National / International News

Digital advertisers losing the 'bot arms race'

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 09:15

Cyber-crime is a serious threat to anyone who does businesss on the internet. Some of the biggest heists have involved credit card data and banking information.

But that is changing.

Criminal rings have found a new target, one that is turning out to be very lucrative and less risky than bank and credit card fraud: digital ad fraud. Researchers believe that more than one third of all internet traffic is from bots--software programs, and not actual humans. And all those fake eyeballs are wreaking havoc on the $50 billion digital ad market.

Let's say you are a big box retail store. To get people into your store you place thousands of online ads on thousands of websites. Some of those websites are very secure, but others are set up to generate ad views from bots. So you, the retailer, keep a list of the sites that are viewed by humans and those that could be overrun by bots.

"The problem is those lists are not updated frequently enough," says Dr. Augustine Fou, a marketing science consultant. We are in the midst of what he calls a bot arms race. The good guys can detect bots, maybe by noticing that the bot doesn't move the mouse like a human. But then, the bots get more sophisticated, they learn to move a mouse like a person would. "Once the good guys detect that kind of stuff," Fou says, " then the bad guys now add the next level and they can now simulate those things."

Fou says that between 30 and 60 percent of all display ad views are fraudulent--meaning they're on websites being viewed by bots.

Several companies have tried to recoup ad spending when they discovered their ads weren't seen by humans. They are also turning to companies like White Ops.

"Whenever a page is loaded on the web, we determine in real time whether it was viewed by a human or a bot," says *Tamar Hassan, the chief technical officer of White Ops.

He says criminals are increasingly turning to digital ad fraud because it can be more profitable than good old-fashioned credit card fraud. "Now, the price is around 25 cents a credit card, and you still have to get away with the fraud," Hassan says. Not only that, "when you do, somebody is actually chasing you because the money is missing."

But in advertising the money is just as good if not better than credit card fraud. And no one is chasing you because the money isn't missing. It's the human eyeballs that are nowhere to be found.

*CORRECTION: The original article misidentified an executive with White Ops. He is Tamar Hassan, the company’s chief technical officer. The text has been corrected.

Laws calls for 'education stability'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 09:09
A "significant period of stability" in schools should follow wide-ranging changes to policy under the coalition government, Schools Minister David Laws says.

Banksy Is Believed To Be Behind Eavesdropping Mural Near British Spy HQ

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 09:08

A telephone box near British spy agency GCHQ is now adorned with a trio of snoops, after a mural was added to a wall this weekend. The art is believed to be the work of street artist Banksy.

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Topless men barred by theme park

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:56
A theme park that holds the world record for the number of naked people riding a rollercoaster bans topless customers.

UKIP's Farage finds new French ally

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:44
Eurosceptic UKIP leader finds new ally in Paris

Domenicali quits as Ferrari F1 boss

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:38
Stefano Domenicali resigns as the team principal of Ferrari with immediate effect after their poor start to the F1 season.

Phelps to come out of retirement

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:33
Swimmer Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian in history, is to come out of retirement at the age of 28.

Commonwealth Games medals unveiled

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:30
The medals that athletes will compete for at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow are revealed at an event to mark 100 days till the Games' opening ceremony.

Video link trial for Gaddafi's son

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:26
A Libyan court rules that the late Colonel Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam, and other Gaddafi officials being held outside Tripoli, can be tried via video-link.

Dutch unveil glow in the dark road

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:25
Streetlights on a 500m stretch of highway in the Netherlands are replaced by glow in the dark road markings in a pilot project.

Matisse exhibition hailed by critics

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:13
Critics laud one of the largest collections of Henri Matisse's "cut-out" artworks ever assembled for an exhibition opening at Tate Modern.

Real estate flippers are back!

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:13

Some of the biggest players in the housing bubble were house flippers, people who'd buy a house, fix it up and sell it – sometimes at a huge profit. When the bubble burst, the flippers fled. But now they’re back, even in areas that have been overlooked by the big hedge funds and foreign investors. 

For example, take Prince George’s County, Md., which doesn’t have the glitzy condos of Miami Beach or new housing developments of Vegas that big investors like. But it does have lots of housing for middle and low-income families.

That's just fine for Rich Minor, who's been flipping houses for about 30 years. I meet him at his latest acquisition – a house in Bowie, Md.

