Trump. There’s no greater way to build up Trump than to falsely report on him. There’s no better way to build up Trump than to make him the victim.” – Jimmy Dore
  • “Rachel Maddow was given the facts, she ignored them, & she kept right on going. That’s MSNBC, that’s CNN, that’s the New York Times, the Washington Post – they’re all horrible. That’s why we had the Iraq war. That’s why we have the Syria war. That’s why we are still in Afghanistan. That’s why we had Libya. That’s why we have the biggest income disparity since the gilded age. Meanwhile we are spending more on the military than the rest of the world.” – Jimmy Dore

And, since people need something to believe in, there are new American Gods:

“A half hour of cable news delivers enough psychic trauma for a whole year. The newspapers are talking of nothing but treason, espionage, investigations, protests.” … “Stocks are rallying because of how little faith we have in the government. The Mega Blue Chip Corporation is the new Sovereign.”

Current Headwinds for Online Publishing

I struggle to keep up with the accelerating rate of change. A number of common themes in the current ecosystem are:

  • We are moving toward a world where more things are becoming fake (only accelerated by the demonetization of neutrality & the algorithmic boost associated with reliably delivering confirmation bias in an algorithmic or manual fashion)
  • risk keeps being radiated outward to the individual while monopoly platforms capture the spoils (forced-place health insurance purchases where the insurance company arbitrarily drops the sick member on the policy even though that is supposed to be illegal, more temp jobs where people don’t get enough hours to get health insurance through their employer, under-funded pensions, outsourcing of core business functions to sweatshops where part-time workers don’t get paid for dozens to hundreds of hours of required training & get to watch beheading videos all day)
  • the barrier to entry keeps increasing (increased marketing cost due to brand bias, heavy ad loads on dominant platforms, & central platforms making partners do “bet the farm” moves in how they adjust distribution to drive adoption of proprietary formats & temporarily over-promote select content formats)
  • the increasing chunk size of competition is making it much harder for individuals to build sustainable businesses. (Yes the tools of the trade are improving quickly, BUT the central platforms are demonetizing the adjacent fields faster than publishing tools & business options improve.)
  • In Europe publishers are aggressively leaning on regulators to try to rebalance power.

Some of this stuff is cyclical. About a decade ago the European Commission went after Microsoft for bundling Internet Explorer. Google complained about the monopolistic practices to ensure Microsoft was fined. And we’ve went from that to a web where Google syndicates native ads that blend into page content while directly funding robot journalism. And then Google is ranking the robot-generated crap too.

But to keep the ecosystem clean & spam free, Google is also planning to leverage their web browser to further dictate the terms of online publishing. Chrome will block autoplay audio & will automatically reroute .dev domains to https. Cutting edge developers suggest using a web browser other than Google Chrome to prevent proprietary lock in across the web.

While Google distributes their Chrome browser as unwanted bundleware, other web browsers must display uninstall links front & center when trying to gain awareness of their product using Google AdWords. Microsoft Edge is coming to Android, but without a BrowserChoice.eu screen it is unlikely most users will change their web browser as most are unaware of what a web browser even is, let alone the limitations of any of them or the tracking embedded in them.

If you go back several years, there was celebration of the fact that the cost of doing a startup was so low. You didn’t have to pay Oracle a million dollars for a server license any more. You didn’t even have to rack your own hardware. Now you can just dial it up on Amazon. But there are now these gatekeepers and toll-takers. Back in 2004, you had the wide-open internet. – Jeremy Stoppelman

The Mobile Revolution

If you are an anti-social work at home webmaster who has dual monitors it is easy to dismiss cell phones as inefficient and chalk most mobile usage up to the following.

The reality is cell phones are more powerful than they seem if you are strictly consuming rather than working.

And that is how the unstoppable quickly becomes the extinct!

Many people the world over are addicted to their cell phones to where viral game makers are self-regulating before regulators step in: “From Tuesday, users below 12 years of age will be limited to one hour of play time each day, while those aged between 12 years and 18 years will be limited to two hours a day, Tencent said.”

While China is using their various tools to clamp down on Honour of Kings, Tencent is bringing the game to the west, which makes blocking VPN services (with Apple’s helpthey must play along or have the phones reduced to bricks) & requiring local data storage & technology transfer more important. Anything stored locally can be easily disappeared: “China’s already formidable internet censors have demonstrated a new strength-the ability to delete images in one-on-one chats as they are being transmitted, making them disappear before receivers see them.”

China has banned live streaming, threatened their largest domestic social networks, shut down chat bots, require extensive multimedia review: “an industry association circulated new regulations that at least two “auditors” will, with immediate effect, be required to check all audiovisual content posted online” AND they force users to install spyware on their devices.

In spite of all those restrictions, last year “Chinese consumers spent $ 5.5 trillion through mobile payment platforms, about 50 times more than their American counterparts.” In the last quarter Baidu had Â¥20.87 billion in revenues, with 72% of their revenues driven by mobile.

People can not miss that which they’ve never seen, thus platform socialism works. Those who doubt it will be tracked & scored accordingly.

History, as well, can be scrubbed. And insurance companies watch everything in real-time – careful what you post. The watchful eye of the Chinese pre-crime team is also looking over every move.

Last quarter Facebook had revenues of $ 9.164 billion, with 87% coming from mobile devices.

