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Blockchain explained: It builds trust when you need it most

Blockchain explained:
It builds trust when you need it most

Here's everything you need to know about the technology powering the bitcoin cryptocurrency today and, soon, a myriad of services that will change your life.

This is part of "Blockchain Decoded,

A series looking at the impact of blockchain, bitcoin and cryptocurrency on our lives. These days, we're having a harder and harder time trusting each other. Trust is an essential part of ordinary living, whether it's picking mechanics based on Yelp reviews, sliding credit cards into gas station fuel pumps or heeding our doctor's advice. But our trust has been eroding for years. In the US, only 33 percent of us felt we could trust our government in 2017 — a decline of 14 percentage points from 2016, according to Edelman's annual trust barometer study. Trust in businesses dropped from 58 percent to 48 percent, too, while media (fake news!) and social networks also took a hit.

That's a problem. The less trust you have, the harder everything becomes. Did that job candidate really graduate from college? Did your brother-in-law really repay that loan? But there's an unlikely solution that might help restore enough faith in strangers to make our lives a bit easier: an encryption technology called blockchain.

Blockchain is best known as the technology behind the cryptocurrency bitcoin — a digital currency whose value soared above $19,000 over the last year before slumping to half that when the frenzy subsided. But blockchain is so much more, potentially easing the doubts and uncertainties that dog so much of life — whether buying a used car from a stranger, having faith that a piece of fruit really is organic, or knowing that a prescription drug isn't counterfeit. Blockchain, in effect, hard-wires trust into transactions or data that we might otherwise be more cautious about. "It's revolutionary," said Mark Siegel, an investor at Menlo Ventures.

 What the heck is blockchain?

Bitcoin's value has soared and plunged over the last year, and it's hard to separate the sensible from the scams among the 1,500 other cryptocurrencies. But blockchain has enjoyed more stable appeal. Indeed, staid companies like IBM, Microsoft and Intel are offering blockchain as just another software tool to get business done. Other companies dabbling in blockchain include Goldman Sachs, Nasdaq, Walmart and Visa. Because blockchains work as a secure digital ledger, a bumper crop of startups are hoping to bring it to voting, lotteries, ID cards and identity verification, graphics rendering, welfare payments, job hunting and insurance payments.

A lot of that revolution could be invisible to you, taking place inside and among businesses. But it's potentially a very big deal. Analyst firm Gartner estimates that blockchain will provide $176 billion in value to businesses by 2025 and a whopping $3.1 trillion by 2030.

How does blockchain actually work?

OK, strap yourself in, because this gets a bit hairy. A good place to start is the name: a blockchain is an ever-growing set of data blocks. Each block records a collection of transactions — for example, that you now hold the title to the car you bought or that you paid a car dealer to get it.

IBM and Maersk have a partnership to use blockchain to smooth shipping operations. A single blockchain can help exporters, shipping companies, port authorities and importers cooperate. That may sound simple, but here's a difference between blockchain and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Today, the government stores the information on its own central computer. Blockchains, though, distribute it across a group of computers — maybe even thousands of them. Each has its own copy of the blockchain transactions. That decentralization and synchronization means no single party controls the data. If one business sells an asset to another, each sees the same data. There's no need for lawyers at one company to call the other if their accounting databases disagree, because there's only one accounting database.

Cryptography — mathematical methods of keeping data secret and proving identity — now enters the picture when it comes to recording transactions. Blockchain uses the same cryptographic key technology that keeps hackers from sniffing your credit card number when you type it into an e-commerce website. One digital key ensures only you can enter a transaction to the blockchain involving your assets, and another digital key lets someone else confirm it really was you who added the transaction. "You can take a network of parties that didn't have prior experience working with each other — that didn't have reason for trust — and still find a way to build a transaction record or a history of the truth," said Brian Behlendorf, executive director for the Linux Foundation's Hyperledger project for blockchain software.

Indelible ink

Another fundamental part of the blockchain is called immutability — its resistance to tampering or other changes. To understand it, you need to understand another cryptographic concept called the hash.

A simplified illustration of blockchain's nitty-gritty workings

Hashing reduces data to a bunch of seemingly random characters — for example, the hash of the phrase "the quick brown fox" is "9ECB36561341D18EB65484E833EFEA61EDC74B84CF5E6AE1B81C63533E25FC8F" using an encoding method called SHA-256. Tweaking just one letter in the phrase produces a completely different hash, and you can't go backward to figure out the original data from the hash. With blockchain, hashes are linked together so any minute change is immediately visible, not just for the block housing it but for all other blocks added later. With red flags that big for changes that small, you can see why auditors would get excited.

"It's like doing the crossword puzzle in ink instead of pencil," said Marie Wieck, head of IBM's 1,500-employee blockchain group. "You will see if you change your answer to 3 across from moon to star." That's no fun for embezzlers accustomed to hiding behind dodgy or altered records. Cryptocurrencies can offer anonymity to criminals, which is why it's been popular for things like the WannaCry ransomware that locked up people's computers until they paid up. But blockchain makes it easier to find the digital scene of the crime — especially with private blockchains that networks of business partners can set up to cooperate.

