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Google's been running a secret test to detect bogus ads — and its findings should make the industry nervous

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  • The ad industry is trying to root out fraudulent digital ads.
  • Google has quietly been running tests with media companies such as CBS to gauge how bad the problem is.
  • Industry leaders are banking on a new technical solution, ads.txt, to tackle the issue.

The digital-advertising industry is looking to stamp out bogus ad inventory, like websites that claim to be premium brands but are actually sites the average person hardly ever visits.

Google, with help from some media giants, is taking the lead. The company is pushing an industry initiative called ads.txt that’s aimed at wiping out fraud that’s dubbed ‘spoofing’ by the industry. Spoofing encompasses the variety of ways ad buyers can be tricked into paying for space they’re not getting. For example, spoofers can buy cheap ad space, from a low-quality site, on an exchange and then falsely list it as space on a premium site — like, say, CNN.com— at a higher price. The ad in question will never run on CNN.com, though.

It’s all enabled by the prevalence of programmatic ads, which are placed by algorithms and purchased on exchanges, rather than through direct negotiation with a publisher.

Yet spoofing is even starting to affect publishers that don’t even sell ads via programmatic channels. Several publishers say they’ve been hearing from ad buyers that their ads are for sale on various ad exchanges, even though these companies didn’t work with any ad exchanges to sell advertising.

The Google tests

To get a sense of the scope of this problem, Google has been quietly conducting tests with a handful of major media properties, including NBCU, CBS, and The New York Times, people familiar with the matter told Business Insider.

During these tests, Google and the partners shut off all of their programmatic ad inventory for brief periods, say, 10 to 15 minutes, and then scour the ad exchanges to see what’s listed. Google and its partners found thousands if not millions of video and display ad spots still available on multiple ad exchanges, despite no ads actually being for sale at that time, the people said, asking not to be identified because the results haven’t been publicly released.

These include Google’s own AdEx exchange, as well as AppNexus, Oath’s BrightRoll, and PubMatic. Google also discovered fraudsters claiming to be able to sell YouTube ad inventory on various exchanges, one of the people said.

Google’s not alone in these findings. An ad-tech executive from a different company went looking for some spoofed ads on exchanges and said they easily found thousands of such misrepresented ads for sale, and below are the results of another search by the Marketing Science Consulting Group, a company that specializes in researching ad fraud.

Business Insider reached out to all the exchanges mentioned and included their comments below, if they responded.

fake ad inventory_720

The ad exchanges responded to details of the results by pointing to their efforts to stamp out the kind of fraud Google found.

“We’re unaware of major publishers running such tests and finding problematic selling on our marketplace,” a representative for AppNexus said. “We do work proactively to avoid this type of problem. We are strong proponents of ads.txt, which we view as reinforcement of our longstanding policies and practices. We’ve created strong domain detection technology.”

“Oath has invested in proprietary technology on our buying platforms, including BrightRoll and ONE by AOL, that aims to enforce supply transparency and prevent domain spoofing across the majority of supply partners,” said a representative for Oath, which is owned by Verizon. “In fact, our technology blocks hundreds of millions of spoofed bid requests on a daily basis. Combined with our longtime partnership with the IAB, industry-leading third-party fraud measurement across our platforms and human review safeguards, we’re fully committed to a safe, transparent supply chain for our advertiser partners.”

“At PubMatic we work directly with our publisher clients to help them manage their digital inventory, and, as such, we are not aware of the issues,” said PubMatic’s chief marketing officer Jeff Hirsch.

The fake-Rolex problem

Marketers are expected to shell out $83 billion on digital ads in the US in 2017, according to eMarketer. And the more that advertisers spend, the bigger the opportunity for fraudsters. By some estimates, sophisticated ad-fraud perpetrators could cost the ad business over $16 billion globally this year.

There are lots of ways that ad fraud can happen. Often hackers from outside the US sell ads on fake websites using computer programs called “bots” that can mimic human behavior — making it look as though real people are visiting websites or clicking on ads.

Then, there’s spoofing, which has been around for years. Companies like ESPN have frequently encountered people claiming to have their right to sell their ads when they don’t. But as more big marketers push for better transparency in their digital-ad buying, following a string of recent reports of ads ending up in dicey corners of the web, there’s more awareness of how common spoofing is.

