from UK News:

The phuss over Phorm

The targeted online advertising company Phorm, which has been accused of spying, breaking the law and just about everything else in the last year, has launched its latest charm offensive in its battle to prove its innocence.

The British company sparked damning headlines last year when  it signed up the three biggest Internet service providers BT, Virgin Media and Carphone Warehouse to provide adverts to Web
sites based on the surfing trends of users.

Phorm says the system is completely anonymous, does not store data on its users and will enable online publishers to make more money by showing more relevant adverts. With more interesting ads, there would also be fewer needed, they say.

Its service, which is yet to launch, has been welcomed by the media regulator and minister in charge of planning Britain's digital future.

But its critics, who have formed Web sites, campaigns and a devoted following, say the company is "snooping" on online users and selling their surfing habits to advertising companies.

Not rich enough to be a Mac person

Microsoft — ruffled by constant ridicule by Apple — launched its latest counter-punch last night with an explicit jab at its cool but expensive archrival in a prime-time ad featuring one thrifty young woman’s quest to find a 17-inch laptop for under four figures.

“Lauren”, a feisty, red-haired computer-shopper, is given $1,000 to score a laptop with a 17-inch screen, and told she can keep the change.

First stop: the Apple store. Cue disappointment. The cheapest Macbook laptop, with a 13-inch screen, is $999. Lauren consoles herself that she is “not cool enough to be a Mac person” anyway.

You were expecting positive newspaper news?

A Facebook friend of mine chastised me on Thursday after reading my story about salary reductions at The New York Times and buyouts at The Washington Post. He wanted to know why I hadn’t found anything positive to write about newspapers in a while.

Watch me use the the Newspaper Associations’ fourth-quarter newspaper advertising numbers, released on Thursday, to dash my friend’s expectations.

Here’s the roundup:

    Print ad sales: Down 20.6 percent. That compares to down 11.6 percent in the fourth quarter a year ago. It also is a downhill slide from 19.3 percent in Q3 2008, 16.1 percent in Q2 and 14.4 in Q1. Online ad sales: Down 8.1 percent versus up 22.3 percent last year. It’s also worse than the previous three quarters of down 3 percent, down 2.4 percent and up 7.2 percent. Total print and online? Down 19.7 percent versus down 10.3 percent last year. Previous three quarters? Down 18.1 percent, 15.1 percent, 12.9 percent.

If there’s a positive story to write, it’s that the bleeding might slow once the economy recovers. But when will that be? I’m sorry,  but the beatings really will continue until morale improves.

Advertising works for Hulu, kind of

The jury is out on whether advertising will ever work for online video sites as they strive to become real profit-generating businesses. Well, it’s worked for Hulu, but not in the profit-generating kind of way — at least not right away.

Hulu jumped to become the fourth most-watched video site in the United States last month thanks to a major advertising spot during the Super Bowl, according to Internet audience measurement firm comScore in this Reuters story. Those spots featured Alec Baldwin telling viewers about Hulu’s “evil plot to destroy the world” by turning people’s brains to mush.

Comscore said Hulu’s viewership grew 42 percent to 34.7 million unique visitors watching around 333 million videos.

March Madness: The great CBS experiment

Get your brackets filled out, hand over a few bucks to the office pool manager, and settle in for some March Madness. The NCAA basketball tournament starts today.

Besides terrific basketball, the next two weeks will showcase what is a great paring of old and new media by CBS. Give the folks over at CBS credit, they’ve done a tip-top job of bringing the games to both your television set and your computer.

(In 1999, CBS acquired the rights to 11 years of broadcasting the tournament, paying about $6 billion. It also has the exclusive online rights.)

Windows to iPhone: been there, done that

Yes, yes everybody’s still talking about iPhone, but during Apple’s presentation of some new phone software today, Microsoft happened to call and couldn’t help mentioning that they’ve sold more phones with Windows Mobile, which has long had some of the stuff iPhone users are foaming at the mouth to get their hands on.

