Web users are caught in a tug-of-war between advertisers and ad-blockers

10:05AM | Monday, 12 October

 The battle between the advertising industry, mobile phone operators, publishers and privacy advocates has reached new heights, with Apple’s decision to allow ad-blocking extensions in its Safari browser sparking fears that the multi-billion dollar mobile ad industry could be about to take an expensive haircut. While third-party ad-blocking apps have been around for a while, few are used on mobile platforms – they are more commonly found on desktop and laptop computers.   A recent New York Times article looking at 50 top mobile news websites indicated that of all the data downloaded as part of each web page, more than half was made up of ads. Recent studies of large volumes of mobile traffic from a European telecoms firm has also revealed that a large proportion of the bandwidth used while browsing the internet is in fact consumed by the adverts, trackers and widgets embedded in web pages. In addition to being an annoyance, cluttering up the screen, draining battery life and slowing down the whole mobile browsing experience, many poorly targeted ads are really just another form of spam.   But why are mobile ads so inefficient? This is mostly due to the complex ecosystem in the mobile advertising industry. The majority of apps in the popular markets such as Apple App Store and Google Play are free. Many developers provide a small space for advertising to earn some cash from their work. These spaces are populated by ads and ad-broker services, which pass onto the developer a percentage of the profits, as measured in terms of views (known as impressions) and clicks. Earnings are usually paid on impressions by the thousand, so ad brokers aim to maximise the number of ads and their frequency with which they’re displayed on the user’s screen.   How the mobile ad ecosystem works. ACM, Author provided   There are two major issues in this ecosystem: firstly, the cost to the consumer in terms of bandwidth and energy – and their privacy. Personal data is the main fuel for the advertising industry, and thousands of companies work within the ad ecosystem collecting, tracking and selling data on users and their browsing habits. Second, the fact that the basis of the ecosystem, generating payments through impressions and clicks, can be gamed by bots – click fraud – generating huge, unwarranted costs for advertisers.   Doing ads better is better for everyone The internet-connected smartphone for a mass market is barely ten years old, so the mobile advertising industry is still in its infancy. One could compare the tension between the market players with the early days of MP3 music sharing sites (Napster, Limewire, Shareaza) and the eventual success of the legal, paid model that evolved from them. Consumers’ reliance on free apps in exchange for their personal data has boosted the aggressive data collection behaviour of the advertising industry. This in turn has encouraged privacy and consumer rights advocates to create and support ad-blocking software. Inevitably, this three-way tension will lead to more oversight and legislation to tame the industry’s excesses, particularly in the highly regulated European market.   As an extreme example, a small mobile operator this week decided to block mobile ads altogether. This is certainly one solution, but if such a step were to be widely taken this would severely limit the degree to which app developers could continue to innovate and create while maintaining a free product and free content for users.   Handing control of the web ecosystem to telecoms companies or small yet powerful ad-blocking businesses that allow advertisers to whitelist their ads so that they’re still seen by users, is an undesirable outcome for most. On the other hand, research into privacy-preserving mobile advertising methods is underway, and there have been numerous calls for users to have more control over their personal data. Done properly, in a way that doesn’t hit users in the pocket or degrade their web browsing experience, there’s no reason why ads, perhaps less targeted ads, wouldn’t be accepted again. Alternatively it will be a case for model can certainly return to the scene.   Hamed Haddadi, Lecturer Assistant Professor in Digital Media, Queen Mary University of London This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Successful crowdfunding campaign speaks volumes about suitcase soundsystems

