‘Our relationship with Facebook is difficult’: The Guardian’s David Pemsel says the platform doesn’t value quality

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David Pemsel, CEO of Guardian News and Media, is concerned about Facebook but bullish on the ability of philanthropic contributions to fund publishing. Below is our conversation, which has been lightly edited and condensed. Continue reading “‘Our relationship with Facebook is difficult’: The Guardian’s David Pemsel says the platform doesn’t value quality”

‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer

This article appears in the latest issue of Digiday magazine, a quarterly publication that is part of Digiday+. Members of Digiday+ get access to exclusive content, original research and member events throughout the year. Learn more here

Mark Thompson, CEO of The New York Times Co., discussed the Times’ increased focus on the consumer, its approach to the platform giants and why he has faith the digital ad mess will get cleaned up. Our recent conversation has been lightly edited and condensed. Continue reading “‘Facebook is not transparent:’ NY Times CEO Mark Thompson says the platform’s role needs to be clearer”

Google reclaims title of top traffic referrer, and search-focused publishers are enjoying the moment

Search-focused publishers are having an I-told-you-so moment now that Google is once again publishers’ biggest source of referral traffic. On Dec. 11, Googlepar data showing that Google now accounts for 44 percent of referral traffic for publishers made its way across the internet. That share represented a 10-point swing from the start of the year, when Facebook accounted for 40 percent, and Google accounted for 34 percent; Facebook now accounts for 26 percent. Continue reading “Google reclaims title of top traffic referrer, and search-focused publishers are enjoying the moment”

Pivot to… SEO?

If anybody said to you 18 months ago that Facebook would take a backseat to search you might have laughed. Guess what, that’s now become the reality according to Parse.ly data.

Parse.ly finds that Google sent more traffic to publisher pages than its duopoly foil Facebook in 2017. In fact, Facebook sent 25 percent less than it had in 2016. I don’t think I need to tell you that’s significant, but I feel I should reinforce that it is. Google, on the other hand, sent 17 percent more traffic to publishers in 2017. Again, this is also significant because it flips the narrative in terms of where publishers should be focusing their amplification strategies.

SEO Continue reading “Pivot to… SEO?”

Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018

Next year is going to be big for Chrome, if you believe everything Google has announced so far: going to war against low-quality ads, autoplaying content with sound, and unwanted redirects. The company today added a smaller, but still significant, initiative to its to-do list: reducing Chrome crashes caused by third-party software on Windows.

Continue reading “Chrome for Windows will start blocking third-party software injections in 2018”

Facebook Declines, Google Grows as Battle for News Audiences Continues

As an analytics provider for hundreds of the web’s leading publishers, we have a bird’s-eye view of trends in web-wide news consumption. This vantage revealed an industry-wide shift in how readers find news in June 2015. Facebook overtook Google as the most important traffic source for publishers. And then, for two years the situation remained a stable duopoly, with Facebook and Google each sending publishers around 35% of their identified external referral traffic. Continue reading “Facebook Declines, Google Grows as Battle for News Audiences Continues”

Google’s Chatbase bot analytics platform opens to all

Google’s chatbot analytics platform is now open to everyone, more than six months after its quiet debut during the company’s I/O developer conference. Called Chatbase, it’s intended to help developers better analyze and optimize their bots so they can improve conversion rates and accuracy — and avoid having users feel bots are useless.

Anyone can use Google’s Chatbase for free, similar to Google Analytics, and it’ll work across any platform, including Facebook Messenger, Kik, Slack, Viber, and Skype. But it’s more than messaging services where Chatbase could prove invaluable: With the rise of voice assistants like Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Samsung’s Bixby, and Apple’s Siri, understanding analytics will be important.

A product of Google’s Area 120 internal incubator, Chatbase currently has “hundreds” of companies using it, including Ticketmaster, HBO, and Viber. A spokesperson for the Rakuten-owned messaging service said in a statement: “We increased query volume by 35% for a popular stickers bot by optimizing queries with high exit rates. Chatbase has been immensely helpful … instead of combing through logs, we rely on its machine-learning capability to help prioritize required optimizations.”

Ofer Ronen, Chatbase’s team lead, told VentureBeat that since the platform’s early release, Google has learned that “building and analyzing bots can be challenging because the tools are relatively new and still maturing. Unlike websites and apps which are well understood, bot development is still establishing best practices.”

He went on to say: “An aspect that makes bots especially challenging is how open-ended they are: Users expect bots to handle a request containing any phrasing they choose. This is an area that Chatbase is especially focused on, by exposing popular requests to which a bot is not responding well.”