Mining madness

The process for locking down a block onto the blockchain so it can't be changed, at least today, is called mining. And it's a problem. Here's how it works. When you and others announce transactions to a blockchain network, computers on that network race to solve a complicated mathematical puzzle based on those transactions. A computer that succeeds announces it to the network, and the transaction is accepted if other computers verify that none of the assets in question were already used. That's what'll keep you from selling the same concert ticket twice on a blockchain-based ticket market. (Citizen Ticket and Active Ticketing are working on this.)

Cryptocurrency mining computers like this Antminer S9 from Bitmain may look modest, but when stacked by the thousands there's immense horsepower to make today's blockchains work. But today's mining approach, called "proof of work," has huge drawbacks. For one thing, mining works most profitably on powerful computers that consume immense amounts of electrical power. For example, bitcoin mining today uses about as much power as the country of Singapore, enough to power 4.4 million houses, according to cryptocurrency analyst firm Digiconomist. That amount is growing.

For another, transactions are relatively slow. Blockchain transactions can race past transactions that rely on middlemen and reconciliation procedures, like escrow accounts for home purchases or international money transfers. But bitcoin transactions can take about 10 minutes, which is why cryptocurrencies today aren't useful for just buying something in a store. There's lots of work to free blockchain from the problems of transaction speed and energy consumption, though. One idea, "proof of stake," uses no significant computing power and looks to be the future for the Ethereum Project, which is responsible for the ether cryptocurrency. If bitcoin was the first generation of blockchain and Ethereum the second, there are a number of people hoping their project will catch on as the third.

Tezos, for example, hopes to build in better governance so its technology can move forward without the troubles bitcoin and Ethereum have suffered, said Tezos CEO Kathleen Breitman, speaking at the Techonomy conference in November — though ironically, Tezos has suffered governance problems of its own with a spat over its own management. Another challenger is Dfinity. Its chief scientist, Dominic Williams, promises transaction speeds 600 times faster than Ethereum, which today is only a bit faster than bitcoin.

Smart contracts

The original blockchain was described in a 2008 bitcoin paper by Satashi Nakamoto, a pseudonym for a person or perhaps group that unified some ideas into the first working cryptocurrency. The idea became reality with the release of open-source bitcoin software in 2009. The bitcoin blockchain now records about 300 million transactions and counting. But ether has popularized a newer idea called smart contracts. These are programs that run on the Ethereum network and take automated if-this-then-that actions. For example, a smart contract could look for the highest bid in an auction at a certain time and automatically transfer ownership rights to the auction winner. Bitcoin is based on blockchain technology. The surging price helped generate new interest that's withstood the recent plunge in bitcoin value.

Yahoo Finance

"When companies sign a contract, it's enforced by a judge or lawyers in a court," said Vipul Goyal, an associate professor in Carnegie Mellon University's cryptography group. "Smart contracts are enforced by cryptographic mechanisms in the code. Enforcing the contract is much cheaper and much faster — almost instant." With smart contracts, blockchain could help automate lots of computing operations, including ones humans never touch. Your electric car could wait for favorable electricity prices before deciding when to charge itself from the grid, solar panels or in-home batteries, then the blockchain could handle accounting among all the parties.

Goyal expects blockchain will help automate all sorts of transactions. For example, if it's used to register your car purchase, that could trigger a cascade of other operations, like transferring the car's cryptographic keys that let its owner unlock the car. "This is much more efficient than going to the DMV and filling out paperwork," he said. "It's also more secure, because these keys cannot be forged. The seller can't make copies of the key and try to steal the car."

The ties that bind

Expect to see blockchain showing up in particular where there are groups of interlinked organizations. That could include one company and its suppliers, or it could be consortiums of competitors and and their suppliers. For example, IBM has a blockchain partnership with a long list of food suppliers and grocery retailers, including Dole, Kroger, Nestlé, Tyson Foods and Walmart. The basic attention token, developed by browser maker Brave Software, uses blockchain to oversee online ad payments that can flow among advertisers, publishers and anyone using its browser.

Brave Software

Another blockchain project comes through browser startup Brave, which relies on the technology to change online advertising in a way that improves performance and privacy while giving browser users a cut of the proceeds. Blockchain accounting, using a digital payment mechanism called the basic attention token (BAT), enables direct payments among advertisers, publishers and browser users — for example an advertiser paying a publisher or a reader making a small one-off payment for a news article without buying a subscription.

It's transparent, so anyone can see exactly how many BATs were transferred and check that Brave didn't illicitly siphon any off, Brave CEO Brendan Eich said. But for companies averse to sharing data with competitors, blockchain's transparency is a difficulty. There are mechanisms for handling the challenge, Behlendorf said. "In most networks, you have a balance between data that can be kept private, but enough public that you can attest to its veracity," Behlendorf said. Another way blockchain could bring many parties together is property records.

There are thousands of counties in the US, each with its own record of who owns what. One startup, Propy, hopes to digitize those records, mirroring the records initially the way title companies do, but also storing them on the blockchain, said CEO Natalia Karayaneva. If county clerks saw the benefit, they could gradually move to the system — it's decentralized, not Propy's own database. Propy hopes to profit by taking a percentage of the sales it facilitates, but at the same time, it also hopes to cut purchasers' costs — for example by eliminating the thousands of dollars that title insurance can cost.