Simulacrum has ALMOST been perfected:

“We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.” … “Rates of teen depression and suicide have skyrocketed since 2011. It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.” … “Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy.”

The web is becoming easier to get addicted to due to personalization algorithms that reinforce our worldviews even as they make us feel more isolated and left out. And the barrier to entry for consumers into one of the few central gatekeeper ecosystems is dropping like a rock due to the falling cost of mobile devices, coupled with with images & video displacing text making literacy optional. As we become more “connected” we feel more isolated:

“Social isolation, loneliness or living alone was each a significant factor contributing to premature death. And each one of these factors was a more significant risk factor for dying than obesity. … No one knows precisely why loneliness is surging, threatening the lives of many millions of people, but it does seem that the burgeoning use of technology may have something to do with it. Personally, I would contend that technology may be the chief factor fueling it.”

The primary role of the big data mining companies is leveraging surveillance for social engineering

App Annie expects the global app economy to be worth $ 6.3 trillion by 2021.

The reason those numbers can easily sound fake & mobile can seem overblown is how highly concentrated usage has become: “over 80 percent of consumer time on mobile devices is now spent on the apps, websites and properties” of just five companies: Facebook, Google, Apple, Yelp and Bing.

eMarketer stated Google will have more mobile ad revenue than desktop ad revenue in the US this year. They also predicted Google & Facebook will consume over 2/3 of US online ad spend within 2 years.

The central network operators not only maintain an outsized share of revenues, but also maintain an outsized share of profits. When the home team gets a 30% rake of any sale it is hard for anyone else to compete. Even after buying and gutting Motorola Google bought part of HTC for $ 1.1 billion. The game plan has never changed: commoditize the compliment to ensure user data & most of the profits flow to Google. Put up arbitrary roadblocks for competing services while launching free parallel offerings to drive lock-in.

Central data aggregators can keep collecting more user data & offer more granular ad distribution features. They can tell you that this micro moment RIGHT NOW is make or break:

it’s intended to create a bizarre sense of panic among marketers – “OMG, we have to be present at every possible instant someone might be looking at their phone!” – which doesn’t help them think strategically or make the best use of their marketing or ad spend.

The reality is that if you don’t have a relationship with a person on their desktop computer they probably don’t want your mobile app either.

If you have the relationship then mobile only increases profits.

Many people attempting to build “the next mobile” will go bust, but wherever the attention flows the ads will follow.

Those with a broad & dominant tech platform can copy features from single-category devices and keep integrating them into their core products to increase user lock-in. And they can build accessories for those core devices while prohibiting the flow of data to third party devices to keep users locked into their ecosystem.

Smaller Screens, Shallower Attention

People often multi-task while using mobile devices.

When multi-tasking it is easier to accidentally click an ad. This happens 10s of billions of times a year:

This year, in-app mobile ad spend will reach $ 45.3 billion, up $ 11 billion from last year, according to eMarketer. And apps are where the money is at for mobile advertising, comprising 80 percent of all U.S. media dollars spent on mobile.

But multi-tasking means doing almost everything else worse. The “always on” mode not only increases isolation, but also lowers our ability to focus:

“while our phones offer convenience and diversion, they also breed anxiety. Their extraordinary usefulness gives them an unprecedented hold on our attention and vast influence over our thinking and behavior. … Not only do our phones shape our thoughts in deep and complicated ways, but the effects persist even when we aren’t using the devices. As the brain grows dependent on the technology, the research suggests, the intellect weakens. … when people hear their phone ring but are unable to answer it, their blood pressure spikes, their pulse quickens, and their problem-solving skills decline. … As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased. … Anticipating that information would be readily available in digital form seemed to reduce the mental effort that people made to remember it. … people are all too quick to credit lies and half-truths spread through social media by Russian agents and other bad actors. If your phone has sapped your powers of discernment, you’ll believe anything it tells you.”

Further, the shallow attention stream makes it easy to displace content with ads:

4 Ads
3 map carrousel results
5 organic results
4 Ads

Then “see more results”

4 more Ads
5 organic results
4 more Ads

On desktop devices people don’t accidentally misclick on ads at anywhere near the rate they fat thumb ads on mobile devices.

Desktop ad clicks convert to purchases. Mobile ad clicks convert to ad budget burned: “marketers are still seeing few shoppers purchasing on mobile. The 52% of share in traffic only has 26% share of revenue.”

For traditional publishers mobile users drastically under-monetize desktop users due to

  • drastically lower conversion rates (true for almost everyone in ecommerce outside of Amazon perhaps)
  • limited cross-device tracking (how do you track people who don’t even hit your site but hit a cached page hosted via Google AMP or Facebook Instant Articles?)
  • lower ad load allowed on publisher sites due to limited screen size
  • aggressive filtering of fat thumb ad clicks on partner sites from central ad networks

For the central network operators almost all the above are precisely the exact opposite.

  • higher ad CTR by making entire interface ads (& perhaps even disappearing the concept of non-ads in the result set)
  • great cross-device user tracking
  • higher ad load allowed by the small screen size pushing content below the fold
  • more lenient filtering of fat thumb accidental ad clicks

If you look at raw stats without understanding the underlying impact, it is easy to believe the ecosystem is healthy.

