Mobile Internet is Exploding

Just because it’s such a terrific set of slides, one more point from the Meeker presentation referred to above: mobile is going to be even more massive than we already thought. To summarize the thrust of her argument:

  • The iPhone/iPod touch is the single fastest growing piece of tech in history.
  • Adoption is ramping up faster than it did for the Wii, the original iPod or the Sony PSP.
  • Associated technologies are going nuts too: Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth and GPS are all ramping fast.
  • This is all happening during a massive recession. It will really go crazy as the economy rebounds.
  • Location-based services are going to make mobile 10 times bigger than desktop Internet.

As Mary said in her presentation, if you’re not on board with mobile, you need to move now.

Social Media Kills MSN & Yahoo

The Web 2.0 Summit is currently running just a couple of blocks from our office. Yesterday, Mary Meeker, one of Morgan Stanley’s leading analysts gave a magnificent presentation on the economy and mobile Internet. Her entire pack of presentation slides is available on, but we wanted to focus on one in particular that you can see here. What this shows us is the way that Facebook and YouTube are absolutely killing portals like Yahoo and MSN. For those people who still aren’t buying the whole social media thing, read and digest this slide. Believe, my friend. Believe!

Holiday Season Sunshine?

As we report in the latest edition of Revenue Performance magazine to be published in two week’s time, the upcoming holiday season is providing a little seasonal sunshine after a dark and gloomy year for many affiliates.

Now eConsultancy has brought together some industry metrics that say much the same thing. They focus particularly on paid search as a leading indicator. Two digital agencies have released aggregated figures from their client campaigns that show increases in the third quarter ranging from 5% – 10%, and Citibank estimate a 10% increase in search-spend for Performics.

Now this is not all good news. Dig beneath the surface and you will find that the big spenders are clients like Bankrate, CapitalOne and E-Trade. As in the real world, the fact that the banksters are doing well and expecting a bumper holiday season does not necessarily mean that the rest of us will make money too.

But there are signs of life. We feel the lesson is that there is business to be gained, but affiliates and publishers need to be smarter – and possibly more cautious in their PPC spending – than ever. Be careful out there.

Stop Ad Fraud

A new web site quietly appeared earlier this year and a little bird tells us that it’s being run by a group of ad networks seeking to exchange information on impressions fraud. currently only has three posts up but each has details on specific web sites that have allegedly caused fraudulent activity to occur.

In one case they refer to the work of the anti-fraud researcher Ben Edelman to describe a case in which companies apparently bought traffic to push into their own nested iframe ads, “which in turn would contain advertising tags from dozens of different advertising networks.” This arrangement thus gave them hundreds of ad calls from one purchased impression.

Clearly is operating at a low level of activity right now, but if ad networks can collaborate to fight scams of the sort described, it must be good for all of us in the performance advertising industry.

OMFG! The FTC is Gonna Get You!

We have been much amused this past week or so by the reaction to the FTC’s new guidelines for bloggers. They have been widely over-hyped – Mashable, I’m looking at you – and, while we understand that everyone wants to write a news post that catches attention, hysteria in this regard doesn’t add much value to the conversation.

“OMFG! The FTC is going to arrest me for keeping this book I reviewed!” is funny, but not super-helpful.

A little clarity comes from Legal Times in an interview with Mary Engle, the FTC’s associate director for advertising practices at the Bureau of Consumer Protection. Key quotes:

  • The new rules are just guidelines: “They are not rules and regulations and they don’t have the force of law.”
  • “Our focus is on the advertiser, not the individual endorser.”
  • The FTC, “has never brought a case against an individual consumer endorser.”
  • They’re only going to look at black and white cases: “We’re not interested in playing gotcha in the gray areas.”

Russian Affiliate Networks Exposed

This week news came of affiliates and networks being robbed by the “Bahama botnet”, a major report on rogue Russian affiliate networks called “Partnerkas” and arrests in 48 countries in the largest cybercrime investigation ever. Other than that, it was a quiet week. /irony

Perhaps the best reading comes in a report from Sophos that describes Russian “partnerkas”, bandit affiliate networks that specialize in spam for “fake watches, fake anti-virus software, fake pills and fake love.”

The downloadable pdf from Sophos covers the history of the “spam kings”, the invitation-only nature of the networks concerned and the software tools that they use to create thousands of sites automatically, create and run social media accounts and redirect DNS records. It’s a great read (and in case you were wondering, it’s pronounced “partnyorka”).

Multinational Phishing & Fraud

In probably unconnected news, the FBI announced this week that in collaboration with authorities in Egypt it has charged 53 people involved in a multinational phishing scheme. An additional 47 defendants have been charged in Egypt. In a two-year investigation known by the fantastic name of “Operation Phish Phry”, investigators allegedly uncovered a gang in which hackers in Egypt ran phishing scams to capture personal data and banking information from thousands of people, and then passed that data to co-conspirators in the USA. Defendants in the USA are charged variously with bank fraud and wire fraud and are subject to sentences that may range up to 20 years in prison.

And More Fraud News

Click Forensics presented a good report recently on the Bahama Botnet, that they describe as “one of the most advanced sources of click fraud we’ve seen.” They describe a network redirecting traffic through 200,000 parked domain in the Bahamas plus others in Europe and the USA. This is a network that seems to be closely connected to the scareware attack on the New York Times a few weeks ago and is seriously affecting affiliate and network revenues. As well as big players such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

In combination with the Sophos report, Click Forensics’ post provides us with a remarkable glimpse into the sophistication of these networks and the scale of click fraud, commission-stealing, phishing and scareware installation that is occurring right under our noses.

Ad networks, merchants, publishers and affiliates, all need to ramp up their fraud prevention initiatives. These are well-organized criminal gangs and if you run a successful site, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll target it at some point. Be aware.

Google Hits AdWords Advertisers

Google has hit what seems to be many Adwords advertisers for having “multiple sites that violate our landing page quality guidelines.” This seems to refer mostly to thin-affiliate and made-for-Adwords sites but Google also refers to sites that frame affiliate sites and malware installation sites. SEO Roundtable picked this up first and also links to a good forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Tip of the Week

Google recently revamped the AdWords interface and it’s caused many publishers headaches. Kelly Gillease put together a nice easy guide to making the most of the new features that are designed to give much more transparency into placement and search query performance.