Wednesday, October 21, 2015
One man’s junk is another man’s riches cannot be more true when you look at the recycling efforts being made with electronic waste generated by the digital revolution.

With every new Apple iPhone release that breaks sales records, somebody has to dispose of the phone in a responsible matter via recycling efforts, as E-waste contains toxic materials that cannot be sent to landfill sites. Even with this knowledge it's estimated that only 30% of E-waste is recycled globally with the remainder sometimes going to landfill sites in Asia and Africa in a growing multi-billion E-waste industry.

In China, there is a city of 200,000 people, Guiya (200 miles NE of Hong Kong on the SE coast) that is the E-waste capital of world that processes 1.5 million lbs. a year (7,500 tons), a small fraction of the over estimated 50 million tons generated worldwide.

The mass adoption of smartphones has caused a spike in e-waste as consumers change phones every 1-3 years. This e-waste is going to get higher as the next wave of consumer electronics, wearable devices, from companies such as Misfit, Jawbone, Withings and Garmin grow in adoption. These devices are fitness and health trackers that can be worn as a watch, wristband, jewelry/bracelet and clip-ons. These devices have a companion app that works on your smartphone to monitor your heart rate, sleep activity and body movements (I will be having a closer look at wearables in a later blog).

I believe Canada is a leader with established programs for E-waste recycling initiatives that are available in municipalities across Canada. The Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s recycling efforts boasts that 87% of E-waste is recycled in Ontario. that is dramatically better than the 30% rate we see in other countries. Part of the model in Ontario is an environmental levy fee for all new purchases of electronics to fund the collection of E-waste. But there is still a lot of phones that are collecting dust in homes that need to be disposed of. According to Stats Canada there are two unwanted cell phones in each Canadian household that has not been disposed off.

The chart below illustrates the stats by province and disposal habits.

Governments can encourage people to recycle, but in a market economy it needs to make economic sense to sustain recycling efforts, as it will need to earn a return on capital. E-waste contains valuable metals like aluminum, gold, silver, palladium and copper and recycling these metals are cheaper than mining from new sources in some cases.

A ton of used mobile phones, approximately 6,000 handsets, yields about 3.5 kg of silver, 340 grams of gold, 140 grams of palladium, and 130 kg of copper, valued at over US $15,000 ($20,000 Cdn) based on market prices.

Check out this video on how they mine gold from computers.

Let’s see what the potential bounty is in Canada for E-waste recycling/mining based on a 2 year lifecycle for smartphones and 28.5 million smartphone users in Canada in 2015. This means that there are 14.25 million cellphones or 1,786 tons of e-waste generated every year worth $35.7 million ($20,000 Cdn/ton) in recycled precious minerals. Two phones per household are still not disposed of and it is estimated at 27.2 million (13.6 million HHs) phones weighing 3,400 tons valued at $68 million are still waiting to be harvested.

E-waste recyclers offer 10-cents per lb. for raw e-waste or $200 per ton. The Electronic Recyclers Association offers $5 for laptops and $1.40 - $120 for smartphones depending on the model in addition to the 10-cents/lb. Based on these rates the value of one ton of scrap smartphones (6,000) start at $8,400 per ton.

To encourage collection at the grassroots levels, charity fundraising programs are available to community organizations to help collect E-waste. The David Suzuki Foundation or Electronic Recyclers Association would be a good start to creating your own collection day at your office or neighborhood. So join in on the E-harvest for charity this fall, or find a place to drop off your E-waste where you live for a charity of your choice.
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Cyberspace is still full of unknowns to explore and I found it fascinating to know that the World Wide Web can be divided into two segments: the “Surface” web and in the shadows, the Deep web. The Surface web is all the content that can be indexed by the public search engines and is estimated at 15-20 billion web pages or 4% of all pages. The Deep web is a place that is not indexed by search engines and is ball-parked at 400-500 times bigger in the number of pages. These deep web websites typically are password protected and thus cannot be accessed by search engines.



Your entry to the deep web requires anonymity and begins with a special browser called TOR short for “The Onion Router,” that enables anonymous communication on the internet. The USA Naval Intelligence community initially developed the TOR web browser software as a spy craft tool in the mid 1990s; it was designed to prevent network surveillance and traffic analysis. It is now an open source project  (free to use) with an estimated 36 million users and has been used by military, police, journalists, political activists, whistle blowers and the underground economy or the Dark web. The story of Silk Road is the most notorious Dark web story; it was launched in 2011 (taken down 2 years later) and was an online illicit market for the drug trade using bitcoin currency as their ecommerce model. It was a TOR based website that enabled encrypted computer-to-computer communications. TOR websites typically have a .onion in the address instead of .ca or .com.


