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Media Briefing: After Google’s cookie reprieve, publishers’ identity tech adoption slows to a crawl

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Media Briefing: After Google’s cookie reprieve, publishers’ identity tech adoption slows to a crawl

In this week’s Media Briefing, platforms, data and privacy reporter Kate Kaye explores how Google’s third-party cookie extension has affected publishers’ adoption of alternative identifiers.

ID check

Identity tech providers were already struggling to get publishers on board to use their alternate identifiers in advance of Google’s self-imposed deadline to disable third-party cookies in its popular Chrome web browser. Google’s decision to extend the deadline from January 2022 until late 2023 could make it harder.

“If Google hadn’t made that announcement, we would already certainly be testing, probably, multiple identity partners because of the lead times that are needed to know that something is really good,” said Clark Benson, CEO of pop culture list publisher Ranker.

But now the publisher still hasn’t signed on to use any yet. “We’ve had conversations with many companies involved in different identity solutions, most likely with the plan to implement more than one, but we haven’t pulled the trigger yet on any one,” said Benson, adding that the cookie extension gave him more time to “make a better-informed decision.”

If it weren’t for the extra time, “we might be in a little bit more of a rush with our authenticated identity,” said Mike Griego, director of ad technology for Penske Media Corporation, which publishes titles including Rolling Stone and Variety. Although PMC is already “deep in the throes of integrating ATS [LiveRamp’s identity tech for publishers],” he said, Google’s cookie extension took the pressure off when it comes to evaluating or implementing other alternate identifiers.

The key hits:

  • Google’s third-party cookie extension has reduced the urgency for publishers to adopt alternate identifiers.
  • It’s also opened a window of opportunity for them to avoid identity tech altogether.
  • Other factors contributing to publisher hesitance include a lack of advertiser demand and questions about whether early adoption is worth it for publishers. 

An alternative to alternative IDs

Google’s extension doesn’t only take off the pressure; it gives publishers an incentive to find ways to ignore identity tech entirely, according to one executive at a large publisher who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It will help reassure publishers that their hands aren’t tied and they won’t be forced to adopt an alternate identifier,” said the exec who argued that publishers have more time to test ways to derive ad revenue without “feeling disintermediated from the chain.” 

Publishers appear to be in little rush to adopt cross-site audience tracking and targeting tech that merely perpetuates the problem that third-party publishers posed to publishers: stripping their value by separating them from their audiences, according to Rob Beeler, who had his ears to the ground at a recent in-person event for publishers held by AdMonsters, an organization which he chairs.

“The ID solutions are trying to replicate what works today and that’s not to a publisher’s benefit, and so why help so early on in the process to replicate that?” said Beeler, who manages ads for publishers as CEO of consultancy Beeler.tech. That presents identity tech providers with “an uphill battle,” said Beeler. But he acknowledged, “I don’t know that they’re toast.” 

Absent advertiser demand

Publisher adoption is only one side of ID tech providers’ uphill battle, though. Advertiser demand has to be there, too, and, since third-party cookies still work, advertisers aren’t forcing the issue, said Sara Badler, svp advertising and partnerships at Dotdash, which owns publications like Verywell and The Spruce. “I don’t think there are any demands” for identity tech from advertisers, she said.

Rather than targeting specific people in Dotdash properties, advertisers tend to buy from the publisher based on the intent people demonstrate through search (think “Taco Tuesday recipe ideas”), according to Badler. That predilection toward contextual and time-of-day targeting in place of audience targeting likely offsets any urgency to embrace tracking alternatives for the publisher. However, she said Dotdash is “definitely in conversations with LiveRamp” as well as other identity tech providers.

Advertiser demand is key for PMC’s Griego, too. His decisions to use identity tech have been based on whether advertisers buying through demand-side platforms want identity links. While PMC has implemented some identifiers across all of its sites — including LiveRamp’s ATS and Merkle’s identifier — he expects to be selective. “There comes a point when you want to wrangle in some control over how many identities you’re integrating with,” Griego said.

What’s the ROI for identity tech?

Then there’s the bottom line. At this stage, said Beeler, publishers aren’t convinced they’ll make more money if they implement identifiers. Relaying what he’s heard publishers say, he told Digiday, “Until I hear that publishers are making more money off the identified, authenticated audiences, it doesn’t seem like I have to do anything on that front at all until we’re closer to the date [of Google’s deadline].”