“There’s quite a bit of mislabeling of traffic,” said Mike Baker, CEO of the ad-tech firm DataXu. “It’s become somewhat pervasive over the last few years. It could account for 20 to 30% of the traffic on some secondary and tertiary [ad exchanges].”

ad spending percent v2_720

Ads.txt solution

Google has also hosted CEOs of several top ad-buying tech companies — “demand-side platforms” that act as major buyers on ad exchanges — including MediaMath CEO Joe Zawadzki, DataXu’s Baker, and Trade Desk CEO Jeff Green. The meetings were said to be constructive as the industry looks to embrace ads.txt as a solution.

Ads.txt was borne out of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Tech Lab with support from the trade group TAG (Trustworthy Accountability Group). It’s a technical solution designed to protect web publishers from any unauthorized companies selling their ads via programmatic ad exchanges.

Here’s how it works. By inserting a text file on their sites, web publishers can make it clear who is allowed to sell their ad space and who isn’t. Assuming enough publishers implement the ads.txt solution — and enough ad buyers make an effort to purchase ads only from authorized sellers — this could go a long way toward weeding out spoofing.

“There’s always been spoofing in the market, and with video it is [more prevalent],” said Alanna Gombert, managing director and general manager of the IAB Tech Lab. “Now there is more scrutiny in the market. It wasn’t top of mind before. Now, everyone understands it; it’s mainstream. And fraudsters are looking for known names that are on ‘white lists’ for advertisers. So this has opened up a conversation where ad buyers are telling sellers, ‘I’m seeing you here,’ and they are digging down and saying ‘Oh crap.'”

Brands get woke

A number of major developments have combined to dial up the scrutiny on the online-advertising business, causing marketers to scrutinize where their ads run to how they pay for them and who gets a piece of every dollar they spend on the web. First, about a year ago, the Associations on National advertisers released a damning report detailing a glaring lack of transparency in the ad-buying world.

Over the past six months, Facebook has revealed a string of measurement screw-ups, while Google has faced multiple advertisers pulling out of YouTube after ads were found alongside hate videos.

Marc PritchardAnd since the start of this year, Procter and Gamble’s chief brand officer, Marc Pritchard, has been on a crusade, delivering a series of speeches in which he clamored for the ad industry to demand more clarity from digital media and the need to clean up the “crappy media supply chain,” as CNBC reported.

All of this has brought the issue of ad fraud to the forefront. “Brands are woke,” joked one ad-tech executive. “There’s suddenly a lot of attention on supply-chain hygiene,” he said. And hopefully ads.txt is the soap.

Some see the initiative as part of a larger set of antifraud tactics. Others are more bullish. “This will wipe spoofing out,” said Andrew Casale, CEO of the ad-tech firm Index Exchange.

Who’s responsible?

When it comes to supply-chain hygiene, there’s plenty of blame laid on the ad-tech companies — especially since so many programmatic exchanges have made big public pledges to keep out bad sellers. But as one ad-tech insider said, big media companies often don’t even know who is and isn’t allowed to sell their ads on the web.

‘They should take responsibility,” he said. For example, one publisher said it was working with just three exchanges, but they were really running ads on 17.

So it’s up to media companies to make the most out of ads.txt.

“Initially, this is putting the first implementation requirements on publishers,” said Art Muldoon, co-CEO of the programmatic ad buying firm Amnet. “It’s a burden and an opportunity.”

Media sellers “are being directly harmed,” said Mike Zaneis, president and CEO for TAG, the Trustworthy Accountability Group, an organization that was put together to tackle the ad-fraud problem.

“When there is twice as much inventory being sold out there than actually exists, that leads to deals you never get, bad prices, and the watering down of your brand,” Zaneis said. “That has a direct financial impact.”

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NOW WATCH: Here are all the major changes coming to your iPhone

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Scaramucci defends deleting old pro-Hillary Clinton, anti-climate change denying, pro-gun control tweets after becoming Trump's communications director

anthony scaramucci fox news sunday.JPG

In his first days as the newly minted White House communications director, Anthony Scaramucci has spent some time deleting old tweets that don’t align with his new boss’s views.

During an interview on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace said it was an understandable move, and pulled up a 2012 tweet in which Scaramucci advocated for tougher gun control laws.

“We (the USA) has 5% of the world’s population but 50% o f the world’s guns,” the tweet in question said. “Enough is enough. It is just common sense to apply more controls.”

