@consumerWD: Amazon Prime or Amazon Slime?

[Editor Charlie sez:  Another good reason to link to local retailers for vinyl and CDs and not to a data lord.]

Two Consumer Watchdog reports show that Amazon is deceiving its customers by putting fake crossed-out prices next to its products. It’s a deceptive marketing ploy meant to trick consumers into thinking they are getting a deal for the products they are purchasing when they are not.

Read the post on Consumer Watchdog

@hshaban: Google spent the most it ever has trying to influence Washington: $6 million

[Editor Charlie sez:  Another reason why Google is getting the Register or Die database safe harbor from Sensenbrenner, no doubt.]

Google spent the most it ever has in a single quarter trying to influence elected officials in Washington, according to lobbying disclosures made public late Thursday. The past three months have also seen record spending on lobbying by several other major tech companies, including Amazon, Apple and Uber.

Google Inc., according to the disclosure forms, spent $5.93 million between April 1 and June 30, more than any other corporation in the second quarter. That’s about 40 percent more than it had spent during the same period last year. The only three entities that doled out more money were large business organizations: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($11.68 million), the National Association of Realtors ($10.92 million), and Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America ($6 million).

Since the 2016 election, the tech industry has had to navigate not only a Republican-controlled Congress, but an administration whose decisions have often cut against Silicon Valley’s business interests and generally progressive outlook.

“Some tech companies have only existed in a world when a president [Obama] has largely aligned with them,” said Julie Samuels, the executive director of Tech: NYC, a group that represents New York-based tech firms. “So a lot of people are grappling with how to live in a space where there is tension there.”

Read the post on the Washington Post

 

@andreworlowski: Academics ‘funded by Google’ tend not to mention it in their work

A network of academics on Google’s payroll just so happens to churn out “independent research” friendly to their sugar daddy’s corporate goals. But two-thirds of the time you wouldn’t know it, according to the Campaign for Accountability….

Instead of providing a dispassionate critique of Silicon Valley, academics viewed it as a chance to expand their domains. The early noughties saw a proliferation of “cyberlaw” departments and “internet institutes” only too keen to take corporate funding from technology companies. This was a shrewd investment – it has helped now-dominant internet platforms set the agenda.

Academics prominent in today’s corporate-backed net neutrality protest include Stanford Law School’s Barbara van Schewick and lawyer Marvin Ammori, who runs “Fight For The Future”. Both, the GTP said, are indirectly funded by Google….

Although all large corporations lobby and fund academic research, Silicon Valley is unique in funding not only thinktanks but also ersatz “civil society” groups (such as Fight For The Future), which then manufacture a synthetic “grassroots” legitimacy for a policy issue. The phenomenon of “slacktivism” or “clicktivism” makes use of low-cost, low-risk tools to generate apparent support for lightweight causes (“save the internet”).

This means that the corporate puppet master can work academics to create and promote an issue, and then deploy fake “citizen” groups to generate the impression of popular support for its position. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell the slacktivists from the academics.

Read the post on The Register

@mbridge82 @whippletom @olivernmoody: Google pays academics millions for key support

Google has paid millions of dollars to academics at British and American universities for research that it hoped would sway public opinion and influence policy in favour of the tech giant.

A watchdog identified 329 pieces of research funded directly or indirectly by Google since 2005 in key public policy areas where regulatory changes could cost it a fortune in fines and lost earnings. The authors, who received payments of between $5,000 and $400,000, did not disclose Google’s funding in two thirds of cases. Emails suggest that some researchers shared papers with Google before publication, seeking suggestions for changes….

Much of the research made arguments in Google’s favour. Authors argued that the internet search company and publisher did not use its market dominance improperly, for example, or concluded that collecting huge volumes of personal data was a fair exchange for its free services….

The number of studies funded by Google has risen sharply at times when the company’s business model was under threat. Google-funded academics wrote more than 50 papers on competition issues between 2011 and 2013 when the company was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for alleged anti-competitive practices. Google subsequently agreed to change some business practices.

There was a second sharp increase two years ago when the European Commission filed formal antitrust charges against the company. Last month, European regulators issued a record $2.71 billion fine against Google for unfairly favouring its own services over those of rivals in its search results. The company denies the charge.

Former Google employees told The Wall Street Journal that the firm’s officials in Washington compiled wish lists of academic papers, then searched for authors. Other academics approached Google to pitch ideas, according to emails obtained by the newspaper.

The sources said that Google promoted the research papers to government officials and sometimes paid travel expenses for professors to meet policymakers.

On one occasion Eric Schmidt, Google’s former chief executive, cited a Google-funded author in written answers to Congress to back his claim that his company was not a monopoly — without mentioning that it had paid for the paper, the investigation found.

Read the post in the Times of London

@danikafears: Here’s how Google pays to influence public policy

[Editor Charlie sez:  More on Google Academics, Inc.]

Google has been quietly making a push to influence public policy — by dangling cash in front of academics.

The tech giant has paid researchers and professors from universities around the country stipends of $5,000 to $400,000 for dozens of research papers to help the company battle against regulators, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Some of the papers, which Google uses to influence government officials, don’t disclose that the company funded them.

University of Illinois law professor Paul Heald said he got $18,830 from Google for a project on copyrights — but his 2012 paper failed to mention the tech behemoth’s involvement.

“Oh, wow. No, I didn’t. That’s really bad,” he told the newspaper, adding that Google didn’t influence his work. “That’s purely oversight.”