Meanwhile, at least one publishing exec said his site is ahead of the game. “Kudos to us for getting our homework done on time,” said Justin Wohl, chief revenue officer at Salon, which has implemented identity tech from LiveRamp, ID5, Neustar and Amazon. Now, he and his team have more time to calibrate data flows to enable the most identity matches possible. That requires some tweaks Salon wants to make to fine-tune how data coming from its site connects with identity systems.

“We need to get better timing in our dance routine here,” he said. — Kate Kaye

What we’ve heard

“It’s just time to change the channels we use to talk — and listen — to each other.”

Salon staff writer Mary Elizabeth Williams announcing the political news outlet’s decision to shut off comments

Publishers’ subscription ambitions are still warming up

People whose heads are already spinning at the number of paywalls and subscription products out there should strap in and get comfortable. 

Growing subscriber revenue is expected to be a major focus for publishers in the second half of the year, even for a significant percentage of publishers that don’t make any money from subscriptions right now, according to new Digiday+ research. 

In July, Digiday surveyed 117 publisher professionals about a number of different topics, including how their brands make money and how their brands would be prioritizing those revenue streams in the next six months. 

Among publishers that do generate at least some subscriber revenue, 35% said that growing subscriber revenue would be a “very large focus.” Digiday asked respondents to indicate, using a five-point scale, how big of a focus different revenue streams would be over the next six months, with “very large focus” being the biggest. Those revenue streams ranged from established revenue streams, such as direct-sold and programmatic advertising, to more emergent revenue streams, such as affiliate commerce. 

That 35% for subscriptions was the second highest number among the choices respondents were given; only direct-sold advertising had a higher percentage of respondents — 42% — indicate that its growth would be a “very large focus.”

Yet publishers that haven’t gotten into consumer revenue yet want in. A quarter of the publishers that do not generate revenue from subscriptions said subscriber revenue would be a focus in the next six months. 

While subscriptions are a much-discussed topic in media at the moment, a significant percentage of publishers do not generate much money from them yet. More than a third generate no subscription revenue at all, while another quarter get “a very small amount” of revenue from them, the survey found. For context, slightly more than a third — 35% — of publishers with subscription businesses said it constitutes a “large” portion of their revenues. 

A significant number of publishers will be looking to change that this fall. 

About half of the respondents that indicated they make money from affiliate commerce, for example, said that only “a very small portion” of their revenue came from it. — Max Willens

Numbers to know

$7: How much money Vox Media’s The Verge will charge for monthly subscriptions to Hot Pod, its first subscription product.

40,000: Number of subscribers that Defector has attracted since its launch in September 2020.

$100 million: How much revenue Dotdash expects its commerce business to contribute this year.

50,000: Average number of Apple News+ subscribers that each of the top 25 U.S. magazines had on the iPhone maker’s news-reading app through the first six months of 2021.

$4.99: Monthly subscription price for Gannett’s USA Today Sports+ after its promotional rates expire.

TikTok revitalizes voiceover videos

TikTok has kickstarted plenty of trends that have rippled across the broader digital video landscape. It has also resurrected the use of voiceover in videos outside of YouTube, opening up opportunities for publishers to piece together new videos from old clips and to produce videos that aren’t as tethered to the visuals. 

“Thrillist used to do [voiceover videos] a lot on YouTube, and we just couldn’t make it work on social video. The captions were too small; it was too fast; the people didn’t like it. TikTok coming in and revolutionizing the idea of voice-to-text has, in a way, brought us back to being able to use voiceover,” said Erin Weaver, senior director of audience development at Group Nine Media.

Voiceover can be a particularly valuable tool for video publishers because it provides them with more flexibility in the videos they produce. “Voiceover really frees you up from, at times, a burdensome amount of preproduction planning,” said Jesse Wood, chief creative officer at Donut Media. 

For example, a video’s visuals do not need to be shot specifically for the attached audio but can instead be cobbled together from existing, otherwise random clips. “We’ve definitely been utilizing [voiceover] more and more to assemble edits from productions we’ve had to do quickly,” Wood said.

The voiceover trend has also freed video publishers from being limited to making videos in which on-screen talent can narrate the storyline or relying on lengthy captions (and counting on viewers to actually read the captions) to do the job. “It’s given us a lot more room to tell good stories,” Weaver said.