Wallace reminded Scaramucci that “all this stuff lives forever,” and asked if he still believed that.

“Well, OK, so the answer to the question, and I’m a pro-Second Amendment person. My dad was a hunter, I’ve got no problem with that,” Scaramucci said. “What I was worried about in 2012, in urban centers, if you don’t have a little level of gun control, it could lead to more violence.”

Scaramucci then reiterated that he deleted his old tweets because they were a “total distraction.”

“When I made the decision to take this job, my politics and my political ideas do not matter at all,” he said. “What matters is that I am supporting — subordinating all of that to the president’s agenda.”

The new communications director first announced on Saturday that he would be deleting his previous tweets. “Full transparency: I’m deleting old tweets. Past views evolved & shouldn’t be a distraction. I serve @POTUS agenda & that’s all that matters,” Scaramucci tweeted.

The tweets

But Twitter users posted several screenshots of Scaramucci’s old tweets to preserve them even after they were deleted, and observed how at odds they were with many of President Donald Trump’s views:

In one tweet, Scaramucci said in reply to a user who said Hillary Clinton might be “in play” for the 2016 election: “I hope she runs, she is incredibly competent.”

In January 2016 — shortly after candidate Trump proposed banning all Muslims from entering the US — Scaramucci tweeted, “‘It is a fight within Islam, overwhelming majority see Islam as a religion of peace, want to live in multiracial/ethnic/faith democracies’.”

Scaramucci also slammed climate change skeptics in 2016. “You can take steps to combat climate change without crippling the economy. The fact many people still believe CC is a hoax is disheartening,” he said in a tweet that has since been deleted.

Trump has frequently cast doubt on the scientific consensus that anthropogenic climate change contributes to environmental depletion and poses a risk to human health. Trump has referred to climate change as a Chinese “hoax,” and in June, he announced he would pull the US out of the landmark Paris climate agreement.

In October 2015, Scaramucci threw his support behind Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, whom Trump often slammed as “low energy.”

“Big number for @JebBush people just need to get to know him. Will make a great President,” Scaramucci tweeted.

In another 2015 tweet, Scaramucci picked apart Trump’s key campaign proposal for a border wall along the southern border between the US and Mexico. “Walls don’t work. Never have never will. The Berlin Wall 1961-1989 don’t fall for it,” Scaramucci tweeted.

Since being named communications director, Scaramucci has walked back his previous statements and apologized, in particular, for a 2015 Fox Business Network interview in which he called then-candidate Trump a “hack politician.”

He addressed the comment with Wallace on Sunday, explaining that they’re “both New Yorkers,” and during his first briefing on Friday, he said he regretted saying it.

Scaramucci added: “Mr. President, if you’re listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that.”

SEE ALSO: Scaramucci slams ‘media bias’ against Trump and says he hopes to ‘refine’ White House’s message going forward

DON’T MISS: New White House communications director: Trump is still not sure Russia interfered in the election

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NOW WATCH: ‘Do you even understand what you’re asking?’: Putin and Megyn Kelly have a heated exchange over Trump-Russia ties

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Here's the biggest reason people aren't using meal kits like Blue Apron (APRN)

blue apron

Meal kit delivery companies like Blue Apron claim to help people save money on groceries, but potential and ex-customers are citing the cost of the services as a major concern.

According to a new poll by Morning Consult and Money Magazine, 49% of respondents who canceled a meal kit service cited the cost (starting at $8.99 per serving on Blue Apron) as the biggest reason for their cancellation. Additionally, cost was the biggest issue for 59% of respondents who have never tried a meal kit service.

The cost of the meal kit service was the number one factor for both potential and ex-customers by a wide margin. Not liking the recipes (13%) and unavailability in their area (15%) were the second biggest factors for those who canceled their service and those who have never tried a meal kit service.

When it comes to popularity, Blue Apron led the pack among meal kit companies with 43% of those who tried a meal kit service saying they used Blue Apron. That was followed by HelloFresh with 33% and Plated with 20%.

While this is seemingly good news for Blue Apron, the company is not only struggling with a disappointing initial public offering, but also customer-retention.

The leading meal kit delivery service is losing money on roughly 70% of the customers it attracts, according to analysis by Daniel McCarthy, an assistant professor of marketing at Emory University.