It seems that there is always a new hacker attack in the news launched from the Dark web. So, what can a small publisher do to protect themselves online and protect their readers and customer’s identities from these villains? First, rate the potential of an attack on your company’s data based on what they are looking to harvest from your site for free by some creative means. Sooner or later hackers looking for vulnerabilities will visit your site in their search and sniff web robot software programs (Bots).

Hacker’s Wish List
  1. Credit Card Numbers – Financial Fraud is a constant threat
  2. Contact Information – Identity theft and spammers
  3. Email Addresses – Spiders scraping sites for email addresses for spammers
  4. Fake Article Comments (HAM) – Paid campaigns from content shapers
  5. Free Content – Content scraping by fake websites using SEO link inflators
To protect your website from this online litter I chatted with Martin Smith, CTO at Newcom Business Media and he suggests the following practices to maintain security for small publishers that don’t have a big web development team.

1. Web Server - Who is your hosting provider? Typically the hosting provider provides the initial layer of protection to your website as the web servers are located in a hosting datacenter with the latest hardware security for protecting your website as they will provide the initial security layer.

2. CMS Software upgrades
– Next is to make sure your CMS software is to up to date as hackers like to exploit outdated software. There are regular updates for open source content management software like Drupal, Joomala and Wordpress that most small publishers use.

3. Online touch points – Email, comments, subscription, commerce forms.
Martin suggests 3rd party service providers for these functions whenever possible. This approach enables them to hand off security concerns to the service provider and allocate resources elsewhere. To minimize the risk during a hacker attack ensure that all your web forms are cleared on a weekly basis and transfered to another database that is not connected to the website.

