The Weather and Big Data Equals Big Business.

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The weather has a significant influence on almost one-third of the world’s buying everyday. “The old paradigm of business and weather was cope and avoid,” says The Weather Channel’s vice president for weather analytics. “With [big data] technology, the paradigm is now anticipate and exploit.”

The Weather Channel (TWC) is an American basic channel and satellite television company, owned by a consortium made up of Blackstone Group, Bain Capital, and NBCUniversal located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The channel has broadcast weather forecasts and weather-related news and analysis, along with documentaries and entertainment programming related to weather since 1982.

TWC provides numerous customized forecasts for online users through its website, weather.com, including home and garden, and event planning forecasts. Third-party web analytics providers Alexa and SimilarWeb rated the site as the 146th and 244th most visited website in the world respectively, as of July 2015. SimilarWeb rated the site as the most visited weather website globally, attracting more than 126 million visitors per month.

That massive web traffic is exactly how The Weather Channel has turned ‘Big Data’ into a completely new business.

TWC is before all a technology platform operator, which developed an extremely high-volume data platform, collecting and analyzing data from 3 billion weather forecast reference points, more than 40 million smartphones and 50,000 airplane flights per days, and serves 65 billion unique access to weather data each day.

TWC collects terabytes of data everyday and uses it not only to predict the weather in millions of locations, but also to predict what consumers in those locations will buy.

In a very savvy move TWC married more than 75 years’ worth of weather data with aggregated consumer purchasing data. For example, air-conditioners sales increases during hot weather, but folks in Atlanta suffer three days longer than people in Chicago before running out to buy one. Such analysis has created a whole new business for TWC – ‘Selling ads based on big data analytics’.

For example, P&G Pantene and Puffs brands buy ads based on TWC’s weather and consumption analytics. A women checking The Weather Channel app in a humid locale receives an ad for Pantene Pro-V Smooth, a product formulated to tame frizzy hair.

Checking the app again on low humidity day or drier area results in seeing an ad for a volumizing product instead. Similarly, a consumer looking at a high pollen forecast receives an ad for Puffs facial tissues, with the message, “A face in need deserves Puffs indeed.”

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Currently, TWC is generating half of the company’s ad revenue to the business using web analytics.

Big data and web analytics helped TWC maintain an extensive online presence at weather.com and through a set of mobile applications for smartphones and tablet computers. These services are now administered by The Weather Channel’s former parent company, The Weather Company, which was sold to IBM in 2016. The Weather Channel continues to license its brand assets and weather data from IBM.

TWC’s case is the epitome of how effective use of big data and web analytics can lead to marketing opportunities. It also demonstrates how today’s big companies can advance through ‘Digital Marketing’ which can also help them to diversify and strengthening their business portfolios.

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Google Caught in Our “Cookie” Jars

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Google intentionally circumvented the default privacy settings of Apple’s Safari browser, using a backdoor to set cookies on browsers set to reject them, in the latest privacy debacle for the search and advertising giant.

Google immediately disabled the practice after the Wall Street Journal disclosed the practice this week..

Safari, which accounts for about 6% of desktop browsing and more than 50% of mobile browsing, is the only major browser to block so-called third party cookies by default..at least I thought so before the article…

When you visit a website, all browsers, including Safari, allow that site to put a small tracking file on your computer, which allows the site to identify a unique user, track what they have done and remember settings. However, many sites also have Facebook “Like” buttons, ads served by third parties, weather widgets powered by other sites or comment systems run by a third party.

Safari blocks the sites that power those services from setting or reading cookies, so a Facebook widget on a third-party site, for instance, can’t tell if you are logged in, so it can’t load a personalized widget. Google, along with a number of ad servers, were caught by Mayer avoiding this block, using a loophole in Safari that lets third parties set cookies if the browser thinks you are filling out an online form.

Google’s rationale seems to be that Apple’s default settings don’t adhere to standard web practices and don’t actually reflect what users want, since the browser never asks users if that’s the privacy setting they want. Facebook even goes so far as to suggest to outside developers that getting around the block is a best practice! Ha we are all already concerned about privacy and they call this back door approach a best practice?