“Even though Blue Apron turns a profit on the remaining 30% of customers, the break-even point is moving farther away with every new cohort due to declining revenue and growing [customer acquisition cost] for newer customers,” writes McCarthy.

Blue Apron acknowledged this issue in its IPO prospectus, saying, “If we fail to cost-effectively acquire new customers or retain our existing customers, our business could be materially adversely affected.”

The company’s IPO has not gone well either. Blue Apron shares are down 36% since their June 30 debut and news that Amazon is launching its own subscription meal-box kits certainly won’t help the company going forward.

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SEE ALSO: Amazon might be setting its sights on the restaurant industry

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NOW WATCH: An economist explains what could happen if Trump pulls the US out of NAFTA

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Anti-gay threats, Geiger counters, and insecurities about John Oliver: HBO's journey to interview the Chechen leader

Real Sports Kadyrov HBO

On Tuesday’s episode of HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” correspondent David Scott got the rare opportunity to speak to the pugnacious leader of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov.

The result was an explosive encounter in which Kadyrov voiced his hatred of the West and condoned violence against gay men in Chechnya.

“We don’t have any gays,” Kadyrov told Scott in the segment. “If there are any, take them to Canada. Praise be to God. Take them far away from us. To purify our blood, if there are any here, take them.”

When Scott asked Kadyrov whether he believed America was an enemy of his country, Kadyrov replied:

“America is not really a strong enough state for us to regard it as an enemy of Russia. We have a strong government and are a nuclear superpower. Even if they completely destroy our government, our nuclear missiles will launch automatically. We will turn the whole world over to screw it from behind.”

Scott and his crew went to Chechnya on two occasions to get the Kadyrov interview, one of the few times the leader has allowed a Western journalist to talk to him.

Along with getting Kadyrov’s controversial comments, Scott also delved into how Kadyrov’s state-run mixed martial arts program, Akhmat MMA, has been a breeding ground for his military — over 5,000 people have signed up in the past two years.

Putin and Kadyrov

Stood up by Kadyrov

Scott became interested in Kadyrov last fall, when news circulated of the leader’s Instagram post of his three sons at a children’s MMA tournament. Digging deeper into the man and his love of MMA fighting, Scott also found accusations of human-rights violations in Chechnya, including reports of gay men being systematically captured, and tortured or killed. Scott saw a story that would cross sports and social issues, the kind that “Real Sports” strives to tell.

The show reached out early this year to Kadyrov’s press secretary, pitching the story as a way for Kadyrov to address an American audience. Though it took months, with the help of colleagues the show has in Russia, it got a “yes.”

“But we didn’t know what the ‘yes’ meant,” Scott told Business Insider. “It’s not like they are going to give you a time and a place and a date. What they said was, ‘You can come, you can shoot our tournament, and we’ll make him available when we’re ready. You’ll get 10 minutes’ notice.'”

Real Sports HBO finalScott and his team traveled to Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and spend nine days there. While shooting Kadyrov’s latest MMA tournament and interviewing fighters in the Akhmat MMA stable, they waited patiently for the call that Kadyrov was available.

But that never came. Their travel visas expired, and they had to go home, with no explanation why they never got to interview Kadyrov.

“We left forlorn, because we got all this good stuff but without the main event, what’s it really going to be?” Scott said.

As planned, Scott and his team then traveled to Moscow to interview men who say they are victims of the gay purge, as well as the journalist who broke the story. But since they were only two and a half hours from Grozny, Scott wanted to try to get Kadyrov one more time.

“We’re going to give it 24 hours, and if we don’t get him, we’ll surrender and do the story without him,” Scott said.

The John Oliver problem

Scott and his crew returned to Grozny, and by 8 p.m. the day they arrived, Scott had a sit-down with the press secretary, who started the conversation interestingly.

“The first words out of his mouth, sarcastically, were ‘Well, I hope no one on your crew is gay, because you know we like to throw them in secret prisons and torture them to death,'” Scott said. “That’s how he opens a booking meeting.”

They spoke for an hour, and John Oliver was repeatedly brought up. The host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” did a segment last year on Kadyrov and his lost cat that went viral.

“I think it was one of the things that had become an obstacle,” Scott said, adding that the press secretary brought up Oliver in Scott’s first visit to Chechnya. “They associated HBO with John Oliver and the ridicule. So that’s the thing they were worried about — that we were coming to make fun of him, to embarrass him, which we had no intention of doing. And so I told them, ‘Look, that’s a satire show, that is a comic show, we are the opposite of that.’ They were comforted by that.”