You have to admire the creativity and entrepreneurialism of the huckster mind with all the scams and hacker activity that I have witnessed and learned about during my career. This negative presence is part of the everyday fabric and will never go away (the Yin/Yang theory of life), so education or digital street smarts is still the best weapon to keep the negative forces in balance. The price of freedom is the right of “freedom to choose” and some people choose to do this to earn a living. They would be great assets to society if we could get them back from the dark side.
Thursday, August 20, 2015
It has been almost two years (Nov. 2013) since Blackberry appointed its new captain, John Chen, to steer the ship. We have seen Blackberry (formerly RIM) grow from a must have business device, to a consumer staple in 15 years since the Blackberry (BB) 957 was launched in 2000. At their height in market adoption they had 79 million users worldwide in 2012 and now sit at 46 million in 2015. The overall market has now grown to 190 million users in the USA and 28.5 million in Canada with Apple and Android devices with close to 90% of the market (Source: Wikipedia, CWTA).
In an earlier blog post on Blackberry, when they released the Playbook tablet in 2012, I said that they needed to focus on their core customers and not try to be a company that they are not (ie: consumer electronic). It would seem that John Chen agreed on that direction. Blackberry has reinvented themselves as an Enterprise Mobility Management Solution (EMM) company that provides hardware and software with a reputation for security and privacy. The vision for Blackberry going forward according to a May 2014 press release sounds likes a vision statement I would suggest for any publisher for their digital publishing strategy. 
"Manage data from millions of end points across multi-device, multi-platform environment in a secure public application. Blackberry supports an "Internet of things" initiative where different devices will be connected to the Internet like automobiles, home automation, appliances and security. The vision is that people can make real time decisions on any device of their choosing without worrying about security and privacy."'
BB Passport Review
The BB Passport was one of the new devices introduced since this vision statement. Let's see if they delivered a mobile device for the business user, or what I call the power users like me that may have multiple email accounts and need the device better integrated into their work habits for calendar, file access, maps and quicker user navigation. A device for the business user should increase the productivity of the worker. Here's a look at how the BB Passport can save you time and even a headache.
Blackberry Assistant/Hub
The Passport is set up to centralized the management of all your communication in a single folder or dashboard that was introduced with the BB Z10 in 2013 (See review at this link). It manages all your incoming email, voice and text message, plus it has an outbound dashboard with all the options to respond with text and voice-to-text message options. The hub also displays your calendar for the day. 
PLUS: Time saver for people that may have multiple email accounts. They do not have to login to each account to read a message. The calendar integration makes it easier to organize my day and provide me with daily reminders.
Easier Reading and Viewing
The screen size enabled me to read attachments and digital editions of magazines with ease, the screen with a 4.5" box screen (3 13/16" w x 4 3/16" h) versus a 4.5 inch rectangular (2 5/16" w x 3 3/16" h) smartphone. As I got accustomed to the new dimensions I found that I prefer the wider format when web surfing on news sites I read everyday and I can still hold it in one hand. I am glad wider and larger smartphones are making a comeback as I feel that they got too thin and small during the "Quest to go small phase" of the industry.
PLUS: Time saver for people for files that you have to pinch and zoom to read. The wider screen makes it easier to view video. I currently use a 4.5" rectangle  smartphone which is 1/2 inch thinner and makes a big difference in reading spreadsheets. It can still fit in my shirt pocket, so it's not too big.
The BB physical keyboard has been a key feature that got better with a touch keyboard add-on for other keys to make it look like a full keyboard. This made typing less cumbersome and more convenient like an email address for example. The wider keyboard also reminded me of my first BB device before they went thinner, as I can now do two-thumb typing on my smartphone again without a lot of typos. I also noticed that you can click directly to the map function from an address in your email message in addition to phone numbers and email addresses which saves on time. Instead of typing, I have become a big fan of voice to text for sending text messages as I am using this a lot more for short messages as the software has less typos than when I type on a touch keyboard with my big fingers on a rectangular device.
PLUS: The keyboard uses a unique combination of physical and touch, so you don't have to switch between a letter, number or symbol character—it is all in one. This make the typing experience much more quicker with a lower click fatigue. 
Device to Device Connections
One of the features my friend Haig Tossounian of Access Advertising Limited said he liked a lot about the BB Passport was that the BB Blend Feature allows you to access your files from any device on your mobile device with BB encryption security. The software app works on a Mac, Windows and Android devices. You can access the files through the file manger app and can connect to a cloud storage account, like Microsoft's One Note. 
PLUS: Imagine forgetting a file on your computer for a meeting or you are away from your desk and you need to get some info, this prevents the big headache of putting back-up files on a USB when you are on the road. This in my opinion is a priceless option that any road warrior can attest to and makes it a must have feature for any business user.
Standard features
Standard features such as calendar, maps/gps and front and rear camera are part of the makeup of any device and is included on the BB Passport. If you have a need for apps the Amazon app store is available, plus in the BB Store there is  a "Drop Box app" that comes preloaded. 
Rating: 5 out of 5
This is a must have smartphone to consider for the power user, as it can replace a lot of the functions of a laptop and still be a pocket size mobile device. The Blackberry Blend feature makes it stand out from the rest of other smartphones as it can connect with your desktop along with BB security for hacker attacks. The refinement of the communication management and keyboard made the device more efficient and less irritating to use. The wider screen makes reading more productive for documents, spreadsheets and pdfs that are sent as email attachments.
We can all be arm chair critics and second guess the road BB will take in the future, but I think to make it back they still need to create some "Tech Cool" for the brand to get the attention back with the everyday (Classic brand) and business (Passport or Leap brand) users. Blackberry's branding is a little confusing and scattered and needs to be simpler. It seems that they are still stuck in the technology release model of branding and naming every new product something different, instead of an umbrella approach like they do in the car industry where you can have multiple models under one brand. 
The company has delivered on their vision statement as they now support the iOS, Mac, Android and Microsoft software and hardware, which has enabled them to be available to a much bigger ecosystem of users which is a very smart move. The results of that strategy can be demonstrated with the release of the Blackberry Messenger app on Android, iOS and Microsoft that resulted in 20 million downloads when it was released in Sept 2013. Blackberry is also working with SalesForce, Google and Samsung for their EMM services and recently released a high security Samsung Tab 10 tablet through one of their new divisions Secusmart in partnership with IBM software. I look foward to see what comes next.
Thursday, July 09, 2015
As a freelance media director for an ad agency I have been pitched ad networks, behavioural ads and native advertising concepts. As part of the due diligence in any media plan, I look at the ability to deliver to the target market, based on the person’s profile, location, timing and purchasing influence that the person has on the company’s products that I am advertising. The objective is the right person at the right time with the right message.