Google said it used the backdoor so that it could place +1 buttons on ads it places around the web via its Adsense program, so that logged-in Google+ users could press the button to share an ad. Without the work-around, the button wouldn’t be able to tell Google which Google account to link the button to.

Now if Safari weren’t so dominant on mobile to the popularity of the iPhone, it’d hardly be worth the code to get at the 6% of desktop users.

But more to the point, if this is a problem for Google and Facebook, and if the defaults actually do mess with user’s expectations, it would seem that there are better ways to bring attention to the issue than getting busted working around them. What do you guys think? Are we watched every cyber second of the day?

Will Facebook Succeed in China?

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If the rumors are true, Facebook is planning to enter China’s social-media market through a partnership with the local search giant Baidu.

Facebook will face strong local competition and the same regulatory and political pressures that defeated other Western internet giants like Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon and Twitter, according to industry experts.

China already has “social-media properties providing value in a very fragmented social media landscape, so I’m just not sure what compelling value Facebook can provide in a meaningful way,” said Sam Flemming, founder and chairman of CIC. “To become literally the Facebook of China is not going to be easy in a market that’s already very social.”

In addition, Facebook may have waited too long, warned James Lee, a global media analyst at CLSA. “When you have a hyper-competitive space, you need to be there on day one.”

China’s appeal is understandable. The country is home to the world’s largest internet market and it has a vibrant social-media scene, with successful social-media sites such as RenRen, Kaixin001, Qzone and 51.com, Tencent’s QQ instant-messenger platform and Sina’s red-hot microblogging service Weibo.
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Chinese media analysts also question whether Facebook has picked the best suitor in Baidu.

“There is a natural relationship between search and social,” said T.R. Harrington, founder and CEO of Shanghai-based Darwin Marketing and a search-marketing specialist. But Baidu is not necessarily the best choice for Facebook to enter the Chinese market. “It would make a lot more sense to work with someone like Sina’s Weibo [or] Tencent,” established companies that understand China’s social-media market.

Your private data pays for ‘free’ Facebook and Google

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Free isn’t free. In fact while you read my blog some brand team is probably making notes about the type of materials you have been reading! Yes perhaps Xanga too has some type of tracking.

“The cost of reading the New York Times for free is being tracked. The cost of being on Facebook is being Data Mined,” Peter Eckersley from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, comments came at an event organized by Google at its Washington, D.C., office to mark Data Privacy Day — an international effort by governments and businesses to draw attention to the issues surrounding individuals’ online privacy.

A seemingly constant stream of breaches have given the issue fresh visibility this year, and prompted lawmakers and regulators to consider new mandates aimed at protecting

Google touted the new “two-step verification” option it will be rolling out to all accounts within the next few weeks.

The new opt-in setting gives users a second security wall. When someone logs into a Google account for first time from a new computer, a code will be sent to the phone (typically a mobile, but a landline will also work) associated with the account. That code is required for access — a step intended to keep out intruders who have obtained the account’s password.

Facebook also launched new data protection tools this week. The biggest was a “safe browsing option” that integrates the HTTPS protocol for secure connections. That technical tweak will help solve a gaping hole that lets hijackers grab control of FB accounts accessed through public Wi-Fi hotspots.

“The thing that you should know about ‘http’ is that it’s fundamentally very hackable,” Eckersley said. “If there’s an ‘s,’ you have a good chance of protection against those kind of threats.”

In this case, though, it was a bit like bolting the barn door after the horses have fled. Facebook posted its new security tool the day after Mark Zuckerberg’s fan page was hacked!

Forget “Black Friday” the real deals are online on “Cyber Monday.”

Thousands of consumers went to Best Buy at 4 a.m. on Black Friday last year searching for discounts on a Blu-ray players, netbooks and dozens of other items. Supplies of those hot items ran out before they reached the front of the line.
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This year many consumers will be giving up real-world shopping and plan to do all their gadget buying online.

While Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving in the United States — is one of the biggest retail shopping days of the year, tech-smart consumers are increasingly turning to the internet for the best gadget deals. Last year, 84 million people in the United States went online from mid-November to mid-December to shop for gift items, which was up 12 percent over the year before, according to comScore, a company that tracks online traffic. Furthermore, the growth in online purchases is expected to outpace that in brick-and-mortar stores this holiday season.