Soon after their meeting, Scott got word to come to the palace. Kadyrov would do the interview.

He and the crew members went through an intense screening process before seeing Kadyrov. The security guards disassembled all their gear. They learned that the soundman was from Ukraine, so he got a higher-level security screening, including an examination of his shoes with a Geiger counter, which measures radiation. Even Scott’s makeup he applies before going on camera was tested. The guards put it on their skin to ensure it wasn’t something Scott could put on Kadyrov to harm him.

Scott, a cameraman, and their fixer were then taken to the soccer field inside the palace, where Kadyrov was playing with some other men, and invited to film him.

“It had full stadium lighting and bleachers on both sides,” Scott said. “It looked like it had a broadcast booth, too.”

Scott watched as Kadyrov played with the men, who Scott could see were not playing much defense. When Kadyrov was through, he went over to Scott and told him, “You people are saying terrible things about me,” Scott said.

Scott reassured him that they were here to give him the opportunity to address all issues. Kadyrov told them to go set up in the state room. He was going for a swim and would be there in an hour.

“We were set up by midnight, and he shows up at 1:45 in the morning,” Scott said.

‘Every man and boy between the ages of 11 to 75 looks like they are about to kick your a–‘

Scott said the plan was to start the interview with Kadyrov about MMA, then get into the other issues, like the reported gay purge. But looking back, he thinks Kadyrov “saw us coming a mile away.”

Scott said Kadyrov went on a 20-minute rant about gay men — even condoning family members hurting or even killing a relative if they are gay, known in Russia as “honor killings” — and then against the West. Kadyrov blew off the call to prayer at 2:30 a.m., something he had repeatedly said he had to go to.

“He sat there for 45 minutes longer than we expected because that’s the stuff he wanted to say,” Scott said. “That’s what he wanted out of this.”

The interview ended, and Scott and his team rushed back to their hotel. They stayed there until it was time to get to the airport and fly home.

“That’s the point when anything could happen,” Scott said, adding that they had cameras with dual recording and a separate audio recording, just in case any of their equipment was confiscated.

Real Sports Ramzan Kadyrov finalScott and his team had reason for concern. In their first visit to Chechnya, he said, they were eating lunch at an outside cafe when the motorcade for Kadyrov’s three sons, known as “The Princes” in Chechnya, pulled up.

The team was without their cameras, so Scott began recording on his phone. But Abdul-Kerim Edilov, who watches over the princes and is a recent Akhmat MMA fighter now signed to the UFC in America, saw what Scott was doing. In a cursed-filled tirade, he ordered Scott to delete the footage, Scott said.

“This was the most intimidating place I’ve ever been,” Scott said of Chechnya. “Every man and boy between the ages of 11 to 75 looks like they are about to kick your a–.”

But Scott and his team returned home safely after interviewing Kadyrov.

“It’s taken me a while to see this, but in the end, he’s going to be pleased with the piece,” Scott said of how he thinks Kadyrov will react to the story. “He’s not going to like being taken to task on the gay issue, but it’s exactly what he wants, the projection of power. The idea that Ramzan Kadyrov is a buffoon or a puppet is wrong. We’ve gotten that impression from the fun that’s been poked at him, and his Instagram feed looks so ridiculous to us.

“But sitting in his presence, watching his operation, I’m convinced he’s the real thing. He knows exactly what he wants. He’s not to be someone to be underestimated.”

Here’s a clip from the Kadyrov segment:

SEE ALSO: Christopher Nolan explains the biggest challenge in making his latest movie “Dunkirk” into an “intimate epic”

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NOW WATCH: 6 things that happen in ‘House of Cards’ season 5 that mirror the Trump presidency

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Pokémon Go's first real-world event was a complete disaster — here's what happened

Thousands of people arrived in Chicago on July 22, 2017 to catch some extremely rare Pokémon, but server and networking issues ruined the day. The first big live event for the popular augmented reality game didn’t exactly go as planned, with the festival goers screaming at the company to “fix the game” and booing the CEO John Hanke. Here’s what happened and what they did to make it up to players.

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NASA once envisioned life after Earth in these funky floating colonies

Torus_Cutaway_AC75 1086 1_5725

When humans finally outstay their time on Earth, we’re going to need a plan B.