As he shows me around, Minor explains that he laid low during the housing crisis. He was on one of the first flippers to come back to Prince George’s County in 2009, when you could buy foreclosures cheap. Now, there’s actually a lot of competition, because flipping is back, he says.

“It’s back, and it’s back with a vengeance now, because the deals are much harder to come by,” Minor says.

And even if you get a deal in Prince George’s County, it may be in a neighborhood that's a little dilapidated. That's one reason the big hedge funds and international investors aren't that common here.

“We’re not getting the big boys here, we’re getting the small fries,” says Anthony Sanders, a professor of real estate finance at George Mason University.

The small-fry flippers know they’re going to spend a lot to fix these houses up and that they can’t sell them for too much, because they’re still not in great neighborhoods. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of competition for fixer uppers, even if rough areas.

“On the open market, we don’t really have a ghost of a chance of acquiring any of these homes," says Maryann Dillon, executive director of Housing initiative Partnership, a non-profit which buys rundown houses, fixes them up, and sells them to low income buyers. "We cannot compete with investors who are all cash offers, who can close in a week or two weeks."

Dillon’s organization is able to buy some houses through a federal program that gives them first dibs over private investors.  But there are no such protections for the low-income buyers Dillon tries to help.  She’s seen people who’ve clawed back from foreclosure trying to buy a new house, but losing out to the flippers.


Percentage of total home sales to flippers

“They lost their nest egg during the recession. And now that things are coming back and there’s an opportunity to rebuild their wealth, they’re losing out yet again," Dillon says.

But at least they're just competing with the small flippers.

“These are not the big operations you find in Las Vegas or Phoenix," says Sanders, "where they’re going to the courthouse and buying up 20 properties, 30 properties and flipping them over the course of a couple months."

Sanders says, if you live in a place dominated by small-fry flippers, be thankful – it could be worse. 

Patients Often Win If They Appeal A Denied Health Claim

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:10

Obamacare set national rules for appealing a denied health claim — a process that used to vary by employer and state. Consumers should appeal more often, advocates say. Half the time, they'll win.

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Trident negotiations not ruled out

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:07
Downing Street indicates that Trident could be part of any negotiations if Scotland votes "Yes" to independence.

Marketing the moon

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:06

Looking back, sending a man to the moon seems like an easy sell. But in the 1960s, NASA had to convince the American public that the space program was a good idea.

"In the 1960s, it was just a radical idea," says David Meerman Scott, co-author of "Marketing the Moon: The Selling of the Apollo Lunar Program." "Can you imagine deciding that we’re going to send 12 people to the surface of the moon and it's going to cost 4 percent of the national budget and 2 percent of the national workforce for a decade? So we had to sell it."

And unlike their Soviet counterparts, NASA allowed their success and failures to be public.

"They were selling it not only to the American people, but to the world," says Richardz Jurek, co-author of the book. "It was really the vanguard of real time communication happening with the whole world watching."

To keep Americans interested, NASA hired former journalists to run their publicity campaign. And NASA's publicity department had help from outside marketers, too. As Americans became more interested in the Apollo program's success, they became more interested in buying items associated with the astronauts.

Any company making something for the astronauts – from Stouffer's to Tang to Omega Watches, used the space program in ads to sell their product.

"The brilliance of what NASA did at the beginning is they focused on what we would call today 'brand journalism' in marketing speak," says Jurek.

Wikimedia Commons

Coke and Pepsi cans flown aboard STS-51-F in 1985  on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

Syria rebels driven from Maaloula

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:06
Syrian government forces backed by Hezbollah fighters have driven Islamist rebels out of the ancient Christian town of Maaloula, state media say.

Japan May Send Maglev Train Expertise To U.S., Without A Fee

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:06

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spoken about the idea with President Obama, and Japan is reportedly willing to include billions of dollars in loans to help underwrite the expensive project.

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Hammer attacker burned partner alive

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:04
A man who attacked his partner and mother of their four children with a hammer before dousing her with fuel and setting her on fire, is jailed for her murder.

Ohio Ordered To Recognize Out-Of-State Gay Marriages

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-14 08:01

A federal judge put a "stay" on his ruling, though, which apparently means his order affects only the four couples who sued to have their names put on their children's birth certificates.

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Anger as fare dodger 'buys silence'

BBC - Mon, 2014-04-14 07:59
There is anger from a rail workers' union after an apparently wealthy fare dodger manages to avoid court action after repaying £40,000.
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