The National Retail Association is predicting a 16% increase in online sales, compared to a 2.3% increase in “real world” spending.

But penny-pinchers may also be driving the phenomenon. Many of the best discounts on electronics — especially big-ticket items like TVs, laptops and gaming systems — are found on the internet, not at retail stores.

Online discounts “are as juicy or even more appealing than what some of the retailers are promising on Black Friday,” said Mike Gikas of Consumer Reports. Gikas advised people to stay away from the Black Friday mania “unless you like rubbing against people you don’t know — or getting trampled.”
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On the internet, particular days seem to have less importance than at retail stores. Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target and Best Buy are already offering online discounts on electronics that may match or beat Black Friday prices.

Some discounts may pop up online on Friday, in tandem with in-store deals. Apple, which isn’t known for discounting its high-end products, says it will have a one day online sale at Apple.com Friday.

In recent years, a phenomenon marketers call “Cyber Monday” has emerged as a sort of online holiday shopping event. On the Monday after Thanksgiving, legend has it, consumers rush to the internet — presumably from their workplace computers — to shop for the rest of their lists.

The internet tracker comScore said Cyber Monday never has been the biggest online shopping day of the year. That day typically comes on a Monday in December, said comScore’s senior director of industry analysis, Andrew Lipsman.

Still, the Monday after Thanksgiving is a bigger day for online shopping than either Thanksgiving day — which has been talked about as the hot new day to shop online — and Black Friday. Last year, Americans spent almost $900 million at online retail stores on the Monday after Thanksgiving — compared with $595 million on Black Friday and $300 million on Thanksgiving Day.

Is the web changing the way we think?

Last week the flurry of information pelted at us by the internet reached a new intensity.

Google Instant was launched as a new development of the popular search engine that predicts your query even as you type it; flicking through pages of results before you have finished a single word.
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It’s undoubtedly an amazing piece of technology, which takes its place among a seemingly endless succession of innovations turbo-charging the medium.

But somewhere beyond the hubbub of excitement surrounding the ever increasing number of blogs, social networks, newsfeeds and websites we flit between is a questioning voice asking: what effect is this tornado of information having on our brains?

“I became aware of changes in my own thinking a couple of years ago,” Nicholas Carr, author of new book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains”.
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“Like many people, I’ve spent a lot of time using the net and other digital technologies over the past ten or fifteen years, and I’ve enjoyed the many benefits those technologies provide.

“But I came to realize, some time in 2007, that I was losing my ability to pay deep attention to one thing over a long period of time. When I’d sit down to read a book, for instance, I was only able to sustain my concentration for a page or two. My mind would begin to crave stimulation and distraction — it wanted to click on links, jump from page to page, check email, do some Googling.

“The habits of mind the net encouraged had become my dominant habits of mind. That’s when I began to do the research that led to the writing of ‘The Shallows’.”

While writing the book he came across a body of academic research that backed up his hunch, and the argument at the heart of “The Shallows” is that that the changes Carr felt in his own mind are happening much more broadly throughout society.

Earlier this week Baroness Greenfield, the Oxford University researcher and former head of the UK’s Royal Institution, called on the British government and private companies to investigate the effects on our brains of computer games, the internet and social networking.

“We should acknowledge that it is bringing an unprecedented change in our lives and we have to work out whether it is for good or bad,” she told reporters.

“For me, this is almost as important as climate change. Whilst of course it doesn’t threaten the existence of the planet like climate change, I think the quality of our existence is threatened and the kind of people we might be in the future.”

Greenfield calls the effect of too much time in front of a computer as “mind change”. Carr goes further in his analysis and talks about how the way we think is shaped by the tools we use to think with.

“This was true of the map, the alphabet, the clock, and the printing press, and it’s true as well of the internet. The net encourages the mental skills associated with the rapid gathering of small bits of information from many sources, but it discourages the kind of deeply attentive thinking that leads to the building of knowledge, conceptual thinking, reflection, and contemplativeness.

“So, as with earlier intellectual technologies, the net strengthens certain cognitive functions but weakens others. And because the neural pathways in our brain adapt readily to experience, the changes occur in the actual cellular wiring of our brains.”
Some of these arguments may have a familiar ring — those old enough may recall similar fears about television; the belief that media will rot our brains is not new, but Carr argues this time it is different.