Slow down there a minute

For something as hyped as blockchain, with millions of dollars raised, you have to expect some backlash. There's plenty, starting with the criticism that blockchain would have already taken off if it's so great and concerns that it's abetting cryptocurrency shenanigans. There's also the concern that poorly written code could leave a faulty foundation. Overinflated expectations are nothing new to the tech industry, though, and there are enough serious players engaged that it's hard to dismiss blockchain as all sizzle and no steak. Expect a winnowing as reality sets in. "In 2018, we expect to see a number of projects stopped that should never have been started in the first place," said Forrester analyst Martha Bennett.

She points out plenty of other areas where blockchain falls short of its promises. The immutability comes at a cost, lacking some of the mechanisms for recourse found in today's slower processes. Companies cooperating to set up their own private blockchains, rather than using public ones like Ethereum, must have some trust already to set up rules for access and governance. Here's another hitch: getting everybody on board. For example, Automaker Renault hopes for a blockchain to lock down car maintenance records. After all, who wouldn't want to know if the used car you're thinking of buying made lots of trips to the repair shop? It turns out the seller may not share your enthusiasm for that much transparency.

So it's not perfect. But it doesn't have to be. Blockchain just has to be better than what we have today. There are a lot of underhanded cryptocurrency dealings, but regulators are now reining in abuses, said Rick Levin, chairman of the financial technology and regulation team at the AmLaw law firm Polsinelli. Likewise, engineers are hammering out improvements to blockchain and big names like Nasdaq and Goldman Sachs are embracing it. "I don't think it's just going to vanish," Levin said. "There's too much energy behind this."

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
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Thomas Prendergast

Purdue Pharma finally stops marketing opioids to physicians—and cuts 200-plus representatives in the process/more

Purdue Pharma finally stops marketing opioids to physicians—and cuts 200-plus representatives in the process

Purdue Pharma is slashing its sales staff

after finally announcing it will stop marketing its opioid drugs to doctors.Even as the U.S. opioid crisis deepened and lawsuits flourished, Purdue Pharma continued to market Oxycontin to doctors. But no longer. The company said last week that it will stop promoting its opioid drugs to physicians. Along with the move, the opioid drugmaker will lay off 200 salespeople, or more than half its staff.

The company plans to send a letter to doctors Monday notifying them that salespeople will no longer come to their offices to talk about the company’s pain products, according to Bloomberg, which first reported the end to the promoting. It will now answer doctors’ questions about the pain drugs through its medical affairs team.

Citizen petition calls on FDA to pull powerful opioids from market

A citizen petition calls on the FDA
to consider removing ultra-high-dose opioids from the market.As lawsuits mount against opioid drugmakers around the country, one group is hoping to cut supply of certain painkillers at the source by asking the FDA to pull them from the market.In their petition, representatives from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, National Safety Council, Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, American College of Medical Toxicology and Coalition to End the Opioid Epidemic urged the FDA that the risks of ultra-high dose opioids (UHDU) aren’t worth “modest” benefits.

Citing potential for misuse and overdose, the group argues that the FDA “should immediately seek removal of oral and transmucosal UHDU opioid analgesics from the market.” An FDA representative said the agency "is reviewing the petition and will respond directly to the petitioner." The petition pointed to OxyContin 80 mg, which is typically prescribed twice a day and IR oxycodone 30 mg, which is often prescribed four times a day, as examples.

The development comes as the United States continues to suffer from a opioid and addiction epidemic that’s claiming lives around the country. President Donald Trump recently declared the situation a national emergency. Separately this week, Arizona this week filed suit against embattled Insys Therapeutics, alleging fraudulent marketing to boost sales for fentanyl painkiller Subsys. Three doctors named in the suit were responsible for 64% of Subsys sales in Arizona from March 2012 to April 2017, according to the state. That drugmaker has faced a host of lawsuits and investigations into its promotion of the powerful opioid. On Friday, Insys responded that statements in the Arizona suit "lack context and factual accuracy."

Elsewhere, numerous cities, counties and states have sued various makers of opioid painkillers, with each case adding to the legal expenses of the defendants. Recent lawsuits against opioid companies include one filed this week by Waterbury, Connecticut, against Teva, Purdue, Johnson & Johnson and Endo, according to Westfair Online. There also have been suits filed recently by Missouri, Ohio, and other states. Many lawsuits claim the drugmakers exaggerated the benefits of opioids and downplayed the risks.

In response to the suits, some drugmakers have denied the allegations, while others declined to comment and some said they share concerns about the epidemic. While the citizen petition is calling for the removal of certain opioids, the FDA has already pushed Endo International to pull its Opana ER from the market. The drugmaker caved to FDA pressure in July and said it’d remove the drug that generated $160 million in sales last year. Earlier this summer, the FDA announced plans to take a new look at the risk-benefit profiles of approved opioids in response to the epidemic.