However the huge number of “no click” results are demonetizing easy publisher revenues, which have traditionally helped to fund more in-depth investigative reporting. Further, much of the direct navigation which happened in the past is now being passed through brand-related search result pages. You can argue that is an increase in search traffic, or you can argue it is shifting the roll of the address bar from navigation to search.

The first page is nothing but ads

On mobile so is the second, and most of the third

If a search query has lots of easy to structure crap around it, a user might need 6 or 7 scrolls to get to an organic result

Then if third parties go “well Google does this, so I should too” they are considered a low quality user experience and get a penalty.

31% ad coverage on mobile website is excessive / spam / low quality user experience for a publisher, while 301% coverage is reasonable for the central network operators.

Google not only displaces the result set, but also leverages their search suggestion features & algorithmic influence to alter how people search & what they search for.

Ads are getting integrated into mobile keyboards.

And when a user finally reaches the publisher’s website (provided they scroll past the ads, the AMP listings, and all the other scrape-n-displace trash) then when they finally land on a publication Google will overlay other recommended articles from other sites.

That feature will eventually end up including ads in it, where publishers will get 0.00% of the revenue generated.

Remember how Google suggested publishers should make their websites faster, remove ads, remove clutter, etc. What was the point of all that? To create free real estate for Google to insert a spam unit into your website?

This wouldn’t be bad if mobile were a small, fringe slice of traffic, but it is becoming the majority of traffic. And as mobile increases desktop traffic is shrinking.

Even politically biased outlets that appear to be nearly perfectly optimized for a filter bubble that promotes identity politics struggle to make the numbers work: “As a result of continued decline in direct advertising, [Salon's] total revenue in the fiscal year 2017 decreased by 34% to $ 4.6 million. Following the market trend, 84% of our advertising revenue in fiscal year 2017 was generated by programmatic selling. … [Monthly unique visitors to our website saw] a decrease of 23%. We attribute the decline primarily to the changes in the algorithms used by Facebook.”

The above sorts of numbers are the logical outcome to this:

we’ve heard complaints from users that if they click on a result and it’s difficult to find the actual content, they aren’t happy with the experience. Rather than scrolling down the page past a slew of ads, users want to see content right away. So sites that don’t have much content”above-the-fold” can be affected by this change. If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.

Especially when combined with this:

As you scroll through it, you are then given travel ads for flight options through Google Flight search, hotels through Google Hotel search and restaurants through Google Local results. Then towards the bottom of the knowledge graph card, all the way at the end in a small grayish font, you have a link to “see web results.”

Bad news for TripAdvisor.

And amongst the good news for Expedia, there’s also a bit of bad news for Expedia. The hotels are fighting Airbnb & OTAs. In travel Google is twice as big as the biggest OTA players. They keep eating more SERP real estate and adding more content behind tabs. On mobile they’ll even disappear the concept of organic results.

Room previews in the search results not only means that second tier players are worth a song, but even the new growth players propped up by aggressive ad buying eventually hit a wall and see their stock crash.

As the entire ecosystem gets squeezed by middlemen and the market gets obfuscated with an incomplete selection it is ultimately consumers who lose: “Reservations made through Internet discount sites are almost always slated for our worst rooms.”

The New York Times pitched Yelp as a pesky player holding a grudge:

“For six years, his company has been locked in a campaign on three continents to get antitrust regulators to punish Google, Yelp’s larger, richer and more politically connected competitor. … Yelp concluded that there was no better way to get Google’s attention than to raise the specter of regulation. … something [Mark Mahaney] calls the Death of Free Google. As the internet has migrated to mobile phones, Google has compensated for the smaller screen space by filling it with so many ads that users can have a hard time finding a result that hasn’t been paid for.”

In spite of how quick The New York Times was to dismiss Yelp, the monopoly platforms are stiffing competition & creativity while bundling fake reviews & junk features into their core platforms.

People can literally switch their name to “Loop dee Loop”

and leave you terrible, fake reviews.

Google’s lack of effort & investment to clean up trash in their local services department highlights that they don’t feel they need to compete on quality. Pay for core search distribution, throw an inferior service front & center, and win by default placement.

As AI advancements make fake reviews look more legit Google’s lack of investment in creating a quality ecosystem will increasingly harm both consumers and businesses. Many low margin businesses will go under simply because their Google reviews are full of inaccurate trash or a competitor decided to hijack their business listing or list their business as closed.

To this day Google is still egregiously stealing content from Yelp:

Yelp said it investigated and found that over one hour, Google pulled images from Yelp’s servers nearly 386,000 times for business listings in Google Maps, which Google exempted from its promise to not scrape content. Yelp then searched Google for 150 of the businesses from those map listings and found that for 110 of them, Google used a Yelp photo as the lead image in the businesses’ listings in search results.

Stealing content & wrapping it in fake reviews is NOT putting the user first.

Facebook has their own matching parallel shifts.

The aggregate quality of mobile ad clicks is quite low. So as mobile becomes a much higher percent of total ad clicks, those who don’t have scale and narrative control are reduced to taking whatever they can get. And mainstream media outlets are reduced to writing puff pieces so the brands they cover will pay to promote the stories on the main channels.

As programmatic advertising, ad blockers, unpatched Android-powered botnets & malware spread each day gets a little uglier for everyone but the central market operators. It is so bad that some of the central market operators offer surveillance apps which claim to protect user privacy! Other app makers not connected to monopoly profit streams monetize any way they can.