11:29AM | Friday, 28 November

Forget about vinyl – the next big thing among audiophiles could be suitcases reinvented as speakers, with a Melbourne-based startup raising $17,370 for the devices (against a target of $16,000) in just days on Pozible.   Son Valise cofounder Vincent Corneille created the JukeCase – a set of speakers in a repurposed suitcase – after noticing portable MP3 players and smartphones with headphones encouraged people to listen to music in isolation.   He knew he was on to a winner after seeing the look of joy on people’s faces while taking a prototype of the device to the Fitzroy Gardens. Son Valise soon began selling custom-made JukeCases through a shop on Johnstone Street in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Collingwood.   Corneille told Private Media after making the devices for four years it became clear Son Valise needed a standardised version of the device.   “About four years ago we started to make JukeCases. We wanted a portable music player for phones that sounded amazing and nothing else was quite there. So since then, we’ve been upcycling vintage products with vintage hi-fi components,” Corneille says.   “We found we had a lot of interested customers, but we had a high price-range because of the time we took sourcing parts, which put off a lot of customers.”   According to Corneille, it took a year to find the perfect component supplier.   “We designed a standardised range with our brand look and feel, and after a year of sourcing supplies, we added the JukeCase Mini,” he says.   “We needed startup capital for components and will construct them in Australia. So we decided to go down the crowdfunding route to gauge interest. It’s been a great response – we met our target in nine days.”   When it comes to crowdfunded hardware, a perennial risk is that the actual process of manufacturing and shipping products ends up being far more difficult than entrepreneurs anticipate. This can lead to frustrating delays.   “One of the beauties is that we’re standardising production and we’ve already been making these units for quite a while now, although we might step-up production by hiring extra hands,” Corneille says.   “We’ve been quite transparent. By saying we’ll ship them in February 2015, we have time to iron out the bumps.   “People asked if they’d be available at Christmas, and at one point we were looking at the turbo-charge option, but we didn’t want to risk causing someone to miss out on their present.”   Having met the initial target, Corneille is looking at stretch goals such as creating a range of colours, with standardisation also paving the way to mass-distribution.   “We want distribution in Australia and abroad as one of the next steps. We have been talking to distributors in Asia. We did look at distribution for our bespoke product in the past, but that was difficult to manage,” he says.   Follow StartupSmart on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

I’m getting a bit of traffic to my site but it isn’t converting into sales. What should I do?

1:54AM | Wednesday, 23 January

This week’s Secret Soloist is answered by digital marketing expert Adam Franklin.   If your web strategy is working people will be arriving at your website via a Google search, a backlink, a tweet, an email or a Facebook comment and regardless of where they’ve come from it is great news that they have arrived at your site.

Start-ups warned about borrowing from friends and family

4:29AM | Monday, 23 April

Start-ups are being encouraged to think twice before borrowing money from loved ones, with a new report revealing 20% of Australians have lost friends over borrowed money.

Selling without a strategy

3:06AM | Friday, 23 March

Selling your wares online is an instant recipe for success, right? Not according to Pierre Boutros, who learnt that even the most straightforward business needs strategies in place to secure sales.

News Corp-backed Beyond Oblivion bankrupt before launch

3:30AM | Monday, 11 March

New York-based digital music start-up Beyond Oblivion has filed for bankruptcy before its launch, despite financial backing from News Corp and nearly $90 million from investors.

MP3-enabled badges the next Legacy

10:37AM | Thursday, 13 October

Legacy badges traditionally come as pins to stick on your clothes, but now they’ve entered the digital age with new MP3 “buttons” or virtual badges.

10 start-up lessons to take from Steve Jobs

5:49AM | Wednesday, 2 May

The announcement of Steve Jobs’ decision to quit as CEO of Apple may, on reflection, not be entirely unexpected, but it draws to a close one of the finest chapters in entrepreneurial history.

BHP policy highlights office dos and don’ts

8:40AM | Tuesday, 23 August

An etiquette expert says start-ups should ensure office etiquette is outlined from day one to avoid bombarding staff with rules further down the track, in light of BHP Billiton’s strict new employee policies.

Four ways to turn web visitors into real buyers

7:06AM | Monday, 11 July

If your web strategy is working people will be arriving at your website via a Google search, a backlink, a tweet, an email or a Facebook comment and regardless of where they’ve come from it is great news that they have arrived at your site.

Musical beach towel

6:20AM | Monday, 27 June

A new beach towel, with built-in speakers that connect to any portable music player, could take the beach party concept to a new level.


6:59AM | Monday, 20 June

Launched in April this year, ReGadget is an online service providing cash in return for old electronics, including mobile phones, digital cameras and MP3 players.

Audio High School

5:13AM | Thursday, 26 May

Nathan Murphy is gearing up to launch Audio High School in July, following six months of intensive planning.

Headphone hoodie could be music to a start-up’s ears

2:35AM | Thursday, 3 February

Hats have been merged with drinking devices for some time, but a company is now looking seriously at the opportunities in matching up clothing with music.

Musical moments for mums and babies

12:43AM | Friday, 3 December

Much has been said about the effect of music on babies in the womb, but does music really make your baby smarter?