“As a multimedia system, the ‘net is different from TV and radio, and certainly from the printed page, and needs to be evaluated on its own terms,” he says.

“The reason that alterations in our habits of mind matter is because they determine the scope and richness of our intellectual lives and also affect the depth of our culture.”

So should we be worried?

“It depends on what you value about the human mind,” says Carr.

“Some people love the constant stimulation the net provides, and don’t much care about the loss of more solitary, contemplative ways of thinking. For them, it’s not a problem at all.

“Other people — and I’m one of them — believe that while it’s important to be able to skim and scan and multitask, our deepest and most valuable thinking requires a calm and attentive mind. If you exist in a perpetual state of distractedness, you’ll never tap into the deepest sources of human insight and creativity.”

With the multiplication of smartphones, netbooks, and social networking services ratcheting up the intensity of the interruptions that bombard us, Carr believes that these changes will continue to accelerate. As the internet is woven ever more deeply into our work lives, social lives, and education we need to start thinking about where all this is leading, now.

“I fear that we have been too quick to assume that computers and the ‘net are good for students,” he says.

“Certainly kids need to learn how to use the net effectively, but I think they also need to be encouraged to read printed books, to learn to pay attention, and to engage in solitary and contemplative thought. If kids are distracted all day long, in and out of school, they may never learn to think deeply. But there may be a way to have our cake and eat it when it comes to connectivity.

Ignoring the irony of using software to solve a problem created by software, there are several packages now available that lock you out of the internet and all its distractions for a specified period of time — letting you focus on work, rather than disappearing down the rabbit hole of Google and Wikipedia.

Uniqlo’s U.K. Twitter Campaign

Every Time Someone Tweets About an Item, Company Drops the Price, Boosting Web Presence and Brand Recognition
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Japanese clothes retailer Uniqlo has found a novel way of encouraging U.K. shoppers give the brand a big presence on Twitter — by reducing the price of clothing pieces every time someone sends a tweet about an item.
Uniqlo’s Lucky Counter

The “Lucky Counter” promotion has been running ahead of the relaunch of Uniqlo’s U.K. e-commerce site this week, and has seen the brand’s name appear in Twitter’s trending topics list for the country.

In a web page dedicated to “Lucky Counter,” users can choose from 10 pieces they would like to see discounted on the website when it relaunches on September 9.
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Clicking on one of the pieces of clothing brings up a pre-written tweet using the hashtag #luckycounter. Users can add their own message and then send it, and watch the price fall.

The more tweets users send about a particular item, the lower the price goes. At the time of writing, one of the items — a gray, crew-neck long-sleeve T-shirt — had hit its target price of nearly 60% off, meaning it will go on sale on Thursday at $4.60 instead of $10.70.

Uniqlo worked with Hiroki Nakamura, web director of its global advertising agency, Dentsu Japan, to create the campaign. The U.K. is the first market that Uniqlo, which also has stores in the US, France and throughout Asia, has tried the approach.
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The company has relied solely on users to spread the word on Facebook and Twitter, rather than paying for promotional tweets, as well as trailing the promotion heavily on its website, which was otherwise closed for business.

The tweets being sent are largely a mixture of people taking part in the promotion and those who are telling their followers about Uniqlo’s unusual social-media experiment.

Amy Howarth, head of marketing at Uniqlo in the U.K., said: “The initial aim was to maintain contact with the customer while the website was temporarily closed for its e-commerce migration.

“The campaign has been really successful and we’ve been delighted with the response to date. Customers seem to really want to engage with us, and it’s great as the campaign is so transparent and immediately dynamic, so they can see their tweets actually making a difference.”

After the new site goes live, Uniqlo will promote it with an online pinball game called “Lucky Machine,” offering a cash prize and discount codes.

Uniqlo has frequently used Twitter in its marketing campaigns. This year’s efforts have included U-tweet, which delivered users a personalized video based on tweets that they had sent to promote the UT T-shirt line; and Sportweet, which also drew on users’ tweets combined with footage of athletes to promote Uniqlo’s sportswear.