Google isn’t the only one in the analytics space for bots, as it competes against Dashbot, Botanalytics, BotMetrics, Manner, and others. But what might be an advantage to Google is what it’s done with Google Analytics, one of the top analytics tools for mobile and website developers. Ronen added that, besides the extensive array of things that could be tracked, Chatbot’s machine learning capabilities gives it leverage over the competition, clustering “similar problematic user messages. One example would be for finding and fixing ‘misses’, or alternate phrasing of supported actions that weren’t originally anticipated by the developer,” he said.

“Putting some of Google’s machine learning capabilities to work for our users is a clear differentiator, and our users are really excited about that.”

If Google is successful in positioning Chatbase as being platform-agnostic and the service becomes as widely used as its Analytics sibling, then the breadth of data that the company will receive around conversation, be it voice or text, will be enormous. That would not only allow Google to improve its bot ecosystem, but to see a significant boost in the machine learning space. Plus it may eventually lead to helping the company figure out ways to properly monetize bots — using a chatbot version of Google AdWords, perhaps?

Chatbase won’t give you the exact same metrics that you’d expect from a traditional analytics platform, although there are some overlaps. Among the data you’ll receive include the number of active users, sessions, and retention, while also comparing performance by platform.

Anyone can sign up for Chatbase. Those using Dialogflow, the service formerly known as API.ai, will automatically have access to Chatbase’s basic features within Dialogflow.

Google gives developers more tools to make better voice apps

Google Assistant received some major upgrades in recent days, and today Google Assistant product manager Brad Abrams announced a series of changes to help developers make voice apps that interact with Google’s AI assistant, including ways to give them more expressive voices and send push notifications, as well as new subcategories for the Assistant’s App Directory.

One of the coolest new features coming to Google Assistant is something called Implicit Discovery. Instead of saying “OK Google, talk to Ray’s Auto Shop app” and then asking to schedule an appointment, Implicit Discovery will let you say “Book an appointment to fix my car” then offer an app recommendation. The same should apply if you say “I need to book a flight” to summon something like the Kayak app or say “I need a ride” to interact with Uber or Lyft.

Implicit Discovery may seem simple, but it’s going after one of the biggest challenges for AI assistants, which is: Without a visual interface, how does a user figure out how to get things done or remember the names of favorite or useful apps? Implicit Discovery seems to be an effort to tackle this. It’s also a feature already available in Amazon’s Alexa.

Another feature added today to improve discovery of third-party apps is subcategories in the App Directory, so instead of just being listed in the Food and Drink category, apps can be slated into subcategories like “Order Food” and “View a Menu.”

The App Directory was first introduced at the I/O developer conference this spring.

Other changes on the way for the App Directory include badges to indicate if a voice app is family friendly and support for third-party apps in languages beyond English. Until today, Google’s voice apps were only available for English speakers in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Voice apps will soon be available in Portuguese in Brazil, English in India, and Spanish in the U.S., Mexico, and Spain.

Google announced today that developers in the United Kingdom can begin to make apps that can carry out transactions, a feature that until now was exclusive to the U.S. The Google Payment API expanded to include Google Assistant users in the U.S. in May.

A series of new APIs has also been rolled out, including one that gives apps the ability to send push notifications, first over the phone and in the future with voice or auditory sounds through a Google Home smart speaker. Alexa notifications first launched in September.

An API to link an account to an app for personalized results, and another that gives developers the ability to transfer a conversation from a smart speaker to a smartphone also launched today.

Beyond push notifications, voice apps can now deliver daily updates or notifications about certain kinds of content.

The Actions on Google platform for the creation of voice apps by third-party developers first became available roughly a year ago, in December 2016. Since then, hundreds of voice apps have been made available to do a range of things, from playing ambient sounds like crashing waves to offering local deals for a pizza from Domino’s.

It’s been a pretty busy week for Google’s intelligent assistant. On Monday, Google announced that Home speakers can now be used as an intercom system. The Google Broadcast feature, first announced at the Made by Google hardware event last month, allows you to deliver a message through all your Google Home devices. The app also gained the ability to deliver music and movie recommendations from streaming services and control sound by adjusting things like bass and treble, a clear plus for prospective owners of Google Home Max, which is scheduled to hit store shelves next month.

Taken together, the announcements made today will give voice apps the ability to be a much more vocal, vital part of the Google Assistant experience, and continue to evolve the ecosystem surrounding Google’s AI assistant.

This time last year, Google Assistant was only available in the Allo chat app. Today you can speak to Google in Android TVs, three Google Home smart speakers, Android smartphones, the Pixel Chromebook, and Pixel Buds, the first headphones made by Google that began to roll out last week. Support for Google Assistant in tablets using Android is also reportedly on the way.

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