In keeping with the overarching trend of TikTok informing video approaches on other platforms, publishers are also exploring extending their voiceover videos elsewhere. “We’ve definitely dabbled a little more [in voiceover video] on Snapchat and Instagram more so than in the past. It’s becoming a little more of a trend and originated more so in getting that much more popular on TikTok,” said Joe Caporoso, evp of media at Team Whistle. — Tim Peterson

What we’ve covered

The Washington Post wants three minutes of your morning to read (or listen to) its newsletter:

  • The D.C.-based publisher debuted a short daily briefing called The 7 on Sept. 7 that highlights seven of its top stories of the day.
  • Each briefing will be available as an emailed version and in text and audio formats.

Read more about The Post here.

Women of Color Unite’s Cheryl L. Bedford is fighting ‘exclusion by familiarity’ in entertainment:

  • Women of Color Unite operates two programs that are aimed to help women of color get in the door and move up the Hollywood ranks.
  • Its #StartWith8 program originated after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and gets established people in Hollywood to commit to giving their time and energy to support eight women of color apiece.

Listen to the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast here.

Jacob Wolf takes esports expertise to podcasting as he continues to influence a new generation of writers:

  • The former ESPN reporter has formed a production company to expand into TV, film and audio.
  • He is producing an investigative podcast series on esports.

Read more about Jacob Wolf here.

Salon turns off comments and banks on email newsletters to generate identity connections for targeted ads:

  • Salon’s commenting capability provided a means of gathering emails.
  • Less than half of a percent of Salon’s unique visitors used its comments tool.

Read more about Salon here.

Barstool Sports will launch a channel on Sling TV:

  • The bets-focused sport outlet’s channel will be programmed with a repository of existing programming.
  • Barstool Sports will also carry a number of live college football pre-game shows.

Read more about Barstool Sports here.

What we’re reading

Black representation at fashion magazines remains a work in progress:

Nikki Ogunnaike was named digital director at Harper’s Bazaar in November, and when she started her career interning at fashion magazines nearly 15 years ago, she said she grew accustomed to being one of two Black people on staff, according to The New York Times. Since last year, there has been an acceleration of diversification in the industry, sparked by the murder of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed, but the question remains if this change will continue on or if the fashion industry will fall back into old patterns of treating racial progress as a trend.

Meanwhile, fashion editors are splitting from the media industry to join Silicon Valley:

Aya Kanai worked in fashion for over two decades, most recently serving as the editor-in-chief of Marie Claire, and developed a fluency in industry jargon, which ultimately led her to be poached by Pinterest as its new head of content and creator partnerships, wrote The Cut. Kanai is not the only top editor to make the leap to the tech and platform space, largely because that’s where the promise of promotion is — and where there is more money.

Substack’s middle tier isn’t generating the big bucks:

When Simon Owens first launched the paid edition of his media newsletter on Substack in February 2020, he was generating only one thousand dollars per month, which he said caused him to hemorrhage money between his business and life expenses. And yet, he decided to turn down a six-figure job just months before that to focus solely on building his newsletter and podcast products. “I belong to a group of Substack writers who don’t get written about much in the media … and I want you to understand the sacrifices we have to make while building our newsletter businesses,” Owens wrote in his newsletter from earlier this month. 

The new Gawker is toggling the line between staying true to its roots while not being mean:

Leah Finnegan, the top editor of the celebrity gossip blog, told The New York Times that she’s “not interested in ruining people’s lives” with the new iteration of Gawker. Gawker spent 13 years exposing celebrities’ private lives and releasing sex tapes, but in a note to readers in July, Finnegan said that what needs to be the center of the site is its sense of satirical humor and unique voice.

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

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Leaked Alder Lake prices strike at Ryzen’s CPU dominance

Here’s what leaked retailer pricing tells us about the performance of Intel’s upcoming Alder Lake S CPUs.

6core vs 8core cpus

Intel / AMD / janniwet / Shutterstock

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Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake processors aren’t upon us yet, but another price leak indicates they might indeed compete with AMD’s best CPUs, unlike current top-end Core offerings.

The latest oopsie comes from retail IT vendor Provantage, which puts the top-end Core i9-12900K at $605. The IT vendor also lists the Core i7-12700K at $420, as well as a Core i5-12600K for $283.

After news reports of the part numbers and prices surfaced, Provantage removed the listings. The latest leak follows reports two weeks ago—supposedly from European retailers—that placed the Core i9-12900K at $705, the Core i7-12700K at $495, and the Core i5-12600 at $343.

