File sharing fines go mainstream


Many see as harsh the recent $220,000 fine levied  on a Minnesota housewife for online music sharing, but it’s more appropriate to view this action as a significant milestone in the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) strategy to crack down on illegal music and try to push people to legal file downloading.   The coverage on this file sharing case is overwhelming and it will be very interesting to see how the online community will absorb this verdict.

CNET’s Declan has a good summary of key points in this RIAA case here, although in one sense it should be easy to understand the verdict because pretty much everybody knows file sharing is illegal!    Common use does not make file sharing “fair use”. 

Now, one can make a reasonable case that the illegality of file sharing is a trivial offense – something like driving going 58 mph in a 55 mph zone.  One can hammer home this point noting that simply making a mix tape for friends is also technically illegal but never enforced by RIAA, and that gray areas about in the law surrounding intellectual property.    But only foolish people (ie a lot of people) seem to argue that file sharing is a perfectly legal activity.

So, what is the solution here?   RIAA would say it is for everybody to stop illegal downloads and sign up for paid services.   Yet RIAA must be spending far more than 220k on this case, and won’t ever get that much from her anyway.  Given the difficulties of prosecution and the prevalence of the behavior I think the laws should to be modified to reflect widespread accepted social standards while still protecting copyright holders.  However this may just open up a new hornet’s nest of legal complications.    

Online advertising juggernaut rolls on.


This Internet Advertising Bureau report notes that online advertising is still showing explosive growth.    Interesting is the fact that the types of online advertising – with search ads at the top – seems to have stabilized somewhat with “pay for performance” one of the few categories that has clearly increased from last year.   

 I don’t think this stability reflects the “optimal” mix of ads, rather it is more an indication of how the big players take some time to get comfortable with innovations in advertising, and still stick to more traditional CPM style approaches rather than the clearly superior PPC and pay per performance models.   Clearly even many of the big advertisers and agencies still have fairly weak SEM and SEO departments so they’ll choose to use big CPM campaigns that are easy to analyze rather than the more productive – but more complicated to manage – PPC and performance approaches.

Online ads are now a mainstay of any good campaign, but it’ll take some years before advertisers realize the foolishness of many online advertising approaches which generally include bloated CPM impression campaigns.   Much more effective are targeted organic and PPC ad campaigns, but these require more analysis and a newer perspective.

The most conspicuously stupid type of campaign – still extremely popular in travel – is to use expensive print advertising in an attempt to boost online visitation.  I studied this *extensively* across many print ad types during my work marketing southern Oregon several years ago and despite the clear results that showed print ads lead to only a tiny number of online visits, many travel marketers still think print is an effective way to promote online.    It’s not, but it will continue until the incentives and simplicity of squandering money on ineffective print advertising go away.   The lack of research in this area is odd to me given the huge total travel advertising spend, but most travel research is self-serving and often sponsored or conducted by the very agencies or entities that benefit from certain results, so stupid biases remain intact for a long time.