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September 2017
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Optimizing Digital Marketing & Retargeting Investments: The CMO's Test

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The Merkle Digital Marketing Report was recently released. After reading the report, one data point in particular resonated with me: Google Paid Search Spend Up 23% in Q2 2017 So marketers have upped investment in paid search to drive website traffic. This trend doesn't come as a surprise, since paid search was budgeted for at [...]

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posted at: 12:01am on 01-Sep-2017
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Big Ag Gets Ag-Gag Envy, Helps Bring In 'Seed-Preemption' Laws Across The US

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As multiple Techdirt stories attest, farmers do love their "ag-gag" laws, which effectively make it illegal for activists to expose animal abuse in agricultural establishments -- although, strangely, farmers don't phrase it quite like that. Big Ag -- the giant seed and agricultural chemical companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont -- seem to have decided they want something similar for seeds. As an article in Mother Jones, originally published by Food and Environment Reporting Network, reports, it looks like they are getting it:

With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed "seed-preemption laws" designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs. Opponents say that there's nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state.
Supporters of the move claim that a system of local seed rules would be complicated to navigate. That's a fair point, but it's hard to believe Big Ag really cares about farmers that much. Some of the new laws go well beyond seeds:
Language in the Texas version of the bill preempts not only local laws that affect seeds but also local laws that deal with "cultivating plants grown from seed. In theory, that could extend to almost anything: what kinds of manure or fertilizer can be used, or whether a county can limit irrigation during a drought, says Judith McGeary, executive director of the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. Along with other activists, her organization was able to force an amendment to the Texas bill guaranteeing the right to impose local water restrictions. Still, the law's wording remains uncomfortably open to interpretation, she says.
You would have thought that farmers would welcome the ability to shape local agricultural laws according to local needs and local factors like weather, water and soil. But apparently ag-gagging activists to stop them doing the same is much more important.Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and +glynmoody on Google+

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posted at: 12:01am on 01-Sep-2017
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Court Dumps Lawsuit Against Zillow Over Its Inaccurate 'Zestimates'

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Earlier this year, real estate litigator and aggrieved homeowner Barbara Andersen sued Zillow for providing a lower "Zestimate" than she believed her house was worth. She alleged Zillow violated Illinois state law by portraying its estimates as appraisals, even though it lacked the proper licensing to perform appraisals. Andersen sought an injunction blocking Zillow from posting information about her home (even publicly-available information) and offering a "Zestimate" on its selling price.Andersen has just had her case tossed, although she's now representing others in a proposed class action against Zillow. At some point between February and earlier this week, Andersen's case was moved to a federal court and she's now listed on the bottom of court documents (as counsel of record), rather than up top as a plaintiff.The new lead plaintiffs are three Patels disputing Zestimates of their multi-million dollar properties. (This rearranging of plaintiffs and lawyers [and lawyers who were also plaintiffs] is unsettling, especially for those of us who learned what we know of the real estate business via repeated viewings of "Glengarry Glen Ross.")The Patels (and "others similarly situated") aren't happy with Zillow. The Patels (collectively) have multiple properties on the market, all listed at prices considerably higher than Zillow's Zestimates. They claim, as Andersen did, that Zillow violates state law by offering something homebuyers might believe is an appraisal. A variety of interconnected laws results in the Patels attempting to coax a federal court into killing Zillow's estimates. As Eric Goldman summarizes, the Patels have gone down on strikes.

An Illinois putative class action was brought against Zillow over the zestimate on three grounds: (1) the zestimate was an unlicensed appraisal, (2) the house profile and zestimate constituted an intrusion into seclusion, and (3) Zillow’s practices violate state consumer protection laws. Zillow wins on a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss.Unlicensed Appraisal: The applicable licensure statute expressly excludes “the procurement of an automated valuation model.” Furthermore, the law doesn’t support private causes of action.Privacy Invasion. There’s no intrusion when the zestimate is based on public data sources. The plaintiffs also don’t explain how the intrusion is “offensive” or plead the required “anguish and suffering.”Consumer Protection Laws. The court says the zestimates are not false, misleading or confusing
Goldman also points out no serious person is likely to confuse a Zestimate with an appraisal… at least not if they expect to be taken seriously. Courts in cases dug up by Goldman have called Zillow Zestimates everything from "inherently unreliable" to "incapable of accurate" valuations. One judge concluded "internet searches are insufficient evidence of property value," spreading the besmirchment to Zillow's competitors and pre-trial Googlers.Zillow pled a First Amendment defense for its publication of lousy Zestimates and other public data. The court [PDF] doesn't make any attempt to address this pleading as it finds plenty it doesn't like about the state law claims.
Zillow argues that the First Amendment requires dismissal of all of Plaintiffs’ claims. (R. 18, Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, 3.) Additionally, Zillow contends that First Amendment concerns aside, Plaintiffs fail to plead the required elements of their claims. (Id. at 9.) While Zillow makes persuasive arguments with respect to the First Amendment, the Court need not and should not rule on them conclusively because Plaintiffs’ claims fail under Illinois statutory law.
As the court points out, Zestimates are nothing more than "nonactionable statements of opinion" -- statements that result from no intrusion in personal privacy (because publicly-available info is used) nor violation of real estate regulations in Illinois.All claims have been dismissed without prejudice, meaning real estate litigator (and litigant) Barbara Andersen is welcome to try again. But she -- like the Patels she now represents -- will need to find a better angle than alleged state law violations to take another run at estimates they all subjectively feel are on the low end.

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