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MailChimp Updates Pricing Policy, Now Charging Unsubscribed Emails In The Mailing List

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Mailchimp is changing pricing policy and experts suggest that users should find a better alternative.
Mailchimp is changing pricing policy and experts suggest that users should find a better alternative. Photo: Mailchimp Website

Email marketing has proven to be one of the most effective marketing strategies in the age of technology and MailChimp, a popular email marketing platform, has helped businesses, big and small to leverage the technology for a cheap price; however, it seems like, with the new policy update by MailChimp, marketers should begin looking for an adequate alternative soon.

On May 15th, Mailchimp sent an email announcement to all its users that significant changes are coming to the popular email marketing platform. One of the most notable change that the company will be implementing is its bid to become a more holistic marketing platform by integrating into its system an “all-in-one Marketing Platform for going businesses.”

The new MailChimp brags of a “powerful” Marketing CRM, a tool that Mailchimp said could help growing businesses “build better relationships” with their customers. A CRM tool or a Customer Relationship Management tool is an approach to manage the company’s interactions with current and potential customers by using data analytics about the customers’ history taken from available big data to improve communication and marketing.

The announcement also boasts that MailChimp will soon have new features like social posting, more retargeting options for Instagram and Facebook, and an “Audience Dashboard.” MailChimp aims that with the new system upgrade, growing businesses will have more opportunities for their users to create “effective multichannel campaigns that connect with your audience so you can grow faster.”

But what’s the catch? Pricing.

The old Mailchimp rose to popularity because of the inexpensive and effective ways that small and medium enterprises can use the tool. However, with its new update, this supposedly “free” tool will begin to charge their users in a different – and rather sneaky – way.

According to Mailchimp’s email, they will be changing the definition of “audience,” a metric they formerly used to charge users. In the MailChimp update, the company will no longer determine the monthly charges of a user based on subscriber counts – a common standard among email services. Instead, Mailchimp now bases its monthly fees on a new metric called “Audiences.”

Notably, these Audiences includes unsubscribed emails, which means that users will now be charged for all the emails they sent, including those that caused someone to unsubscribe from the mailing list.

“With so many new channels to put to work for your business, our definition of “audience” is changing to include all of the contacts you can market to regardless of their email opt-in/subscriber status. So that happy customer that’s been on your subscriber list for two years? They’ll still be a part of your audience. But those customers that unsubscribed and that customer that attended your event but never opted into your newsletter? They’ll be in your audience now too,” MailChimp wrote in an email they sent to their users to notify them regarding the new policy update.

Naturally, Mailchimp clients aren’t happy with the new update and have expressed their concerns regarding the new pricing model in the famous email services company as their monthly charges can go up to as much as 100%. Notwithstanding, confusing over the new pricing policy has also triggered a response from the notable business guru David Gaughran, who said that users should shift to a better alternative than the new MailChimp. In a blog post that Gaughran posted in his website, he said that he is also confused regarding whether or not the latest policy updates will affect old accounts and responses from Mailchimp did not ease the confusion either.

“The situation was compounded with a lot of confusion, as the Help pages at Mailchimp weren’t yet fully updated to account for these changes, and Support seemed confused about whether existing users would be grandfathered in under the old terms. First, Mailchimp explicitly told me in an email that legacy users would be affected by this new policy,” Gaughran wrote in a blog post.

“Several hours later, after a hugely negative reaction online, Mailchimp appeared to backtrack, saying that legacy users would be unaffected by these changes — which would only apply to new users. Whether this was a change of heart, or muddled messaging, or a simple error, it’s hard to know for sure,” he added.

An analysis made by Gaughran also states that free plan users will be the ones who will be affected by these changes the worse. At first, a new user will remain free-of-charge up until they reach 2000 subscriber, after which they will transition to a paid plan. With the new pricing policy, not only the free plan accounts will count unsubscribed emails in the initial 2000, but they will also transition to a paid plan soon after, which costs them more money.

“Mailchimp failed to respond to these inquiries and would only confirm that if you purchase any add-ons to your legacy plan, this may immediately trigger a move to the new pricing regime. So, I think it’s probably wise to conclude that this change will come to Legacy Monthly plans too, sooner rather than later, I would guess — probably under some guff about “harmonizing our payment plans” or similar corporate blather,” Gaughran laments.

A consumer tech and cybersecurity journalist who does content marketing while daydreaming about having unlimited coffee for life and getting a pet llama.

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The North Face Google Search Campaign Denounced By Wikipedia — Company Blamed Lack Of Communication

The North Face hacked Google's top search results by exploiting Wikipedia. Click To Tweet

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Screenshot from The North Face video

In The North Face latest video campaign, they proudly announced reaching number 1 in Google’s search results by paying nothing; an impossible feat in the search engine giant’s platform.

“We hacked the results to reach one of the most difficult places: the top of the world’s largest search engine, paying absolutely nothing, just by collaborating with Wikipedia,” says in their video.

The campaign achieved its goal: they were number 1 on Google’s Top Photos. However, the popular American outdoor lifestyle brand found itself in controversy — as Wikipedia and public outcry denounced the campaign.