The narrative of growth can be sold (we are launching a new food channel, we are investing in our internal video team, we have exclusive real estate listings, and, um, we acquired a food channel) but the competition is a zero sum game with Google & Facebook eating off the publisher’s plates.

That’s why Time is trying to shave $ 400 million off their expenses & wants to sell their magazine division. Newspaper companies are selling for $ 1. It is also why Business Insider is no longer chasing growth & the New York Times is setting up a charitable trust.

The rise of ad blocking only accelerates the underlying desperation.

As long as news websites make their own customer experience worse than what can be found as a cached copy on the monopoly platforms there is no reason to visit the end publisher website. That is why the proprietary formats promoted by the monopoly platforms are so dangerous. They force lighter monetization & offset the lack of revenue by given preferential placement:

click through rate from Google search went from 5.9% (Regular) to 10.3% (AMP), and average search position went from 5.9 (Regular) to 1.7 (AMP). Since then, we have deployed AMP across fifteen of our brands and we have been very pleased with the results. Today, AMP accounts for 79% of our mobile search traffic and 36% of our total mobile visits.

As long as almost nobody is using the new proprietary, ghetto lock-in format the math may work out there, but once many people adopt it then it becomes another recurring sunk cost with no actual benefit:

the only voices promoting AMP’s performance benefits are coming from inside Google. … given how AMP pages are privileged in Google’s search results, the net effect of the team’s hard, earnest work comes across as a corporate-backed attempt to rewrite HTML in Google’s image.

Even if you get a slight uptick in traffic from AMP, it will lead to lower quality user engagement as users are browsing across websites rather than within websites. Getting a bit more traffic but 59% fewer leads is a fail.

No amount of collaborative publisher partnerships, begging for anti-trust exemptions, or whining about Google is going to fix the problem.

“The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together. If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook-pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data-they could build a more sustainable future for the news business. But antitrust laws make such coordination perilous. These laws, intended to prevent monopolies, are having the unintended effect of preserving and protecting Google and Facebook’s dominant position.”

Wait a minute.

Wasn’t it the New York Times which claimed Yelp was holding an arbitrary grudge against Google?

The following sounds a lot more desperate:

newspapers that once delivered their journalism with their own trucks increasingly have to rely on these big online platforms to get their articles in front of people, fighting for attention alongside fake news, websites that lift their content, and cat videos.

Well maybe that is just smaller publications & not the gray lady herself

“the temperature is rising in terms of concern, and in some cases anger, about what seems like a very asymmetric, disadvantageous relationship between the publishers and the very big digital platforms.” – NYT CEO Mark Thompson

In unrelated news, there’s another round of layoffs coming at the New York Times.

And the New York Times is also setting up a nonprofit division to expand journalism while their core company focuses on something else.

Apparently Yelp does not qualify as a publisher in this instance.

Or does it?

The Times is backing the move for what is called an anticompetitive safe haven, in part, Mr. Thompson said, “because we care about the whole of journalism as well as about The New York Times.”

Ah, whole of journalism, which, apparently, no longer includes local business coverage.

You know the slogan: “news isn’t news, unless it isn’t local.”

The struggles are all across the media landscape. The new Boston Globe CEO lasted a half-year. The San Diego Union-Tribune resorted to using GoFundMe. The Chicago Sun-Times sold for $ 1. Moody’s issued a negative outlook for the US newspaper sector. As the industry declines the biggest players view consolidation as the only solution.

These struggles existed even before the largest brand advertisers like P&G cut back on low & no value ad venues like YouTube:

In the fourth quarter, the reduction in marketing that occurred was almost all in the digital space. And what it reflected was a choice to cut spending from a digital standpoint where it was ineffective: where either we were serving bots as opposed to human beings, or where the placement of ads was not facilitating the equity of our brands.

Google & Facebook are extending their grip on the industry with Google launching topical feeds & Facebook wanting to control subscription management.

Best of luck to journalists on the employment front:

The initiative, dubbed Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR), will see a team of five journalists work with Natural Language Generation software to produce over 30,000 pieces of content for local media each month.

Hopefully editors catch the subtle errors the bots make, because most of them will not be this obvious & stupid.

The cost of parasitic content recycling is coming down quickly:

In a show of strength last year, Microsoft used thousands of these chips at once to translate all of English Wikipedia into Spanish-3 billion words across five million articles-in less than a tenth of a second. Next Microsoft will let its cloud customers use these chips to speed up their own AI tasks.

Voice search makes it even easier to extract the rewards without paying publishers. Throwing pennies at journalists does nothing to change this.

And that voice shift is happening fast: “By 2020 half of search will be via voice”

If Google is subsidizing robotic journalism they are thus legitimizing robotic journalism. As big publishers employ the tactic, Google ranks it.

It is almost impossible to compete economically with an entity that rewrites your work & has zero marginal cost of production.

YouTube has perhaps the worst comments on the web. Some mainstream news sites got rid of comments because they couldn’t justify the cost of policing them. That in turn shifts the audience & attention stream to sites like Facebook & Twitter. Some news sites which are still leaving comments enabled rely on a Google filter, a technology Google can use on YouTube as they see fit.

Any plugins publishers use to lower their costs can later disappear. It looked like FindTheBest was doing well financially, but when it was acquired many news sites quickly found out the cost of free as they now have thousands of broken articles in their archives: “Last month, Graphiq announced that features for news publishers would no longer be available after Friday.”