Before you jump to any conclusions, we want to point out that as reliable as a leaked retail price might seem, they can very unreliable too. Often times stores prep for impending launches by using placeholder prices and specs. Those listings are then updated when the stores receive the final information.

The leaked info itself from Provantage would indicate it’s not quite baked yet. For example, we know the top-end Alder Lake S chip will feature 8 performance cores and 8 efficient cores (Intel’s Alder Lake chips feature a radical new mixture of big and little cores), yet the listing at Provantage lists the top-end chip as an 8-core design. 

alder lake provantage Provantage via Hothardware.com

Hothardware.com snapped this image of Intel’s 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs at retailer Provantage. that has since been removed.

Still, both combined retail leaks reinforce what we’ve already come to conclude so far: Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake S will at least suit up with the intent to take on AMD’s 16-core Ryzen 9 5950X.

That’s a marked change from the $550 8-core 11th gen Rocket Lake CPU, which lost badly to AMD’s $550 12-core Ryzen 9 5900X chip. With the 11th-gen desktop chips, Intel didn’t even try to field a CPU against AMD’s $750 Ryzen 9 5950X.

With its increased core efficiency, newer manufacturing process, and physically more cores than previous Intel consumer desktop CPUs, it’s entirely possible Intel’s 12th Core i9 will actually end up being somewhere between $604 and $705 when it comes out.

intel alder lake performance core benchmark Intel

Intel is touting a marked increase in core efficiency with its 12th gen Alder Lake CPUs.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

One of founding fathers of hardcore tech reporting, Gordon has been covering PCs and components since 1998.

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The best Windows backup software

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The best Windows backup software

Updated

The best programs for keeping your data and Windows safely backed up.

Rob Schultz/IDG

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Table of Contents

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We need backup software for our PCs because our storage drives won’t last forever. Backup software ensures we’re covered when the day comes that our primary drive up and dies.

It would be nice if Microsoft itself provided Windows users with something like Apple’s Time Machine: an effective, set-it-and-forget-it, total system recovery and backup solution that requires little interaction or thought on the user’s part. 

Instead, Microsoft delivers a mishmash of restore points, recovery discs, file backup, and even the un-retired System Backup (Windows 7), which was probably originally put out to pasture for its propensity to choke on dissimilar hardware. Online backup services are another option, but desktop clients tend to offer far more flexibility. 

Plenty of vendors have stepped in with worthy alternatives, and while none are quite as slick or transparent as Time Machine, some come darn close—and many are free. Read on for our top picks. 

Updated on 9/15/21 to include our review of the newest version of Aomei Backupper 6. It remains our favorite free backup software for Windows because it provides a near-total backup solution, with a generous number of features. As a paid program, however, there are better options. Read more about it below. And scroll to the bottom of this article to see links to all our backup software reviews.

Best overall backup software

There’s a reason True Image is renowned in the world of backup software. It’s capable, flexible, and rock-solid reliable. Indeed, it’s easily the most comprehensive data safety package on the planet.

Besides offering unparalleled backup functionality that’s both robust and easy to navigate, True Image integrates security apps as well, which protect against malware, malicious websites, and other threats using real-time monitoring. Read our full review.

Best free backup software

Among the free programs we tested, Backupper Standard wins primarily because it has the most features, including imaging, file backup, disk cloning, and plain file syncing, plus multiple scheduling options (see our full review). This was the case with Backupper 4, and the latest version has only added more options, making it a surprisingly well-rounded free offering. We hit a few performance snags with less-conventional system setups, but for the average user, it should perform as expected.

What to look for in backup software

As with most things—don’t over-buy. Features you don’t need add complexity and may slow down your system. Additionally, if you intend to back up to a newly purchased external hard drive, check out the software that ships with it. Seagate, WD, and others provide backup utilities that are adequate for the average user.

File backup: If you want to back up only your data (operating systems and programs can be reinstalled, though it’s mildly time- and effort-consuming), a program that backs up just the files you select is a major time-saver. Some programs automatically select the appropriate files if you use the Windows library folders (Documents, Photos, Videos, etc.).

Image backup/Imaging: Images are byte-for-byte snapshots of your entire hard drive (normally without the empty sectors) or partition, and can be used to restore both the operating system and data. Imaging is the most convenient to restore in case of a system crash, and also ensures you don’t miss anything important.