A Brazilian subsidiary of ad agency Leo Burnett created the video and was behind the effort in April to insert the images on Wikipedia pages.

In the video material shared by AdAge, The North Face explained how they were able to “hack” Google.

The North Face capitalized on the idea that often times, before going on a trip, people turned to Google to make a basic search. Furthermore, those search results often had Wikipedia at the top of the list of search results. In relation, the images attached to these Wikipedia pages are also the top photo results in Google Images.

To exploit this, they hired Leo Burnett’s Brazil team to take photos of models in popularly searched travel locations wearing The North Face jackets, clothes, and equipment — which they eventually used to replace the photos on Wikipedia pages.

At the end of the campaign, there was North Face gear in more than 15 locations including Brazil’s Guarita State Park and the Mampituba lighthouse, as well as, California’s Cabo peninsula, Peru’s Huayna Picchu, and Scotland’s Cuillin mountains.

The result was that The North Face photos that were replaced in Wikipedia ended up to be the top photo results every time someone searched for the popular destinations. Hence, massive publicity boosts and free advertising costs.

Initially, The North Face and Burnett’s team appeared to be clueless about the possible backlash from an ethical standpoint; considering the lines that were said in the video seems to be an accomplishment for the team. The video, shown above, starts with the line, “How can a brand be the first on Google without paying anything for it?” and brags that they “did what no one has done before…we switched the Wikipedia photos for ours” and that they “[paid] absolutely nothing just by collaborating with Wikipedia.”

Hours after uploading the AdAge video campaign, Wikipedia moderators removed 12 images (or, in some cases, simply cropped out the TNF logo), and reported the accounts that had uploaded them for breaches of Terms of Use for undisclosed paid advocacy.

“Adding content that is solely intended to promote a company or its products goes against the spirit, purpose, and policies of Wikipedia to provide neutral, fact-based knowledge to the world,” the Wikimedia Foundation wrote in response. “It exploits a free public learning platform for corporate gain.”

Moreover, Wikipedia said in a tweet, “Yesterday, we were disappointed to learn that @thenorthface and @LeoBurnett unethically manipulated Wikipedia. They have risked your trust in our mission for a short-lived consumer stunt.”

The Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit behind Wikipedia, has since refuted that there was no collaboration of any sort, saying in a blog that “Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation did not collaborate on this stunt, as The North Face falsely claims.”

“In fact, what they did was akin to defacing public property, which is a surprising direction from The North Face. Their stated mission, ‘unchanged since 1966,’ is to “support the preservation of the outdoors’– a public good held in trust for all of us,” it added.

The North Face has since then apologized on Twitter and said that it has ended the promotion. In an interview with The New York Times, the company pinned the blame on a lack of communication between the company and the local distributor in Brazil — which had approved the campaign.

The North Face said in response to Wikipedia‘s Tweet shown above says, “We believe deeply in @Wikipedia’s mission and apologize for engaging in activity inconsistent with those principles. Effective immediately, we have ended the campaign and moving forward, we’ll commit to ensuring that our teams and vendors are better trained on the site policies.”

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Facebook Usage Forecast Continues To Decline

The future isn’t too bright for Facebook all along.

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Facebook is compensating numbers using Instagram's and WhatsApp's growth to cover the fact up that their number is on a decline.
Average US Facebook Usage Time is down by three minutes in 2018. Photo: Stock Catalog | CC BY 2.0

Facebook’s engagement is shrinking — as Americans spend less and less time on the social media network. The future isn’t bright for Facebook either, and they are expected to see a declining trend in US time spent on the platform, a study reveals.

A report published by eMarketer showed that the average time spent on the social media giant declined by 3 minutes in 2018 and is expected to continue decreasing until 2021 — where it is predicted to plateau.

This year, US Adult Facebook users will spend only 38 minutes per day browsing the site, which is down by two minutes in the company’s previous forecast. Furthermore, they expect that by 2020, the average time spent will drop more to 37 minutes per day.

“Facebook’s continued loss of younger adult users, along with its focus on downranking clickbait posts and videos in favor of those that create ‘time well spent,’ resulted in less daily time spent on the platform in 2018 than we had previously expected,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “Less time spent on Facebook translates into fewer chances for marketers to reach the network’s users.”

For spectators, a few minutes drop in time spending among American may not be significant, but it is a very alarming trend for Facebook whose business depends mainly on advertising and ad revenues. Analysts argue that since the US is one of Facebook’s most lucrative market, a decline in the engagement level in the tech giant’s flagship service may force advertisers to use other advertising platforms.

Nonetheless, the future of Facebook may depend on Instagram soon as engagement levels are on an increasing trend. Average daily time on the Facebook-owned platform will reach 27 minutes this year among US adult users. And time spent will increase by 1 minute every year through 2021, according to the researchers.

“Features like Stories, influencer content and video are all contributing to more engagement and a slow but steady uptick in time spent on Instagram,” Williamson said.

App “family metrics” will be published; no more Facebook-only numbers

According to some people knowledgeable on the matter, it could also be the reason for Facebook’s decision to stop communicating their engagement data to the public. Besides, having bad data is also similar to having no business at all.