“We have restructured and significantly reduced our commercial operation and will no longer be promoting opioids to prescribers,” Purdue said in a statement. Along with Oxycontin, Purdue also makes the opioid drugs Butrans and Hysingla ER. More than a dozen states, including New York, New Jersey, Alabama and Washington, and more than 100 cities and counties, are suing Purdue over charges it facilitated the U.S. opioid crisis through aggressive marketing. It is also a codefendant, along with Endo International, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, Teva Pharmaceutical and Allergan, in the opioid marketing investigation underway by 39 states' attorneys general.

In 2016, opioids, including prescription drugs, fentanyl and heroin, killed more than 42,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with more than 40% of overdose deaths involving a prescription opioid. Deaths from prescription drugs alone have quadrupled since 1999, the CDC reported.

In response to the criticism and legal action, Purdue has insisted its products are lawful and approved products. Meanwhile, it’s said to be looking to cut a global settlement deal to put aside legal claims. Purdue has also pushed a public relations and advertising effort to point out its efforts in the fight against the opioid drug public health problem. A statement on its website echoes advertisements it has placed in print publications such as The Wall Street Journal, leading with the title, “We manufacture prescription opioids. How could we not help fight the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis?”

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
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Thomas Prendergast

What is U.Cash? The Cryptocurrency for Retail That’s Spiking

A little-known cryptocurrency has jumped in price almost overnight.
U.Cash,
which promises to be a token with better real-world use for retailers, was the best performing crypto token on Monday. Its surging value, with seemingly no major event tied to its spike, has led some to suggest that investors are being caught at the center of a “pump-and-dump” scam by third parties.

The cryptocurrency has has a tremendous 24-hour rally. At the time of writing, the token saw by far the largest gains on cryptocurrency tracker CoinMarketCap, which logged a 400 percent rise in value to reach 18 cents per token in value. Its $1.6 billion market cap places it as the 22nd-largest token on the market, with 8.6 billion tokens in circulation.

The team has a simple mission statement:

Our mission is to build a global network of retail and individual converters providing cash to digital conversions to and from our ecosystem, helping people worldwide to unbank.

U.Cash has reasons to be positive about its future success. The team posted a video on its Facebook page last week that showed it has recently moved into new offices. Its “initial bounty offering,” where parties are rewarded for their contributions to the project rather than through buying tokens, completed last month. Its founder has big plans to grow the project and make it easier for people to buy cryptocurrency.

“We’re finding that South East Asia is really where the next frontier of growth is going to be, and is actually where a lot of our user growth and traction has come from,” Brian Phan, founder of the cryptocurrency, said in a pre-recorded video. However, some are fearful that its sudden rise is less about strong prospects for growth, and more about internet groups looking to make a quick return. “With just $4.17 million in 24-hour trading volume, it is evident this U. Cash price trend is a pump-and-dump cycle first and foremost,” cryptocurrency writer Jean-Pierre Buntinx wrote in his story for The Merkle.

“Pump-and-dump” is a scam operated by online cryptocurrency groups, where people agree to buy a tiny cryptocurrency all at once and then sell to make a profit. The rationale is that third parties will see the rising coin and join in, helping the scammers in on the plan to sell and reap the rewards. “They are 90 percent a scam to take money and the ones at the top will always win,” Brad Spann, a member of one such group, told The Outline. As with any investment, it’s always best to remain cautious.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
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Thomas Prendergast

Bitcoin is “Under-Owned” Among Institutional Investors says Dan Morehead

Bitcoin is “Under-Owned”
Among Institutional Investors says
Dan Morehead

The CEO and founder of Pantera Capital, Dan Morehead, recently told media that bitcoin is “under-owned” by institutional investors despite high demand for cryptocurrency exposure. Mr. Morehead also predicted bitcoin to produce bullish price movements in coming weeks.

Pantera Bullish on Bitcoin

In a recent interview with CNBC, the Pantera Capital founder appeared unfazed by the recent crash in the cryptocurrency markets, stating “We’re certainly aware it’s a very speculative market,” adding, “It’s volatile on the upside. It can be volatile on the downside.”

Mr. Morehead predicts that the price of bitcoin will begin to recover in coming weeks, stating, “Typically, [bitcoin] has had on average a 71-day bear market, and we’re 52 days into this. It seems like another couple of weeks and everything will be normal and [bitcoin] can start growing back up again.” Mr. Morehead also noted that “We’ve had a 64% fall from its peak to the trough a couple of days ago, and that’s actually exactly the average decline in the bitcoin markets over the last seven bear market cycles.” Pantera Capital was founded in 2003 and launched its first cryptocurrency fund a decade later. Pantera Capital is invested in a number of leading cryptocurrency ventures, including Bitstamp, Korbit, Xapo, and Bitpesa.

Institutional Crypto Exposure Low Despite High Demand

Pantera Capital’s CEO indicated that despite widespread demand for cryptocurrency exposure, bitcoin is “under-owned” by institutional investors, hinting that demand from big players may push prices up soon. “There’s such an institutional appetite to get exposure to this,” said Morehead, “It’s a half-a-trillion-dollar asset class that nobody owns. That’s a pretty wild circumstance,” said Mr. Morehead. Mr. Morehead attributed bitcoin’s wild price action to the lack of institutional investment in the cryptocurrency economy, stating “bitcoin is that still so under-owned by institutional investors that it trades at its own beat.”