In the 1970s, physicists from Princeton University, the NASA Ames Research Center, and Stanford University imagined what this future home might look like. 

They created these artistic renderings of massive orbiting spaceships for life after Earth in the unfortunate case that our planet is destroyed.

As you will see, the designs unearthed by The Public Domain Review are pretty strange.

SEE ALSO: There’s a compelling reason scientists think we’ve never found aliens, and it suggests humans are already going extinct

In the ’70s, the scientists expected that people could travel to the first space colony by 2060. They designed three different types that would orbit the sun.

The first design is this donut-shaped spaceship that houses about 10,000 people.

The colony is full of homes, shrubbery, and sidewalks. A river flows through the center of the entire ship, which is only a half-mile wide.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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What 13 highly successful people read every morning

warren buffett

Successful people know they are what they read.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, for example, spends 80% of his day reading.

So what is the first source that highly influential people check when they wake up?

Here are some resources leaders across industries use to sustain their morning reading habits:

SEE ALSO: 18 people who prove you don’t have to wake up incredibly early to be successful

DON’T MISS: 18 quick and easy daily habits that can significantly improve your life

Warren Buffett starts his days with an assortment of national and local news

The billionaire investor tells CNBC he reads the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, the New York Times, USA Today, the Omaha World-Herald, and the American Banker in the mornings.

That’s a hefty list to get through.

US President Donald Trump checks out the New York Post

The US president has never been much of a bibliophile.

But he’s said to be an “insatiable” consumer of news, getting up at 6 a.m. to watch TV and then read print newspapers like the New York Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal, according to Business Insider.

He also reads conservative outlet Breitbart, according to the Associated Press.

And Reuters reported that, when it comes to briefings, aides include the president’s name as much as possible, “because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned.”

Mark Zuckerberg, unsurprisingly, starts his day on Facebook

In a Facebook Live session with Jerry Seinfeld, the Facebook cofounder and CEO tells the comedian that the very first thing he does in the morning, even before he gets out of bed to use the bathroom or puts in his contact lenses, is check his phone.

He says that he starts by looking at Facebook — “I like to know what’s going on in the world” — and then checks his messages on Messenger and What’sApp. “On a good, calm day it’ll probably take no more than a few minutes,” he tells Seinfeld.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Here’s what celebrities would look like with symmetrical faces

It’s a common misconception that the closer a face is to being perfectly symmetrical, the more attractive it is. Trying this theory out on George Clooney, Beyoncé and Margot Robbie, suggests otherwise.

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Reviewed: A used, year-old MacBook Pro from Apple's Refurbished Mac store that saved me $450 (AAPL)

2016 macbook pro

Apple has a gorgeous “mid 2017” MacBook Pro with fresh and powerful specs available to buy right now —  but if you like to save money, it might not be your best option.

Me? I went for the 2016 model. And no, it’s not a brand new, unsold 2016 MacBook Pro that Apple had left over. It’s a previously used and refurbished unit I bought from Apple’s little-known Refurbished Mac store

It’s easy to see why someone wouldn’t want a previously used device; it begs the question as to why the previous owner returned it. Was it defective? What was wrong with it? Why wouldn’t previous owner want to keep it?

All that matters is whether or not the device still works properly and whether you’re getting some kind of discount because the device has, indeed, been used before.

I saved $450 by going with the 2016 MacBook Pro I bought from the Refurbished Mac store. And if its working and aesthetic condition is anything to go by, I’d say Apple does very good work at making sure refurbished devices look good and work as if they were new.

Check out a used, 2016 MacBook Pro and how it stacks up against a 2017 MacBook Pro that costs $450 more:

SEE ALSO: The best Apple products to buy from Apple’s Refurbished Mac store

My refurbished MacBook Pro came in a plain white box with the word “MacBook Pro” on it and the words “Apple Certified Refurbished” in a lighter color at the bottom.

The regular retail packaging for MacBook Pros features a nice photo of the laptop on the top cover, but that’s about all the difference there is.

I was surprised to find the MacBook Pro in a frosty-coated plastic protective sleeve, which gives off the impressions that it’s a brand new device, even though it’s not.

The protective plastic wrapping looks a little crumpled because I had already removed it and stored it inside the box for about a week. Otherwise, it was like taking out a brand new laptop when I first opened the box.

I was even more surprised to find a thin protective sheet of paper between the screen and the keyboard.