Driving costs toward zero by piling on external dependencies is no way to build a sustainable business. Especially when the central network operators are eating the playing field:

“Between fast-loading AMP articles from major news brands hosted in its domain, full pages of information scraped from outside sites that don’t require you to visit them, basic shopping functions built into ads, YouTube, and a host of other features, the Google-verse is more of a digital walled garden than ever. … If Google continues to choke these sites out, what incentive will there be for new ones to come along?”

Unprofitable partners which were buying growth with artificially cheap pricing eventually find out investors want profits more than growth & either reprice or go away. The longer you use something & the more locked in you are to it the more aggressively it can afford to reprice. Symbiotic relationships devolve into abusive ones:

  • “for every pound an advertiser spends programmatically on the Guardian only 30 pence actually goes to the publisher.” – Mediatel
  • “Google wants to cut out the middlemen, which it turns out, are URLs.” – MobileMoxie
  • “[AMP is] a way for Google to obfuscate your website, usurp your content & remove any personal credibility from the web” – TheRegister
  • “Though the stated initiative of ads.txt is to stop inventory resale, it achieves this by establishing ‘preferred’ channels, which naturally favors the industry’s most influential companies” – Ad Exchanger

That Apple does extra work to undo AMP says a lot.

Those who think the central network operators are naive to the power structure being promoted by the faux solutions are either chasing short-term goals or are incredibly masochistic.

Arbitraging brand is the core business model of the attention merchant monopoly.

we’ve found out that 98% of our business was coming from 22 words. So, wait, we’re buying 3,200 words and 98% of the business is coming from 22 words. What are the 22 words? And they said, well, it’s the word Restoration Hardware and the 21 ways to spell it wrong, okay?

Publishers buying the “speed” narrative are failing themselves. The Guardian has 11 people working on AMP integration. And what is Google doing about speed? Google shut down Google Instant search results, often displays a screen or two full of ads which mobile users have to scroll past to find the organic search results AND is testing auto-playing videos in the search results.

Facebook is also promoting fast loading & mobile-friendly pages.

To keep bleeding clicks out of the “organic” ecosystem they don’t even need to have explicit malicious intent. They can run a thousand different tests every month (new vertical sitelink formats, swipable sitelinks, showing 8 sitelinks on tiny mobile devices, MOAR sitelinks, message extensions, extensions on call-only ads, price discount labels, frame 3rd party content inline, dramatically ramp up featured snippets +QnA listings, more related searches, more features in ad units, larger ad units, ad units that replace websites & charge advertisers for sending clicks from Google to Google, launch a meta-search service where they over-promote select listings, test dropping URLs from listings, put ads in the local pack, change color of source links or other elements, pop ups of search results inside search results, etc.) & keep moving toward whatever layout drives more ad clicks, keeps users on Google longer & forces businesses to buy ads for exposure, claiming they are optimizing the user experience the whole time.

They can hard-code any data type or feature, price it at free to de-fund adjacent businesses, consolidate market power, then increase rents after they have a monopoly position in the adjacent market.

And they can fund research on how to remove watermarks from images.

Why not make hosting free, get people to publish into a proprietary format & try to shift news reading onto the Google app. With enough attention & market coverage they can further extort publishers into accepting perpetually worse deals. And free analytics & business plugins which are widely adopted can have key features get pushed into the paid version. Just look at Google Analytics – its free or $ 150,000+/yr.

The above sorts of moves can be done in isolation, or in a combinatorial approach. Publishers aloof of the ecosystem shifts may use microformats to structure their content. They’ll then find it is integrated in Google’s new image search layout, where Google copies the content wholesale &
shows it near other third party images framed by Google.

How about some visually striking, yet irrelevant listings for competing brands on branded searches to force the brand ad buy. And, of course rounded card corners to eat a few more pixels, along with faint ad labeling on ads coupled with vibrant colored dots on the organic results to confuse end users into thinking the organic results are the ads.

While Google turns their search results into an adspam farm, they invite you to test showing fewer ads on your site to improve user experience. Google knows best – let them automate your ad load & ad placement.

What is the real risk of AI? Bias.

“It’s important that we be transparent about the training data that we are using, and are looking for hidden biases in it, otherwise we are building biased systems,” Giannandrea added. “If someone is trying to sell you a black box system for medical decision support, and you don’t know how it works or what data was used to train it, then I wouldn’t trust it.”

And how does Google justify their AI investments? Through driving incremental ad clicks: “The DeepMind founders understand that their power within [Alphabet], and their ability to get their way with [Alphabet CEO] Larry Page, depends on how many eyeballs and clicks and ad dollars they can claim to be driving”

No bias at all there!

And if publishing was killed in 2015, things have only got worse since then:

Looking at 2015 vs 2017 data for all keywords ranking organically on the first page, we’ve seen a dramatic change in CTR. Below we’ve normalized our actual CTR on a 1–10 scale, representing a total drop of 25% of click share on desktop and 55% on mobile.