Morehead Welcomes Cryptocurrency Regulations

When asked of his opinion of the increasing regulation of the cryptocurrency sphere, Mr. Morehead stated, “It’s a good thing, I think the U.S. regulatory bodies have done an excellent job […] the [Commodities Futures Trading Commission] has been very progressive about this… the [Securities and Exchange Commission] has […] in general allowed the markets to develop.” The Pantera CEO also noted that the “pace” of regulation has “so far has been very good,” concluding that “A little more regulation is probably helpful.”

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Non-Intrusive Marketing Strategies To Beat The Ad Blocker Trend

Non-Intrusive Marketing Strategies To Beat The Ad Blocker Trend

These communications executives share tips to create advertising content 
that is effective despite ad blockers.

Of all the challenges marketers face in reaching their target audiences, ad blocker technology has arguably been one of the most difficult to overcome. Last year, The New York Times reported that 11% of global internet users employed ad-blocking software – a startling 30% increase from the previous year. Modern brands must now figure out how to advertise to consumers who simply don't want to see hard-sell ads anymore. The answer, of course, lies in creating valuable, non-intrusive marketing content, but this is easier said than done. If you're looking to get your message across to customers without turning them off, follow these 14 strategies recommended by members of Forbes Communication Council.

Behavior-Based Ads

For users who don't use ad blockers, ads that appear based on user behavior are more effective than ads that appear whenever a page is loaded. Several agencies offer solutions that only display a pop-up or "lightbox" ad when users indicate an exit from the site or after they've engaged with the site (e.g. made a purchase, filled out a form, etc). We have to reach users when they're most receptive.

Native Advertising

We will be using native advertising in our plan for 2018, with more emphasis on blending our ads into the website and ensuring our message is contemporary and relevant for our audience. We are aiming to help our buyers see how emerging technologies will be adopted and will ultimately change their industries

Anti-Ad Blocker Technology

First, produce ads that aren’t annoying. That’s the biggest hurdle in getting your message heard. Second, use tech that blocks ad blockers, like Instart Logic, PageFair or Uponit. They will ensure that visitors continue to see your high-quality digital advertising, and restore your formerly lost revenue.

Value In Ad Campaigns

To hook your target audience's attention, provide valuable information right in your advertising campaigns or SEO content. Instead of pushing prospects with branded banners delivering your message, try offering a free download or access to an exclusive video sharing a helpful guide, experience or insight.

Thought Leadership Videos On YouTube

Consumers don't appreciate the hard sell like they used to. Thought leadership is the way to turn consumers into customers, and YouTube is the cheapest platform. Create a video that shows off your expertise without being overly promotional, and you will convert more traffic into sales. The trick is to solve problems people have in a creative and entertaining way.

Personality-Based Content

The best content helps consumers resonate with your brand. Demonstrating authenticity through unique and interesting content can help align consumers with your product and showcase your brand’s personality.

 Inbound Marketing

Consumers are adapting ad blockers for a reason: They don't like being interrupted as they consume digital content. To get through, marketers must source meaningful and practical content – the very content consumers seek to enjoy as they block out intrusive, irrelevant and interruptive ads. Get them interested in learning more and they will invite you to have a longer conversation.

Targeted Social Ads

Pop-up ads often deter buyers because they disturb people’s shopping experience and create security concerns. A better way is to use targeted social advertising. Don’t think ads – a Facebook or Instagram marketing campaign doesn't often ask you to buy anything. And the experience is seamless in look and feel. The key to success is knowing who you’re targeting and meeting them on their turf.

Influencer Marketing

Have influencers relay your messaging for you. Influencers have hundreds of thousands of loyal followers who know their personality, behavior, likes and dislikes. Would your customer be more keen to click an ad that pops up and interrupts their content, or listen to what an influencer they already follow is endorsing? Influencers humanize your ad; let them do the work for you.

Authentic Advocacy 

Today's consumers expect authentic, relevant communication, even when it comes to advertising. So take an inside-out approach. Your employees are your most valued asset and your best ambassadors. Ensure that they feel valued, informed, connected and empowered to be a source of trusted information. You'll activate organic advocacy from the people behind the brand that ad blockers can't touch.

Retargeting

Ads are intrusive by nature. Fighting that mindset is nearly impossible. Using retargeting for your ads is the simplest way to be more targeted and effective, as customers who have already visited your site (or a similar site) are more likely to welcome the ad. We need to make sure we're bringing customers value and not just selling a product or service.

Relevant And Contextual Needs-Based Marketing

Building a relationship with your customer is key. Once you have built trust and demonstrated that you can indeed add value to the customer, your opportunities to upsell or cross-sell increase. Look to understand the needs of your customer before you try to sell them anything. They're already being bombarded by ads and irrelevant messaging; don't add your voice to the deluge of noise.

AI And Predictive Marketing Investments

In today's world where predictive technologies and AI are playing a huge role in advertising, we often experience non-targeted, intrusive ads. Companies need to double down on AI and predictive marketing investments to ensure they are targeting the right audience through the right channels with the right content.

