Top Tech News You Need to Know: Pandora, Apple, Nielsen and More

Happy Friday, everyone. The holidays are fast approaching, also known as the busiest time of the year for data collection, use and planning for 2015. It’s likely you’re gearing up for the season, or seriously stressing out because you have to begin to gear up. No worries – focus on what you need to and let us keep up with all the big data and tech news. Below, the top five announcements and alerts that hit the Internet this past week, just in time to get you caught up before you sign off. 

Pandora Now Offers Audience Data to Musicians

Following almost a full year after Spotify’s very same announcement, Pandora announced Oct. 22 that the platform will open its analytics backend to musicians, giving them unparalleled access to data on their audience’s music preferences. The data will include information on each song (including the total number of plays and the number of thumbs up), as well as the number of fans who have created a station for each artist, plus geographic and demographic breakdowns of their listeners. 

For musicians, Pandora’s Artist Marketing Platform (AMP) is data gold. Akin this to Facebook’s advertising targeting metrics, or Power Editor, for the publishing world: target topics you cover to the people who have already expressed interest in such topics. Find look-alikes, too, no problem. 

“With AMP, we hope to make the day in and day out easier for artists by eliminating the guesswork,” said co-founder Tim Westergren. “From finding out what songs are performing well to inform singles or set lists, to mapping where an artist’s fan base is to inform tour schedules, our ultimate goal is to help artists across the spectrum build and maintain their careers.”

For Pandora, this announcement helps the company to position itself in artists’ favor, as was Spotify’s claim in December 2013. Both Pandora and Spotify have long received criticism for their low royalty pay-outs with some high-profile artists claiming that the platforms will “suck all the creative content out of the world.”  With a data platform available to artists though, Pandora can offer value back to musicians, and even later connect that data to its advertising platform to better target to Pandora users. 

Apple’s OS X Yosemite Collects User Location Data and Scans Hardware

Apple’s newest OS X software release is angering many, with claims that the company is collecting hardware search and location data without consent. Worse, the company is sharing such data with Microsoft, the company powering the new search tools on OS X Yosemite via Bing. 

Overall, the move seems to be an attempt for both Apple and Microsoft to collect more data in attempts to rival Google’s global status at the world’s largest data broker.  

For the most part, Apple and Microsoft will likely only use this data for advertising and marketing purposes, serving up for relevant, personalized ads to users. Not such a bad deal. However, there are concerns that the data collection could be shared with government entities, as similar data collection has been done in the past. 

That said, while it is an automatic opt-in (which Umbel does not endorse), users can opt-out. Here’s how, thanks to The Independent:

Go to System Preference> Spotlight > Search Results and disable the following: ‘Spotlight Suggestions’, ‘Bookmarks & History’ and ‘Bing Web Searches’.

“The biggest issue here isn’t in the data collection itself, but the lack of notification on Apple’s part on doing such.”

Apple’s statement on the issue was that the company is absolutely dedicated to protecting users’ privacy. And that the main Spotlight function that collects data (‘Spotlight Suggest’ – it offers personalized results just like any web search engine) “doesn’t use a persistent identifier, so a user’s search history can’t be created by Apple or anyone else.” The company also said that they blur geographical data so that no exact locations may be known. 

The biggest issue here isn’t in the data collection itself, but the lack of notification on Apple’s part on doing such. In protecting users’ data rights, companies need to be forthright about when and why they are collection data. On this topic, The Independent’s own security and privacy researcher Runa Sandvik weighed in:

“This removes some of the big, potential dangers with this type of ‘feature’,” she said, adding that the company was still participating in a worrying trend in tech companies to “learn as much as possible about users, where they are and how they use your services.”

Very worrying, indeed.

Ogilvy Looks to Data for Creative Innovation

Ogilvy & Mather is no agency that sits on the sidelines. Revealed in a New York Times article on Oct. 20, the agency has created OgilvyAmp, a department of the company tasked solely with handling data strategy and planning, analytics services and data management. They are working for clients that include IBM, British Airways, E*Trade, Kimberly-Clark, Merck, Nestlé and T-Mobile.

Ogilvy’s move toward helping clients understand and value their data comes from one overarching issue with big data itself: people are afraid to dive into it. Data literacy is extremely low, and the demand for those with big data talent and experience in high, while availability for those with it is quite low. In addition, media attention around the subject often either falls into one of two categories: that of fear-mongering or that of undue praise. 

OgilvyAmp will help data serve as “an integrator as the digital revolution dissolves the traditional boundaries between the disciplines like advertising, direct marketing, public relations.” 

So, where the CMO and CIO roles are overlapping, with current employees in both roles not fully understanding the new tasks assigned to them, Ogilvy is stepping up. 

“This is a huge opportunity for clients and for us,” said Todd Cullen, who joined Ogilvy & Mather last year in the new post of global chief data officer, to “remove data as a distraction and position it as a tool in the creative palette.”

Ello Gets Funding, Makes Legally Binding Promise to Never Collect or Sell User Data

Ello, the anti-Facebook social platform that went viral about a month ago, gaining one million users with another 3 million registered and waiting for an invite, got a $5.5 million boost on Oct. 23 from a Series A round of venture capital funding.

The only caveat? The new social platform, which gained such notoriety based on a promise of never collecting, using or selling user data (a concept deemed insane by the likes of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the vast majority of the internet), is now legally required to maintain that promise. 

To do this, Ello founders registered the company as a public benefit corporation (PBC) in the state of Delaware, of which there are only about 1,140 in the entire country. In the charter to register, the founders wrote:

Ello’s explosive growth over the last few months proves that there is a hunger to connect with friends and see beautiful things — without being manipulated by ad salesmen, boosted posts, and computer algorithms that don’t always have our best interests at heart. On an ad-driven social network, the advertiser is the customer and you’re the product that’s bought and sold.

“A PBC is obligated to consider the mission based,” Ello founder Paul Budnitz told Betabeat. “We really cannot be forced by our investors to break the basic principles.”

While this is most certainly a true statement, this move is leaving many others to ponder on the monetization of such a network. How, after all, can a digital company make money without selling ads, selling data or forcing users to pay a premium? 

That’s the question yet to be answered. As of now, though, Ello is obviously a company dedicated to ethics, and that is a win in our book, especially when it comes to data rights. 

Adobe and Nielsen Team Up – And It Was About Time

Nielsen and Adobe are teaming up to finally, and we mean finally, provide viewership numbers and demographics on online TV audiences

Nielsen is historically best known for providing TV show audience ratings, which help advertisers place ads during particular segments. However, this process has been limited to only broadcast television and has wholly ignored the growing online TV watching audience. 

The partnership is likely a play at competing with the data housed by the likes of Hulu, which uses audience data to help advertisers on their site reach a relevant audience. 

ESPN, Turner, Sony Pictures (including online video service Crackle), Univision, and others have already signed up to access the data.