To illustrate this point, you don’t advertise weed killer products in December during the winter; it is the wrong time as spring would be a better time as lawns start to grow again.

Like the gambler that tries to create a computer program to pick the winner of a horse race, humankind has always tried to find a way to beat the system using technology combined with a creative idea. Math has always provided a sense of certainty in decision-making and it is hopeful that it will lead to the right answer. This human instinct has created innovation that enriches the lives of us all. The perceived pot of gold at the end of the rainbow in advertising is to create an algorithm that will predict when a person is going to buy your product, based on  delivering the right person at the right time with the right message – a form of artificial intelligence.

While science has tried to create a mathematical model on the art of advertising, I am cautious on the expectations and failure rate on these new models. For example, weather models are not 100% correct and can be wrong up to 40% of the time due to unpredictable ecosystem fluctuations, just like markets. Compounding this failure rate is the growing evidence of bots accounting for 50% of web traffic, which make online media buying more complex than traditional media. With this market scenario for online media some concepts have emerged to increase the success rate.

Using past online behaviour of web content consumed as an indicator of future buying intentions is the premise of this approach. In the tech world this approach has advanced the science to the next level, but the algorithm is only as good as the inputs in the modelling. Previous habits are just one source and cannot effectively predict a person’s buying intentions. To illustrate this point I had a colleague chat with a friend about a book on Facebook, she soon started receiving ads about the book to buy, but what the algorithm did not know she already owned the book.


But to get that information requires that the person agrees to be tracked and this has opened a can of worms for privacy laws. The major online ad companies like Google require that you login each time when they use their web browser so they can track your habits. Google has asked their users (optional) to provide a demographic profile and provide info on what ads they would like to see to address this issue for example.

They have determined that I am male 45-54 based on my website viewing habits and I am in the ad industry, which is correct but a little creepy as they are big brother watching you. If this model were used in a shopping mall where a store can follow you around the mall and provide you with a sales pitch based on stores visited, it would be in my opinion unethical and in some countries in Europe, illegal. Based on this logic I am not a big fan of behavioural advertising, as I do not want my client’s brand being associated with this unethical or illegal behaviour.

In April 2015, research by the Canadian Marketing Association found that 33% of Canadians are comfortable with behavioural advertising if the advertiser is transparent about it and gives them a chance to opt out. But 67% are not comfortable with it, and suggests that you can alienate 67% of your target audience with this approach. The companies that offer this service the ad networks have banded together to create a Digital Advertising Alliance that will provide this transparency through a program called Ad Choices that enable people to opt out, but a person must click on a very small icon to opt-out. This is a form of negative option marketing another unethical practice in my books, so this is just a smoke screen to look transparent instead of asking people upfront.

The number one thing advertisers have always wanted is an article on their company as this form communication provides 3rd party creditability to the brand. This fact is the basis of a concept call Native Advertising and is based on the principle that a sponsored article/advertorial that looks like other articles on a web site instead of an ad will work better for the advertiser. In my opinion this is a farticle (fake article) disguised as editorial called sponsored content. Lessons learned from publishers I have worked with in the past showed that these promotional articles have low credibility and are not read by readers and need to be edited by editorial before being posted to keep their trust with the brand. So how is this going to help sell product by trying to fool the reader where the lines between church and state are blurred. I surf news websites where this line is blurred, as you cannot tell the difference sometimes.

My feeling is native advertising is a concept born out of ignorance in the tech industry by somebody with no publishing or advertising experience and because it is, digital publishers are led to believe that it will work better than other methods of advertising. The assumption made by the tech community is that readers will believe these articles and I feel this isn't true. Some desperate publishers who are looking to increase online ad revenue think they will get a competitive advantage for ad dollars with this approach. I have discussed this idea with some of the publishers I work with and we decided against it, as it will hurt the brand in the long run - ie: church vs. state editorial issues.

When I wear my media buyer’s hat I want to stay away from this, as I do not want to insult my target market with a “fool the reader” approach. You need to be transparent and honest with your target market and native advertising does not meet this requirement. I would rather have an ad mixed in with editorial that reflects the needs of my target market, just like checking the editorial schedule of a magazine to plan ad insertions.