Content Marketing

Ad blockers are there for a reason because so many companies are providing content that people don't want to see. Provide value outside of the hard sell, and you'll be shocked at the increase in leads and customers. White papers, blogs and other content marketing efforts may not drive immediate sales, but they do pull people into the funnel who are interested in your industry or topic.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Marketing.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Russian nuclear scientists arrested for ‘Bitcoin mining plot’

Russian nuclear scientists arrested for 'Bitcoin mining plot'

The arrested scientists worked at the secret factory which made the USSR's first nuclear bomb

Russian security officers have arrested several scientists

working at a top-secret Russian nuclear warhead facility for allegedly mining crypto-currencies. The suspects had tried to use one of Russia's most powerful supercomputers to mine Bitcoins, media reports say. The Federal Nuclear Centre in Sarov, western Russia, is a restricted area.

The centre's press service said: "There has been an unsanctioned attempt to use computer facilities for private purposes including so-called mining." The supercomputer was not supposed to be connected to the internet – to prevent intrusion – and once the scientists attempted to do so, the nuclear centre's security department was alerted. They were handed over to the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Russian news service Mash says.

"As far as we are aware, a criminal case has been launched against them," the press service told Interfax news agency. Crypto-currencies like Bitcoin do not rely on centralised computer servers. People who provide computer processing power to the crypto-currency system, to enable transactions to take place, can get rewards in Bitcoins. In the Cold War the USSR's first nuclear bomb was produced at Sarov, during Joseph Stalin's rule. The top-secret town was not even marked on Soviet maps and special permits are still required for Russians to visit it.

Sarov is surrounded by a tightly guarded no-man's-land, with barbed wire fences to keep the curious away. There are suspicions that the radioactive polonium-210 used to kill ex-FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 came from Sarov. The Federal Nuclear Centre reportedly employs up to 20,000 people and its supercomputer boasts a capacity of 1 petaflop, the equivalent of 1,000 trillion calculations per second. Mining crypto-currencies requires great computational power and huge amounts of energy. There have been reports of some other industrial facilities in Russia being used for crypto-mining, and one businessman reportedly bought two power stations for the activity.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast

Iceland to use more energy mining bitcoin than powering its homes this year

Iceland to use more energy mining bitcoin than powering its homes this year

Iceland is expected to use more energy mining bitcoin
than powering its homes this year.

Large virtual currency mining companies have established a base on the island, which has an abundance of geothermal and hydroelectric power plants. And with massive amounts of energy needed to run the computers that create bitcoins, it is seen as an ideal base. Johann Snorri Sigurbergsson, business development manager at the energy company Hitaveita Sudurnesja, said he expected Iceland’s virtual currency mining to double its energy consumption to around 100 megawatts this year. That is more than households use on the island nation of 340,000, according to Iceland’s National Energy Authority.

Bitcoin’s value has jumped. ‘Four months ago, I could not have predicted this trend – but then bitcoin skyrocketed and we got a lot more emails,’ he said at the Svartsengi geothermal energy plant, which powers the southwestern peninsula where the mining takes place. ‘Just today, I came from a meeting with a mining company seeking to buy 18 megawatts,’ he said.

Among the main attractions of setting up bitcoin in Iceland is the natural cooling for the computer servers and the competitive prices for Iceland’s abundance of renewable energy. The energy demand has developed because of the soaring cost of producing virtual currencies. Computers are used to make complex calculations that verify a running ledger of all the transactions in virtual currencies around the world.

A worker walks along a row of computer rigs that run around the clock ‘mining’ bitcoin inside the Genesis Mining cryptocurrency mine (Picture: AP Photos/Egill Bjarnason) In return, the miners claim a fraction of a coin not yet in circulation. In the case of bitcoin, a total of 21 million can be mined, leaving about 4.2 million left to create.

As more bitcoin enter circulation, computers need to get more powerful to keep up with the calculations – and that means more energy. The growth has prompted Smari McCarthy, a lawmaker for Iceland’s Pirate Party, to suggest taxing the profits of bitcoin mines. ‘Under normal circumstances, companies that are creating value in Iceland pay a certain amount of tax to the government,’ McCarthy said.

‘These companies are not doing that and we might want to ask ourselves whether they should.’ McCarthy questioned the value of bitcoin mining for Icelandic society, saying residents should consider regulating and taxing the emerging industry. ‘We are spending tens or maybe hundreds of megawatts on producing something that has no tangible existence and no real use for humans outside the realm of financial speculation,’ he said. ‘That can’t be good.’

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Great Marketing Strategies You Can Steal From the Most Successful Super Bowl Ads

Great Marketing Strategies
You Can Steal From the Most Successful Super Bowl Ads

You don't need $5 million to advertise like major brands.

The Super Bowl has been called "The Marketer's Holiday" for good reason.

At $5 million for a 30-second spot, it's one of the highest-grossing media events in the world. And with all the hype around previews before The Big Game, it's become a frenzy to follow all the activity of the big brands before and after the game. And while the Super Bowl is the ultimate in big brand marketing, there are a number of takeaways that would apply to a business of any size. Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from this year's crop of advertising. After all, marketing is a spectator sport, and 2018's spectacle was no exception.