Instead, according to Facebook, it will start publishing collective metrics for its “family” of apps, which includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

“Over time, we expect family metrics will play the primary role in how we talk about our company, and we will eventually phase out Facebook-only community metrics,” Facebook’s CFO Dave Wehner said during the call.

Facebook is probably doing this to project growth even if the growth of Facebook (the social media platform) is on the decline and the growth of other platforms such as Instagram may compensate for the bad numbers in Facebook’s arsenal.

Controversy after controversy

Analysts and researchers posit that Facebook’s shrinking numbers are affected by a series of controversies over security that the company has faced in the last few years. The tech giant has been repeatedly slammed for their failure to protect their users’ privacy in different occasions.

Only recently, a study published by Consumer Reports suggests that there are a lot of Facebook users who can’t turn off the facial recognition feature and cannot prevent the social media network from using the technology to identify their faces in the platform. According to CR, they have found out that eight out of the 31 test accounts that they used in the study does not have an option to turn off facial recognition. As an implication, it is possible that there are more users out there who don’t have the same ability even if the researchers have noted that they are still unsure whether there are others.

Furthermore, the growing number of fake news and fake accounts used for political motives also dissuades users from using Facebook as often as they used to. Even if the company has renewed its commitment to end the swath of fake news and fake profiles on its platform, the problem persist and the perception of people over the way the company is handling the problem does not change.

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Company Denies “Unethical” Collection Of IG Influencer Data Following Online Exposure

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The company accused of exposing personal info of celebrities and IG influencers said that they did not get the data from "unethical" sources but researchers don't agree.

Chtrbox, the Indian marketing and promotions company accused of sourcing millions of celebrities and Instagram influencers illegally and exposing the database online, denied the allegations that they unethically sourced the data in the discovered leaked data pool.

In late May, a tech researcher found an exposed database containing the personal and private information of millions of celebrities, social media influencers, and brand accounts from Instagram. Following an investigation conducted by the researcher, it was determined to be owned by an Indian marketing company named Chtrbox, which is selling services such as marketing promotions with influencers as well as sponsored ads.

Recently, the company in question responded the allegations made by tech researcher Anurag Sen from Twitter and said that they did not purposely or recklessly leaked the said data, but instead, a third party inadvertently exposed the data.

“The reports on a leak of private data are inaccurate. A particular database for limited influencers was inadvertently exposed for approximately 72 hours,” said the company’s official statement regarding the incident.

But this claim has been debunked by the original reporter of the data breach. Zack Whittaker, a journalist from TechCrunch, through his Twitter account, said that the breach had been discovered since May 14 and the claim that the breach lasted for only 72 hours is “inaccurate.”

Each record in the database contained publicly listed data scraped from influencer, celebrity, and brand Instagram accounts including their bio, profile picture, their follower count, verification status, and their location by city and country. However, the database also contained private contact information, including email address and phone number.

Several high profile influencers and celebrities were found in the database, including some prominent beauty and fashion bloggers, food bloggers, celebrities, and other famous social media influencers. According to Whittaker, he contacted several people on the list at random whose information was found in the database, and some of them indeed replied, confirming that some – or most – of the data contained in the database are actual data scraped from their Instagram accounts.

The report revealed that each record, aside from public and personal information of the account owner, also includes an estimated worth of each account, factored by the number of followers they have, the engagement level they receive, the width of their reach, likes, and shares they had. The calculation was used as a metric to determine how much to pay an influencer to post a sponsored content on their account as an ad.

However, the company also denies this claim saying that private information was not taken unethically.

“The database did not include any sensitive personal data and only contained information available from the public domain, or self-reported by influencers. We would also like to affirm that no personal data has been sourced through unethical means by Chtrbox. Our database is for internal research use only, we have never sold individual data or our database, and we have never purchased hacked data resulting from social media platform breaches. Our use of our database is limited to help our team connect with the right influencers to support influencers to monetize their online presence, and help brands create great content,” the company added.

Another tech researcher chimed in the discussion on Twitter saying that it is possible that the database entries were taken from a February 2019 Instagram breach that he previously reported. He said that not only did the exposure started from May 14th, but even since December 2018.

David Stier, a cybersecurity researcher, said that even after Instagram fixed the exposure following his report, phone numbers and email addresses of IG accounts were still visible on many accounts in the Instagram app.

Another tech researcher chimed in the discussion on Twitter saying that it is possible that the database entries were taken from a February 2019 Instagram breach that he previously reported. He said that not only did the exposure started from May 14th, but even since December 2018. David Stier, a cybersecurity researcher, said that even after Instagram fixed the exposure following his report, phone numbers and email addresses of IG accounts were still visible on many accounts in the Instagram app.

Until now, it is still unclear how Chtrbox gathered the data. The original theory was regarding the IG breach, something that the company has also denied in its statements.

Meanwhile, in a statement made by Facebook following the disclosure of the database said that the company is investigating the matter.

“We’re looking into the issue to understand if the data described – including email and phone numbers – was from Instagram or other sources,” said an updated statement. “We’re also inquiring with Chtrbox to understand where this data came from and how it became publicly available,” the social media giant said in a statement.

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