Read the post on the NY Post

Must Read Post by @adamkraymond: The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry

[Editor Charlie sez: When you read Adam Raymond’s post about Spotify, you’ll probably wonder how these scummy tracks get onto Spotify in the first place.  Who thinks of this stuff?

Remember this from Tunecore’s “Music Industry Survival Guide” circa 2009?

TIPS TO SELL MORE MUSIC ONLINE
You’re an artist, composer, performer, you make music: you used TuneCore to distribute your music into iTunes and other stores. Here are some easy ways to get discovered and sell more music.

Cover Popular Songs
Cover versions of songs sell well. Known songs have a built-in audience already. People looking for “Let It Be” or “America the Beautiful” know what they want. If you “cover” (record your own original version) of these songs you create a way to get discovered and make money. And once someone buys a song of yours they are more inclined to listen to and buy other songs you have recorded.

Also, naming your song the same name as a more popular song allows it to surface when people search.  With one click to listen to a 30 second stream within the digital stores, you can increase getting heard.  However, you do want to be careful as to not make a potential fan angry at you for tricking them into listening.

Record Holiday-Themed Music
Music tied into or about a holiday sells well. For example, “spooky” Halloween sound effects or “scary” themed music (i.e. “Tubular Bells”, the theme song to the movie the The Exorcist) sells enormously around Halloween. Christmas music sells really well around the Christmas season. This ties back to covers: a cover of “White Christmas” or “Jingle Bell Rock” can fund you through the rest of the year. Don’t forget other, perhaps neglected holidays throughout the calendar-there is no doubt the world needs a great Groundhog Day or Columbus Day anthem. Be sure to name your songs with easily searchable words.

Searchability
Stores like eMusic, iTunes and Amazon Music have millions upon millions of songs in their stores. Most customers use the “search” function in the store to find music, so take advantage of it: put words in your album, artist/band and song titles that will help you show up when people search. Are you a mariachi band? Put the word “mariachi” in your name. Is your album a collection of nature sounds? Consider words like “forest” and “natural,” and so on. This is a gray area: if your music sounds like Bob Dylan, don’t necessarily use his name, but you could use words with association, like “folk.” It’s your music, but ask yourself, what words can I use in my band name, album name and/or song name that will cause my music to appear when people search?

Keep this in mind when you read Raymond’s post!]

Excepts from The Streaming Problem: How Spammers, Superstars, and Tech Giants Gamed the Music Industry [and Spotify]

On a website with more than 100 million active daily users, there are plenty of ways to game the system, be it for attention, or, if the streams pile up enough, profit. And the frauds cashing in on the latest hot single are hardly alone. A bevy of unknown artists have found ways to juice their streaming totals, whether it’s covering songs from artists who don’t allow their songs on Spotify, or uploading an album of silent tracks, each precisely long enough to generate a fraction of a cent for the artist.

Gaming Spotify does not rely strictly on deception. Some artists, a term used very loosely here, are providing people exactly what they want. It just so happens that what they want is ephemeral nonsense. Take, for example, the artist Happy Birthday Library, whose Spotify catalogue consists of hundreds of personalized versions of “Happy Birthday” streamed more than a million times.

The success of this gimmick — obvious by the sheer number of “Happy Birthday” artists — provides a handy illustration of how much on-demand streaming has changed the way we use music. Twenty years ago, finding a personalized version of “Happy Birthday” for your towheaded son Grover required a trip to the novelty-music kiosk at your local mega mall. Now, you just have to ask Alexa and seconds later the song’s blasting throughout the playroom. The seamless integration of streaming music into our daily lives has encouraged the creation of disposable songs that, years ago, no one would have imagined listening to through speakers. But now that a jazz version of the Gilligan’s Island theme is easily available, why not?….

A cynic might look at all of this and shrug his shoulders. Craven opportunism has been a part of the music industry since the first concert ticket was sold. But even if the money-grubbing isn’t new, the manner in which it’s grubbed is. And no matter who’s doing it, the effect is the same: Music is devalued.

Never before has a song title or artist name been more important than the actual songs themselves. There are no consequences for deception, either. Every day there’s a new mark searching for “Lucky for You That’s What I Like,” and listening to a song by Franz Horrman before realizing his error. Never before have so many songs existed just so an album can have a 20th, 30th, or 40th track. Now, major artists hoping for quick success on the charts can perfect ten songs, or they can just churn out three dozen. The streaming numbers could be the same either way.

Read the post on Vulture [EVERY WORD!!]

@jtaplin: Why Europe got tough on Google but the U.S. couldn’t

In the fall of 2012 the staff at the Federal Trade Commission had concluded that Google had engaged in unfair competition by favoring its own services over those of its competitors. As the Wall Street Journalreported, the staff had recommended a major fine: “The 160-page critique, which was supposed to remain private but was inadvertently disclosed in an open-records request, concluded that Google’s ‘conduct has resulted — and will result — in real harm to consumers.’ ”

But Google was never penalized, because the political appointees overrode the staff recommendation, an action rarely taken by the FTC. The Journal pointed out that Google, whose executives donated more money to the Obama campaign than any company, had held scores of meetings at the White House between the time the staff filed its report and the ultimate decision to drop the enforcement action.

This week, the European Union’s antitrust authorities fined Google a record $2.7 billion for the exact same sort of infractions that the FTC staff had been reviewing. Why were Europeans more willing to combat Big Tech monopolies than Americans?

Read the post in the Washington Post