Consider the environment

Context is everything. Make sure you serve up your brand messages in a way that is appropriate to the environment. The Super Bowl is a massive stage, but it's also a space for family, fun, friends and gatherings. So, advertisers stuck to lighter messaging, product benefits and sheer entertainment. Febreze is a great example. The brand reminded people who were throwing a Super Bowl party that there is a key ingredient that they shouldn't leave out. 

Use multiple channels

The best Super Bowl advertising used multiple channels to spread a fully integrated campaign. In those cases, the broadcast advertising is just the launching pad. Many previewed the spots ahead of time via YouTube, utilized influencer networks to review and share, built installations onsite at the game and maxed out engagement on social media. Rocket Mortgage is a good example. The advertising quickly led to an online resource to learn more, and social media also kicked in to generate leads throughout the game. Since it's highly likely that, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you won't be using broadcast advertising, it's even more important that you use a mix of media to spread your messages.

Lead with an insight 

All good marketing starts with a consumer insight to grab the audience's attention. This should be a given in effective communication. The more emotional your connection, the more memorable the messaging . . . especially if it's tied to a product benefit. Verizon is a good example. The brand honored first responders by connecting survivors with those who rescued them — by having them place a call on the Verizon network, of course. Big brands don't own any special territory when it comes to finding an insight, and in fact, it's quite the opposite. Since small businesses are even closer to customers, finding an emotionally unique insight should be easier and more fruitful.

Make someone smile

Messaging that makes us smile is much more memorable and shareable. So, try to find a sense of humor in the work, and the work will more likely get noticed. Amazon's marketing with Alexa is a good example — it gave us a good laugh as it simultaneously showcased how it can add value to our lives. You should certainly stay true to your brand indeed, but don't take yourself so seriously. The NFL certainly did a good job of that!

Rinse and repeat

In order to be effective, messaging needs to be repeated to be remembered. So be sure to repeat over and over again to ensure message penetration. Tide is as good example. It owned the night with repeated variations of their "This is a Tide Ad." And guess what, the messaging stuck. Yours can too if you put it on repeat mode. As you plan out your own marketing activities, keep these Super Bowl Big Brand lessons in mind. And as you also watch other brands in action, pay attention to how you can apply what they do to your business. After all, marketing is a spectator sport.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
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Upbeat Dutch Blockchain and Crypto Action Agenda

Upbeat Dutch Blockchain
and Crypto Action Agenda

Upbeat Dutch Blockchain and Crypto Action Agenda

The Netherlands has an established tradition of being

at the forefront of innovation. And it is following this same path when it comes to Blockchain development. The Netherlands ranks in the top five countries when it comes to digital economies. Amsterdam is named the best tech startup city in Europe, the digital city Groningen is hosting the largest Blockchain hackathon in the world, and Arnhem is the place with high concentrations of merchants that accept Bitcoin payments. This has allowed the Dutch to experiment with payments using volatile cryptocurrencies with their regulation still a distant concept.

Dutch Blockchain Action Agenda is the driving force for the innovative application of this technology in both products and services. Under the label “Dutch Digital Delta,” government, industry, knowledge institutions even the Royal family’s Prince Constantijn, with over 20 organizations in the financial sector, energy, and logistics, are active in this initiative. Clearer policy and regulations were needed around the developing cryptocurrency, Blockchain sphere, agreed Dutch politicians, cryptocurrency companies and regulators, who appeared in the House of Representatives at a hearing on Jan. 24, 2018

Fintech

A few years ago the Central Bank of the Netherlands (DNB) created its own cryptocurrency called DNBcoin, for internal circulation only, to understand better how it works. After studying it, DNB concluded that Blockchain might be “naturally applicable in fintech” for the settlement of complex financial transactions, cross-border payments, securities transactions and document and identity validation. At the hearing, DNB representative indicated that while “DNBCoin is still under consideration, it is also investigating a combination of Blockchain based cross-border payment services where cryptos are converted to fiat currencies and prepaid crypto debit cards.” DNB stated “it supports the EU having extended its anti-money laundering directives to include digital money, acknowledging that the Netherlands will adopt it into national laws within 18 months.” And reiterated that “cryptocurrencies are not legal tender, they will not be banned, since it would obstruct blockchain innovation.”

The five Dutch Banks, which control over 90 percent of the Netherlands’ retail banking market are exploring implementing Blockchain technology in their operations. ABN AMRO and Rabobank joined SWIFT global payments innovation project. ING has completed the testing of Blockchain-powered trade settlement platform in partnership with Calypso and the R3 consortium.  And NIBC has set up an Innovation Lab to stimulate the adoption of technological advancements within the bank as well as to enter strategic partnerships with innovative Blockchain companies.

Willem Vermeend, the first official “FinTech Ambassador of the Netherlands,” said:

“Blockchain will become a critical part of the financial sector, but what’s needed is collaboration.  There is a lot of creativity in the Netherlands. The problem is that I have spoken to 20 parties who do not know what each other is doing.”