The piece of paper separating the screen from the keyboard was also a little crumpled from a week of storage. I can assure that it was pristine when I first opened the computer!

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Amazon is building another multibillion dollar business that you probably haven't heard of (AMZN)

Jeff Bezos

On its 20 year journey to becoming the world’s largest online retailer, Amazon has focused almost purely on consumers. 

But in 2015, Jeff Bezos’s Seattle-headquartered tech giant decided that it needed to do a better job of tapping into the online business-to-business (B2B) market, which is worth £96 billion in the UK alone, according to the Office for National Statistics. 

It launched a new free-to-use business supplies marketplace called Amazon Business in the US and went on to launch the platform in Germany in December 2016, and the UK this April. 

Amazon Business is off to a promising start, according to Bill Burkland, head of Amazon Business in the UK.

“The US acquired over 400,000 businesses and a billion dollars in revenue for Amazon Business in its first year of business,” he said during an interview at the company’s London office, adding that there were 45,000 sellers on Amazon Business in the US by the end of the first year. 

“You can think about Amazon Business being for business customers what Amazon.co.uk is for consumers,” Burkland continued. “It’s a marketplace where business customers can come and be confident that no matter that they’re looking for to operate their business, there’s a high probability they’ll be able to find it on Amazon.”

Amazon wants companies to go to Amazon Business to buy everything from new computers and A4 paper to toilet cleaner and power tools. There are currently over 100 million products listed on the marketplace, which can also be accessed by people outside the US, the UK, and Germany.

“A customer in any EU country can go onto .co.uk, Amazon Business, and buy. Export is a big part of our business that is attractive for the seller community as well,” said Burkland.

Amazon Business

How Amazon Business is different from Amazon.co.uk

Amazon Business differs from Amazon’s consumer website in a number of areas. It offers VAT-free pricing and includes features that are specifically targeted at businesses such as a reporting and analytics suite that helps companies to track and limit spending. The entire Amazon.co.uk product catalogue is available, but there are some extra products too.

Burkland said one county council in the UK recently signed up to Amazon Business to buy books, as you might expect, but it ended up buying everything from wheelbarrows to glitter.

Unlike Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Business offers one day free shipping to customers when they spend over £30. Amazon Prime members who set up a business account can also take advantage of free shipping on Amazon Business.

The Amazon Business platform — yet to get any dedicated integration with Alexa, Amazon’s personal assistant — has proved popular with small and medium sized businesses from the get go but Amazon is keen to get larger enterprises with thousands of staff making big, bulk buys on the too as they’re the real revenue drivers.

On the size of the overall business market, Burkland said: “It’s a big market segment. So we have a long way to go. It’s one where we think business customers will find value. And it’s one that we’re investing in heavily.” Burkland and his spokesperson said they were unable to provide any numbers that would illustrate how much Amazon is investing in Amazon Business.

Interestingly, Burkland said it doesn’t matter to Amazon whether businesses do their shopping through Amazon.co.uk or Amazon Business.”We’re agnostic. We want to build a marketplace based upon customer feedback reflects what customers want. If they choose to use that, great. If they choose to use Amazon consumer, that’s fine.”

Amazon Business could become the next AWS

Amazon has several large businesses beyond its well-known ecommerce platform. It has a video streaming platform, a music streaming platform, a grocery delivery service, and an audiobook service. 

Burkland compared Amazon Business to Amazon’s enormous cloud company, Amazon Web Services, which hit over $12 billion (£9 billion) in revenue in 2016. “I think that in many ways Amazon Business is kind of following in those footsteps,” he said. 

amazon data center oregonIn order to become the next AWS, Amazon Business will need as many sellers as it can. In the UK, Amazon Business has successfully enticed stationary retailer Ryman onto the platform.

Burkland was unable to provide any figures for how Amazon Business is doing in the UK because it’s “still early days.” He said he expects to release some official numbers later this year and revealed that the company is planning to sponsor some events to help promote the brand. Amazon Business is also being marketed through email display ads but there’s no “Tube advertising or TV/radio yet.”

All of the engineering efforts for Amazon Business take place outside the UK but Amazon has hired dedicated sales, marketing, procurement and alliance teams for Amazon Business locally. 

“Amazon Business is part of the 5,000 job commitment that Amazon has made to new jobs or new hires in the UK this year,” said Burkland. 

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