For example, If I want to reach men that like fishing, I would advertise in a magazine like Ontario Out of Doors or Outdoor Canada, versus creating a sponsored article on fishing and advertise it in an ad network. Let the content experts write the article, I just want my ad beside it.  The overconfidence of the tech community in this situation can be compared to a successful baseball coach taking his baseball techniques and becoming a hockey coach. Realistically,  the techniques will not work as the game and rules are different.
Friday, June 19, 2015
One of the challenges facing the media industry is converting free web readers to a paid one. This is a near impossible task if you start out giving it away for free. Some have tried and failed and went back to free. In the early years of the Internet it had to be free to get a trial so it was good strategy at that time. But, if you give it away for free the writer suffers in this industry model, as there is less money to pay them.

Companies like Google have benefited from this access to this free content for their search engines and Ad Sense program. This causes publishers to pay less for this content to make ends meet. I call this a “wage theft” strategy on an industry level that has broken the system. Writers use to get paid $1 per word in print, now if the're lucky, they get 10 cents per word. So who is going to write all this content? Writers are now forced to live on lower fees for their work and some even work for free, just for the exposure, and the hope that it might lead to some paid gigs.


As publishers we need to look for ways to make the content pay so we can pay a living wage to our writers. While web display ads is one way, it cannot be the only way. For example if a website that has 50,000 visitors and is generating say 200,000 page impressions, the potential value is $3,000 per ad spot based on a $15 CPM if they can get it. So if you have three ad spots the value of the inventory is $9,000 per month or $108,000 per year. Assume that 50% of the inventory will be sold and the revenue is $54,000.

But the reality of this scenario of getting a $15 CPM will be a challenge in the consumer space. The Google ad sense program pays by the click model so that publishers get a very small CPM for their ad impressions. Ad networks take a 40% commission on ad sales and sell inventory at $3-5 CPM. For a publisher that only has a website they will be out of business if they do not have other sources of revenue like a print version or email newsletter to sell to amortize content costs.

In this market scenario Google gets our content for free for the Search Engine advertising and then undercuts publishers with low rates with the Ad Sense program to get all the advertising dollars and depress rates. This system is broken as you can see. One side provides the content for free and the other gets all money. Nobody will want to be a writer under these conditions and the system will collapse in the long term as their will be no next generation of writers.

To get some ideas on how to fix the system I had an interview with Ryan Wilock. Wilock is a content creator in the radio industry, who is also a syndicated DJ with a hit show distributed nationally on radio stations across Canada with the same music format. He gets a fee based on the ad sales of his program. This model links the success of the content to ad sales and the creator gets to share in the proceeds. That is a true partnership, not what we have in the online world! Now if we can get publishers to do that  it would be great start, but there has to be sufficient ad sales to make this work profitably.


Another interesting idea I found was a company that is an obituary service for daily newspapers that provides an online announcement, a chance to leave comments to pay your respects and register in a guestbook as part of the service. The newspapers pay a fee for each listing, but can reap the rewards of related sales of flowers that the visitor can purchase while visiting the obituary. Legacy provides a flower ecommerce service where a share of the proceeds will go back to the publisher. Over 1,700 newspapers use this service. In this model the advertiser pays for the listing and then the publisher get a cut of the sales of the products too. This is a great model as it provides two sources of revenue for the content.


There is another approach to look at that does a great job using the content marketing model. Dr. Mercola has a website that provides articles on natural health and living and has over 1 million subscribers to their email newsletter. The branded media site takes no advertising and pitches no products but their own branded ones that are available for sale on the site. This approach, like the idea links the content with actual product sales versus leads and awareness for advertisers.

The new media companies like search engines; social media and blogging sites rely on free content for them to make their profits. It is a model that does not benefit all the stakeholders in the ecosystem and must be addressed by the industry for long-tern sustainability. In a world where content is “King” we need a better support system for writers so they can share the benefits in the growing share of digital advertising. How about this radical idea that all the search engines give back 25% of sales to a journalists fund through a country tax that is distributed by the government to the industry as grants. The search engines must comply or each country web filters through the ISP providers will block them from market access. Now lets see if any politicians or the CRTC take the ball on this one.
About Me
Martin Seto

Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners digital publishing, event management and ad sales help. His media expertise also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor, magazine and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He can be reached at marty(dot)seto(at) or 416-907-6562, and on LinkedIn.

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