SEOs who were overly reliant on the search channel were the first to notice all the above sorts of change, as it is their job to be hyper-aware of ecosystem shifts. But publishers far removed from SEO who never focused on SEO are now writing about the trends SEOs were writing about nearly a decade ago. Josh Marshall recently covered Google’s awesome monopoly powers.

few publishers really want to talk about the depths or mechanics of Google’s role in news publishing. Some of this is secrecy about proprietary information; most of it is that Google could destroy or profoundly damage most publications if it wanted to. So why rock the boat? … Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits. Just the interplay between DoubleClick and Adexchange is textbook anti-competitive practices. … Is your favorite website laying off staff or ‘pivoting to video’. In most cases, the root cause is not entirely but to a significant degree driven by the platform monopolies

His article details how Google owns many points of the supply chain

So let’s go down the list: 1) The system for running ads, 2) the top purchaser of ads, 3) the most pervasive audience data service, 4) all search, 5) our email. … But wait, there’s more! Google also owns Chrome, the most used browser for visiting TPM.

He also covers the price dumping technique that is used to maintain control

In many cases, alternatives don’t exist because no business can get a footing with a product Google lets people use for free.

And he shared an example of Google algorithms gone astray crippling his business, even though it was not related to search & unintentional:

Because we were forwarding to ourselves spam that other people sent to us, Google decided that the owner of the TPM url was a major spammer and blocked emails from TPM from being sent to anyone.

If the above comes across as depressing, don’t worry. The search results now contain a depression diagnostic testing tool.

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Updated Google My Business guidelines disallows virtual offices as service-area businesses

Recently updated Google guidelines clarifies how virtual offices are handled for Google My Business listings.

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Google Using Google Cardboard to Bring a Virtual Gay Pride Parade to Students

Google shared a story today on their Education Blog about their efforts to use their virtual reality in a box solution, Google Cardboard, to demonstrate diversity and gay lifestyles to students across the world.

“Earlier this year, we launched #prideforeveryone, a global virtual reality Pride parade that anyone, anywhere could join,” said the Editor of Google’s Education Blog. “Since then, we’ve distributed Google Cardboard and the virtual Pride experience to more than 20 groups and nonprofits, worldwide.”

He added, “This is the story of Alba Reyes, founder of the Sergio Urrego Foundation, who brought the parade to students in Bogota, Colombia.”

“In 2014, my son Sergio took his own life because he was suspended and discriminated by his school for kissing another boy. Unfortunately, neither I nor his friends were able to prevent the harassment and isolation he felt.

screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-4-48-54-pmSince then, I’ve made it my mission to make sure what happened to Sergio doesn’t happen to any other young person in my country. I started the Fundacion Sergio Urrego to travel to schools across Colombia and lead inclusion workshops with local students. Although LGBTQ children may be more likely to feel isolated, many young people don’t feel accepted by their families, friends or teachers. My workshops create activities and safe spaces that help students understand how it feels to be discriminated against – reinforcing the importance of diversity and inclusion.

An important part of these workshops is helping students put themselves in another person’s shoes. This summer, we used Google Cardboard to give students in my workshops a way to experience Pride parades from across the globe. Most of these students have never seen a LGBTQ Pride parade. But with virtual reality, they can learn more about the global LGBT community, and feel supported by a global community that celebrates diversity.

After seeing the impact of my workshop and virtual Pride parade on children in Colombia, institutions like the Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies have have showed their support to scale my workshops to even more children across the country.

My fight is not just for my child. It’s for all children who have endured discrimination and bullying from their peers, teachers and community.”

Read more here…

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Zuckerberg: Virtual Reality will be the Most Social Platform Ever!

Mark Zuckerberg says that virtual reality will be the most social platform that ever existed. Zuckerberg hosted an in-person Q&A in Rome, Italy Friday when he focused in on virtual reality when asked if Facebook change our lives as much as Pokemon Go. “The real reason I came to Rome was to find some rare Pokemon,” Zuckerberg replied. “In all seriousness, I think that virtual reality and augmented reality are going to be the most social platform that has ever existed.”

Last year Facebook paid $ 2 billion for crowd-funded Oculus Rift in order to enter the space running. “Oculus’s mission is to enable you to experience the impossible,” proclaimed Zuckerberg when announcing this acquisition. “Their technology opens up the possibility of completely new kinds of experiences.”

Clearly, Zuckerberg sees VR as a huge boon for social but even more for advertising where it is believed to have great potential. According to research by Digi-Capital augmented reality and Virtual Reality are predicted to be a $ 150 billion industry by 2020. That’s why so many companies are focusing on VR and AR including Google.

“This is why advertisers are so interested in VR,” said Aaron Luber who is in charge of Google and YouTube partnerships. “Emotion sells products much more than utility and that reality positions Virtual Reality as a game changer in the advertising industry.”

Facebook recently bought another small VR startup called Two Big Ears, which helps bring an immersive audio experience into VR and AR. Facebook is calling it the Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation which can be downloaded for free.

“If you think about the history of computing every 10 or 15 years a big new computing platform comes along,” Zuckerberg added. “We had desktop computers, then browsers and the internet, now we have mobile phones and each one is better than the one before it, but what we have now is not the end of the line. We are going to get to a point in 5-10 years that we are all using augmented or virtual reality.”

Zuckerberg explained how virtual reality makes you feel like you are really there or “present” as he put it. “If you look at a photo or a video on a screen, TV, computer or phone and you are trying to get your mind set in this perspective as if you were there,” he said. “You see the photo and you are trying to imagine what it’s like to be there. Virtual reality is different, because it’s programmed to work exactly the way that your brain does. When you look at it you feel like you are in that place, like you are present and you are trying to convince yourself that you aren’t actually there because if you look around what you are seeing feels like the real world.”