Boot media:  Should your system crash completely, you need an alternate way to boot and run the recovery software. Any backup program should be able to create a bootable optical disc or USB thumb drive. Some will also create a restore partition on your hard drive, which can be used instead if the hard drive is still operational.

Scheduling: If you’re going to back up effectively, you need to do it on a regular basis. Any backup program worth its salt allows you to schedule backups.

Versioning: If you’re overwriting previous files, that’s not backup, it’s one-way syncing or mirroring. Any backup program you use should allow you to retain several previous backups, or with file backup, previous versions of the file. The better software will retain and cull older backups according to criteria you establish.

Optical support: Every backup program supports hard drives, but as obsolescent as they may seem, DVDs and Blu-Ray discs are great archive media. If you’re worried about optical media’s reliability, M-Disc claims its discs are reliable for a thousand years, claims that are backed up by Department of Defense testing.

Online support: An offsite copy of your data is a hedge against physical disasters such as flood, fire, and power surges. Online storage services are a great way to maintain an offsite copy of your data. Backup to Dropbox and the like is a nice feature to have.

FTP and SMB/AFP: Backing up to other computers or NAS boxes on your network or in remote locations (say, your parent’s house) is another way of physically safeguarding your data with an offsite, or at least physically discrete copy. FTP can be used for offsite, while SMB (Windows and most OS’s) and AFP (Apple) are good for other PCs or NAS on your local network.

Real time: Real-time backup means that files are backed up whenever they change, usually upon creation or save. It’s also called mirroring and is handy for keeping an immediately available copy of rapidly changing data sets. For less volatile data sets, the payoff doesn’t compensate for the drain on system resources. Instead, scheduling should be used.

Continuous backup: In this case, ‘continuous’ simply means backing up on a tight schedule, generally every 5 to 15 minutes, instead of every day or weekly. Use continuous backup for rapidly changing data sets where transfer rates are too slow, or computing power is too precious for real-time backup.

Performance: Most backups proceed in the background or during dead time, so performance isn’t a huge issue in the consumer space. However, if you’re backing up multiple machines or to multiple destinations, or dealing with very large data sets, speed is a consideration.

How we test

We run each program through the various types of backups it’s capable of. This is largely to test reliability and hardware compatibility, but we time two: an approximately 115GB system image (two partitions), and a roughly 50GB image created from a set of smaller files and folders. We then mount the images and test their integrity via the program’s restore functions. We also test the USB boot drives created by the programs.

All of our reviews

If you’d like to learn more about our top picks as well as other options, you can find links below to all of our backup software reviews. We’ll keep evaluating new programs and re-evaluating existing software on a regular basis, so be sure to check back for our current impressions.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.

Jon is a Juilliard-trained musician, former x86/6800 programmer, and long-time (late 70s) computer enthusiast living in the San Francisco bay area. [email protected]

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

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Razer just made gamer thimbles

Or maybe they’re yoga pants for your thumbs?

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Razer has never been afraid to take a shot on products that seem unusual at first glance. Witness its RGB-infused N95 mask, the now-defunct Razer Game Store with its own zVault currency, or the first-gen Firefly mousepad, which has evolved into something special but originally prompted us to review it against a ripped-up piece of cardboard. The company’s latest offering might just take the cake though. This week, Razer introduced gamer thimbles.

Yes, thimbles. You know, like the Monopoly piece (or the sewing accessory for more worldly folks out there). Seriously.

Well, not quite. If you simply can’t abide sweaty palms and greasy fingerprints interfering with your marathon mobile Fortnite sessions, the new Razer gaming finger sleeve may be up your alley. “Slip on and never slip up with Razer Gaming Finger Sleeve that will seal your mobile victory,” Razer’s site breathlessly boasts.  “Woven with high-sensitivity silver fiber for enhanced aim and control, our breathable sleeves keep your fingers deadly cool in the heat of battle, so you’ll always have a grip on the game.”

Razer says the 0.8mm-thick sleeves are sweat absorbent, and that they’re made from nylon and spandex. So maybe they’re more like gamer yoga pants? But you know, for your fingers?

Either way it’s ludicrous. And unlike most of Razer’s gear, the gamer thimbles understandably (yet sadly) lack RGB lighting. But if you want to wear your dedication to the Cult of Razer on your slee…thumb, or maybe just look snazzier when you’re passing Go and collecting $200, you can pick up a pair of Razer gaming finger sleeves on the company’s website for $10. The truly dedicated can double down to look especially gamer:

razer gamer thimbles 2 Razer

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