The Dutch government is exploring how to use Blockchain technology to improve service delivery to citizens as the catalyzer for democracy, transparency, and participation. So far, more than 30 pilots were concluded utilizing Blockchain technology in a variety of areas like income tax, identity, logistics, autonomous vehicles, debt counseling, etc.  

ICO

With 3,200 startup tech companies hitting a scale-up phase in the Netherlands, Initial Coin Offering (ICO) offers a new way of fundraising enabled by digital currencies and Blockchain technology. Currently, the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM) does not regulate ICOs.

"When it comes to innovation and developing markets, the Netherlands always held a forward-thinking stance. ICO initiatives are not an exception. The Dutch landscape comprises of bottom-up initiatives such as meet-ups and conferences, Ethereum DEV NL, Skycoin Netherlands, and Bitcoin Wednesday, a thriving startup ecosystem with (pre-) ICO fundraising entities. Not surprisingly, the advisors of some of the most successful ICOs of the caliber of Bancor, Kik, and Monetha live in the Netherlands,” explained Emanuele Francioni, founder of Web3 Ventures.

Merel van Vroonhoven, chairman of the AFM, warned:

“Although the AFM sees the possibilities of Blockchain technology for financial services, it points to the high risks of ICOs in the current hype. The high risk of scams and loss of intake combined with the hype around ICOs at the moment is a dangerous cocktail."

At the latest hearing, AFM urged that ICOs needed to be regulated at an international and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) level because they are cross-border by nature. Last year Prince Constantijn joined the High-Level Group of Innovators that advises the European Commission (EC). On Feb. 1, 2018, the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum announced that “it is partnering with ConsenSys, an Ethereum powered global venture production studio, for the benefit of the single European Union (EU) market, ensuring they work collaboratively across borders to help integrate and consolidate views, analysis and visions coming from the Netherlands in a forum at EU level,” explained EC Spokesperson Nathalie Vandystadt.

Individual taxation of cryptocurrency

The Netherlands is an exciting place for Blockchain and cryptocurrency investments. Investors are urged to take into consideration applicable cross-border tax laws while forming crypto or token investment decisions. “The Netherlands’ Finаnсе Miniѕtеr announced that the Dutch gоvеrnmеnt would be соnѕidеring cryptocurrencies and thе like аѕ “barter items” which are to be declared as a capital asset of the personal income tax return to the extent a person is not someone who actively trades in cryptocurrencies.  As such, cryptocurrencies are taxed as income from savings and investments. This means you have to take its value in Euros on Jan. 1st of the year and declare this value.

A fictitious yield is to be calculated over the fair market value of the taxpayers’ savings and investments, reduced by his liabilities, per Jan. 1st. This fictitious yield is taxed at applicable rates against 30 percent” explained Martijn de Jong of Amstone law firm. “Non-resident individual taxpayers are only taxed on certain Netherlands sourced savings and investments. Should the non-resident taxpayer’s involvement be assumed to exceed passive management of funds, Dutch taxation in box one could apply. Currently, there is no clear guidance on how cryptocurrencies are taxed,” he added.

Chuck Reynolds

Marketing Dept
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Thomas Prendergast

Blockchain-Based ‘Internet Computer’ Gets $61M from Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain

Blockchain-Based 'Internet Computer' Gets $61M from Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain

Blockchain is now being used to build an “Internet computer.” 

Top Silicon Valley venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and Polychain Capital, a cryptocurrency hedge fund, have invested $61 million in Dfinity Foundation, a firm that intends to connect multiple computers together using blockchain to build an “Internet” computer.

The investment is Polychain Capital’s largest to date. Both investors will receive tokens in the network after its launch later this year. In an introductory video last year, Dfinity Foundation’s founder Dominic Williams explained more about the technology behind his company. “This applies new cryptography to public blockchain technology that is faster and more secure than anything around today,” he said. When the network was tested last year, it was 600 times faster than the prevailing speeds in ethereum’s network at that time.

The Dfinity network is based on a public blockchain and uses an open source protocol. In an interview with Business Insider, Williams said any computer that chooses to run the protocol can participate in the public network. The open protocol will facilitate the building of different businesses and applications on the network.For example, Williams said the “Internet computer” can act as a public cloud that competes with the likes of Amazon.com Inc. “The total cost of ownership of these business systems will be dramatically lower,” he said.

Part of the reason for this is because it will simplify complicated enterprise IT systems that involve multiple components such as databases and backup systems and cut costs by an estimated 90%. According to Williams, the public computer is also more secure because it is decentralized and spread out across multiple systems. It is underpinned by BLS cryptography invented at Stanford University.

Dominic Williams said he intends to use the funding to establish a Dfinity Ecosystem Fund to “support technical teams building applications, tools, and protocols for deployment on Dfinity.” He is also keen on building a so-called NASA for Decentralisation. "We believe ultimately that if you're going to have millions of businesses hosted on the internet computer, you're going to need a team of thousands of people who are constantly analysing the performance of the computer and looking for security threats," he told Business Insider.  Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings ("ICOs") is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual's situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to learn more about Bitcoin.
Interested or have Questions, Call Me, 559-474-4614

Thomas Prendergast