He sees a future that is vastly improved socially because VR will make the social experience feel like reality. “You can imagine in the future you are going to feel like you are right there with another person who couldn’t actually be with you,” says Zuckerberg. “I think about my family when I’m not there such as my daughter who is in California right now. I miss her and to really feel like I am there right now would be a really powerful experience that I would want to have.”

He noted the differences between virtual reality where you feel completely immersed and augmented reality where you are adding virtual elements onto the world. Zuckerberg predicts that AR will come to mobile phones first “before we get some kind of smart glasses that overlay stuff on the world.” He says that we going to see more apps like Pokemon Go and that Facebook itself tested a form of AR with its Masquerade Filter that was test launched at the Olympics in Brazil and in Canada, where people could support their country by putting face paint on.

“I feel there are going to be a bunch of tools like that overlay real things from the world on top of your experience and help you share things that we are going to see soon,” says Zuckerberg.

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Virtual Reality to Change Marketing

Virtual Reality is in its infancy but will very shortly have a major impact on everyone, especially marketers. Every major tech company is focused on Virtual Reality and because of that the technology has rapidly improved over the last couple of years. Last year Facebook paid $ 2 billion for crowd-funded Oculus Rift in order to enter the space running. Other players include Sony, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, HTC, Nokia, Intel, IBM, Samsung, Qualcomm and hundreds more.

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Virtual Disruption

According to research by Digi-Capital augmented reality and Virtual Reality are predicted to be a $ 150 billion industry by 2020. The study forecasts that AR (augmented reality), a less intense experience, will take the lion’s share around $ 120 billion and VR $ 30 billion.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 2.15.31 PM

Virtual Reality headset shipments will approach 30 million by 2020, driven by video & gaming according to a September 2015 Juniper Research study, “Virtual Reality: Market Dynamics & Future Prospects 2015-2020.” The study predicts that the technology is poised to transform the entertainment industry including gaming and video over the next few years, while offering the potential to quickly expand into other markets such as industrial and healthcare. Report co-author Joe Crabtree commented, “The recent attention to and investment into Virtual Reality is helping to revitalize the industry and with major brand commercial launches imminent, there is huge potential for rapid market expansion.”

Google is actually doing something very low tech in order to increase public interest in VR, sending people Google Cardboard viewers. As Google says, it’s a VR experience starting with a simple viewer anyone can build or buy.

“Every single video on YouTube can be viewed in VR, making it the world’s largest library of VR content,” wrote Aaron Luber who is in charge of Google and YouTube partnerships in a think with Google report. “This is giving many people all over the world their first taste of VR, and mainstream interest is growing; global search interest for Virtual Reality on Google has grown by nearly 4X in the last year.”

Virtual Reality is a technology that can be very disruptive in that it has the potential to impact how we live and what we do and from a marketers perspective it opens up a whole new world. “The technology has the potential to change our daily lives—from how we communicate to how we spend our leisure time,” said Luber. “It’s early days, but it’s already happening, and now is the time for brands and creators to understand what it all means.”

The Future With Virtual Reality

“The promise of VR is what the industry calls “presence”—the feeling that you’re really somewhere else,” said Luber. “VR cameras like Jump can capture the entire experience of a place—every corner, every angle. In the not-so-distant future, cameras like these will be capturing experiences all over the world.” Google’s Jump is a camera rig consisting of 16 camera modules in a circular array that are optimized to work with the Jump assembler, which is a powerful computer that turns 16 pieces of video into stereoscopic VR video.

Luber explains that VR creates a time machine like experience where what you record now can be played back in the future and it will seem like you were there. For families, VR recordings of your daughters 4th birthday or your own wedding will let you relive the events, bringing much more emotional impact than traditional video.

This is why advertisers are so interested in VR. Emotion sells products much more than utility and that reality positions Virtual Reality as a game changer in the advertising industry.

“At Google, Cardboard was our first step toward this future,” says Luber. “Soon, our VR platform Daydream will enable even more powerful, mobile, high-quality experiences with a headset that’s comfortable at an accessible price. We’re also building mobile apps for VR like Google Play, Maps, and YouTube.”

YouTube is actually a great place to view many 360-degree videos where viewers can see the video from every angle just by swiping or moving the phone or tablet around—no headset required. Luber says that uploads of 360-degree videos are growing and have doubled over the past three months. He says that brands are also using 360-degree video with ads and to film events. “BMW used this technology for an ad featuring a 360-degree car race,” says Luber. “The “School of Rock” musical created a 360-degree music video. AT&T simulated a car crash to drive home its phone safety message.”

YouTube even categorizes 360-degree videos so you can conveniently browse through them.

The Power of VR in Telling a Story

“And this makes filmmakers– a lot of them are credible ones that have been around for a while– makes them freak out, like this is horrible, this is dangerous,” said Jessica Brillhart, the principal filmmaker for Google VR in a talk at Google I/O 2016. “But let’s just breathe for a second. Have we lost complete control? Or maybe it just lives somewhere else in this. Us humans have a knack for following what calls attention to itself, no matter where it is, no matter where it goes.”