Despite the hype about the iPhone, Greg Sullivan, a senior product manager for Windows Mobile noted that Windows-based phones outsold iPhones in 2008, but he said…”If you talked to 10 people on the street I’m not sure how many people would guess that.”

However, not to sound like that unfortunate PC guy taunted by the Apple guy on the TV ads, Sullivan was quick to point out that while copy and paste, universal search and other features are new to iPhone, Microsoft has had them for some time.

Newspaper ad sales down? Fire ad staff!

The Boston Globe, the revenue-challenged sibling of The New York Times, is laying off employees as it copes with a decline in advertising revenue made only worse by the recession. The thing is, it’s laying off advertising staff.

From the Globe:

The Boston Globe said yesterday it reduced by half the sales force that takes classified advertising over the telephone. Thirty classified employees, including two managers and 13 part-time employees, lost jobs. In addition, the positions of two other advertising managers were eliminated, said Robert Powers, the Globe’s spokesman.

The reason? There are fewer classified ads coming in because everyone does it for free at Craigslist and other free classified sites. Some papers have lost more than half of their classies.

Best Life ends life

Maybe it’s something about magazines that have the word “Life” in their titles. Rodale, publisher of magazines such as Runner’s World and Prevention, is closing the book on Best Life, it’s its luxury magazine for men. Here are the first two paragraphs of the press release:

EMMAUS, PA AND NEW YORK, NY–March 11, 2009-Rodale Inc. announced today that the company will cease publication of Best Life magazine, effective immediately. The May issue, on newsstands next month, will be the last.

“Despite the great work of the sales team and the talent of the editorial staff, given the challenges of the advertising market and general conditions, Best Life could not meet our internal benchmarks, and we have made the decision to focus our resources on our core brands,” said Steven Pleshette Murphy, president and CEO of Rodale Inc. “Both VP/Editor-in-Chief Stephen Perrine and VP/Publisher Michael Wolfe have been outstanding leaders and ambassadors for the brand, and we are so proud of the work of the Best Life team.”

Palm teases Pre with Jimmy Fallon

Call it a case of doing more with less. Or maybe, how Palm advertises a product without, you know, paying for advertising.

Thats what happened last night with a de facto infomercial for Palm’s as-yet unreleased iPhone rival, the Pre, on Jimmy Fallon’s late night talk show. The five-minute segment between Fallon and Engadget Editor-in-chief Joshua Topolsky (and subsequent distribution of the video around the web), is the kind of marketing that Palm — whose market capitalization is easily 1/70th of iPhone maker Apple — probably couldn’t afford as typical commercials.

You have to give some credit to the marketing minds at Palm. For all their missteps — the Folio comes to mind — they have managed to score viral hits that create buzz for their limited line of mobile phones.

Online ads, creatively in your face

The Online Publishers Association got a bunch of Web publishers (including Reuters) to agree to test a new series of ad formats that it says will “stimulate a renaissance of creative advertising on the Internet.”

Renaissance? Indeed, says the OPA. The ads will:

    Inspire creativity and high-quality advertising Provide a greater share of voice for the advertisers Introduce a measurement to capture impact Enhance interactivity to build user engagement with brands

Or, roughly translated: The new online ad formats are supposed to work because there will be fewer of them, they will be larger, they theoretically could command a higher fee for advertisers who buy the space, and more people will buy stuff because of them.

Here are the formats:

    The Fixed Panel (recommended dimension is 336 wide x 860 tall), which looks naturally embedded into the page layout and scrolls to the top and bottom of the page as a user scrolls. The XXL Box (recommended dimension is 468 wide x 648 tall), which has page-turn functionality with video capability. The Pushdown (recommended dimension is 970 wide x 418 tall), which opens to display the advertisement and then rolls up to the top of the page.

This is intended as a way to succeed the era of banner ads because who, after all, looks at them except as a prelude to irritation? (No one, according to lots of studies)