“One of the fascinating challenges in these relatively early days of Virtual Realty is how to tell actual stories,” says a post on the Wevr blog. “The most common comparison so far has been to live theater, where an audience watches events unfold with no real time direction to focus their attention. It’s an aspect that allows for a new kind of experience, yet also seems to frustrate many experienced story tellers.”

Wevr is a company that believes “virtual reality has the power to alter people’s lives more than any other medium to date with the potential to deliver memories that stick.”

Brillhart says that “our control as creators is in this understanding of the potential experiences a world contains so that we can prepare for this, prepare for how someone might engage with the space.” She said that a videographer or directors craft is about responding to all “potential experiences”. She added that “our jobs as creators is not to preciously craft something that someone may never look at and then forget the rest of it, but instead to guide visitors through a crafted universe.”

Connor Hair, Award winning VR Director and Co-Founder of the VR production company Perception Square, talked about how he used VR to tell a story. “One of the reasons I went with the 180 degree view for the VR segments was that I wanted to maintain some of the control you have as a filmmaker,” Hair said. “To craft it like you would a film and directed the audiences attention and not worrying about what is behind them. It also enabled me to stand behind the camera and direct actors as I would in a film.”

After working as a cinematographer on six feature length projects, Hair changed his focus toward directing virtual reality experiences. In 2015 he directed two short films for virtual reality, “Real” and “En Pointe“. His bio states that he “is constantly experimenting with emerging technology and has a passion for telling stories in unique and innovative ways.” Watch out Steven Spielberg!

Real 2D Version – The 3D VR experience will soon be released as an app for the Oculus Rift:

En Pointe – 360 VR Short Film - Selected as a Winner of Samsung’s “There in 60 seconds” VR contest.

Storytelling with VR and 360-degree video is “an incredibly powerful tool to create empathy,” said Luber. “When a viewer feels like they are there, they have a greater sense of the situation. Messages become more impactful.”

Brands Can’t Wait for VR

Nothing tickles the fancy of brands more than learning of a new way to create personal, powerful and impactful marketing messages. Brands are learning more about VR everyday through research and by understanding the technology and its potential and some are already using it.

Cadillac is creating virtual showrooms where customers will find VR headsets and no cars. These high-tech showrooms will save tons of money because dealers won’t have to purchase inventory according to a WSJ.com article. “They can still sell the same volume,” said Will Churchill, owner of Frank Kent Cadillac in Fort Worth, Texas, and head of Cadillac’s dealer council. “They don’t have to stock the 15 cars and hope that they have the right one…the data shows they probably don’t.”

Time Warner and Nielsen are actually partnering up to study the emotional impact of Virtual Reality. “Given the increasing role that VR is going to play with our content and even with our advertisers in the future, I think that alone gives us an interesting opportunity to partner with Nielsen and an unparalleled opportunity to integrate both the biometrics part of research and also the neuroscience piece to help us understand how consumers are really engaging with the VR experience,” Kristen O’Hara, Time Warner’s CMO for global media told Adweek.

VR Can Be Very Powerful For Marketers

VR can be powerful for marketers. “Virtual Reality is not a media experience. When it’s done well, it’s an actual experience,” Stanford University, Professor Jeremy Bailenson said. “In general, our findings show that VR causes more behavior change, causes more engagement, causes more influence than other types of traditional media.”

“I think what our clients and I think this lab is going to be able to do very well is separate the sort of ‘wow factor’ of VR from really full-on engagement with content and advertising,” Carl Marci told Adweek. Marci is the Chief Neuroscientist, Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience at Nielsen Company. “How do you tell stories in a VR environment? How do you make someone who’s engaged in a totally surrounded and immersive environment go from a beginning, middle and end? How do you introduce characters?”

The New York Times actually has a VR app, which puts viewers into news events around the world. “Go underwater or on the campaign trail,” says the NYT promot. “Experience life through the eyes of a refugee or explore previously unseen worlds. Experience stories reported by award-winning journalists, all told in an immersive, 360-degree video experience.”

“For the brand and user the intimacy of VR is really dramatic,” GE’s CMO Linda Boff told The Guardian. “It’s a tool to tell a powerful story in a way that’s much more personal and up close than we’d normally be able to.”

Brands are also looking forward to technological leaps that are in works such as haptic technology which recreates the sense of touch by applying forces, vibrations, or motions for the user to experience. Apple famously includes haptic technology in its current versions of the iPhone, for example.

“You can see brands creating room-scale simulations where consumers will interact with branded content,” Anthony Batt told the Guardian. Batt is co-founder of the Virtual Reality firm Wevr. “For example, Airbnb could create sims for real rental properties so users could experience what it would feel like to stay there.”

Marketing has become the the breeding ground for Virtual Reality technology. “You have to start experimenting,” says Boff. “Marketing may be a proving ground, but if we can take this tech and make it a business application, that’s huge.”

Ominous Warning

A person named Zeigeist commented on an article about VR and delivered this ominous warning: “Way before the movie the Matrix was created, I realized that our concept of reality is entirely controlled by our ability to receive stimuli through our senses. If you are able to control the input a person receives, without their awareness that the input source was generated by something other than the expected “real world”, the person would never know.”

Of course, we aren’t expecting the Matrix to actually happen, but Virtual Reality technology and application are just getting started. Who knows what the future holds.

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