Why other industries need to call out Facebook’s advertising policy

Let’s for a minute imagine these as Corporate Policies:

Car Manufacturer: We’ll take a car off the road if an unsafe model gets out of the factory and is sold, but we can’t promise all our cars are safe until you start driving them. If you see an unsafe car out there, please let us know. 

Fast Food Outlet: If our pizza has salmonella or listeria, you can return it, but we can’t promise all our food is safe to eat. If you get sick or know someone who did, please let us know and we’ll take the pizza back. 

Packaged Goods Manufacturer: If our shampoo has chemicals that are unsafe and burn your head, we’ll change the formula, but we’re not sure until we sell it if it’s OK. If you see anyone with a burned head, ask them what shampoo they used, and if it’s our brand, we’ll happily take it off the shelf.

This is essentially what Facebook Inc. have just announced as their Global Policy for Advertising. All I’ve done is paraphrase their policy, and changed the product and industry. Here it is below for your reference:

Joel Kaplan – Global Policy VP

“We try to catch content that shouldn’t be on Facebook before it’s even posted, but because this is not always possible, we also take action when people report ads that violate our policy”

Facebook claim it isn’t possible for 2 simple reasons:

  1. Because it isn’t profitable for them to check every advertisement before it goes out.
  2. Because they haven’t been regulated in the same way other media organisations are.

While I understand 2 billion peoples comments can’t be moderated before they’re published, maybe paid advertising on Facebook should be. Facebook at least ought to be held to account financially when their ‘platform’ creates problems for society. Their current MO when anything outside their policy happens is ‘oops, sorry about that’ . They get away with it because society and regulators let them. A good starting point to fix this is to start calling out Facebook for what it actually is – a media company, not a technology business. There is a certain responsibility that goes with being a media company and its resultant influence, yet Facebook continues to flout the responsibility that is incumbent upon such power.  To call it a technology company is ridiculous. All companies employ technology – Boeing and Ford have a far greater breadth and use of technology than Facebook, but at least they admit they sell airplanes and cars. Facebook sells advertisements to their audience, not technology – seems like a media company to me.

It’s also worth noting that the update from Facebook policy resulting from controversy surrounding fake ads and alleged Russian influence on the US election didn’t address the problems of false information, only ‘transparency’ of what was published, promoted and who did it. The extreme targeting possible on Facebook is itself one of the problems. Those likely to spot a misleading advertisement are unlikely to see it. In this sense the promise of transparency is a moot point. A further quote from the statement in relation to advertising via Russian accounts below is quite telling:

” All of these ads violated our policies because they came from inauthentic accounts” 

Not because the information was misleading? And further on…

“Our ad policies already prohibit shocking content, direct threats and the promotion of the sale or use of weapons.”

Apparently advertising false information is OK? No mention of it anywhere… You can read it for yourself here. 

While Facebook promises to create a more open and connected society, it is in reality creating a more silo-ed and disconnected society. When governments first gave out spectrum at the birth of the TV era, it came with the responsibility of providing unbiased news and balanced data on issues affecting society. We didn’t let the idea of innovation or new technology interfere with creating the kind of society we all want to live in.

I think social media is one of the most amazing things to evolve in my lifetime. The power provided through connection and sharing thought has helped me re-invent my career, find like-minds and gain knowledge that just wasn’t available in the mainstream media era. For that I’m grateful.

But it is time that we took its power more seriously. It’s time to add seat belts and brakes to the data vehicles driving our lives and admit that no technology out of control or without failsafes ever benefits society.

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If you liked this post – you’ll dig my new book – The Lessons School Forgot – a manifesto to survive the tech revolution. 

Social Media hidden truths

Here’s an interesting presentation by Prof Mark Ritson which Nic pointed me to. A compelling talk in which Mark debunks some of the commercial numbers of social media, especially as a channel with organic reach. The basic premise is simple – you want reach, you’re gonna have to pay for it. That said, while he talks up the hours people watch TV, he fails to break down the attention given in those hours – are people really watching? My advice is to watch this with an open mind and investigate his premise. It’s a great starting point to demystify the fragmented media world we are now living in. Enjoy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCAEbirIByc

Why OzTam's Aust TV ratings are still way behind the times

Television man

The TV industry in Australia recently claimed its ratings measurements have now ‘caught up with the times’ – as they now include catch up TV. Here’s a question for them: Do the ratings include Youtube views?

It’s pretty clear now that TV is not the aggregation of the formal channels. There is no such thing as TV, there is only this: All audio visual content streamed to eyeballs = TV.

This means that every video we view on Youtube is TV. Every Video we watch on Facebook is TV. Everything we send from our mobile to our big screen is TV. Every Snap we watch is TV. The real problem the TV industry is facing is it’s limited definition of the market today. Twenty years on and they still don’t get it. Their recent announcement confirms that the thing they are measuring is their share of a shrinking pie. Sure, it’s not in their short term interest to expand their definition of the market, but pretending it isn’t so, doesn’t make it go away.

Yet another reminder that in times of dramatic technological change market share is a fools measure. Put simply, new solutions to old problems mean our real competitors are usually invisible.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

You own prime time now

Punch Clock

Prime time used to be a big thing, sure it’s still a thing, but a diminishing one. You can probably remember when the 6 o’clock news mattered. You can remember when the sitcoms hit the airwaves at 7.30 and the movie at 8.30pm. They all made sense because we all worked until 5pm. The shops used to be closed from 12pm on Saturday, and not opened on Sunday. The clock, above all things defined the industrial era. Time zones themselves where invented to serve national railroads. The clock told us where to be and when. We had special clocks at work to punch to show when we arrived and left. And smart media worked around this. While time is the key asset in the attention economy, the clock itself is losing its power.

Old media still thinks the clock matters more than it does.

We still have prime time. We still have that time when we sit down and absorb or participate in entertainment, but the time we do it is determined by us. Maybe it’s 5-6pm on the train listening to a podcast. Maybe it’s 11pm in bed watching a Youtube video, maybe it’s placing ecommerce orders at 3pm. The enslavement that goes with prime time is finally evaporating. We have our own airwaves now.

While this trend has started with media (Tv, News, The Press, Web, Radio, Movies) it’s part of the great fragmentation in all commerce and culture. The only question left is whether we are doing business at times which serve history, or those we serve.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Forbes ironically forgets Economics 101

A few times I’ve had friends link me to interesting articles from Forbes. The topic looks good, I’m excited, and click in and I get this:

Forbes ad blocker request

 

What Forbes are really saying is this: “Sorry Steve, even though you have an ad blocker, and you’ve taken definitive action to not see advertising, we want you to turn off your ad blocker, so we can trick our advertisers that your eyeballs are worth paying for.”

And here is what happened. I clicked out and read something else. I’ll never read a Forbes article online again. I’m not sure if it’s a shame or a sham? Why would any media organisation try and trick it’s advertisers into believing they are getting more value than they really are. If I did do what Forbes suggested, then I’d be getting the advertisements, but ignoring them. Certainly a worse outcome for the advertiser, they’d be paying for attention they’re not getting. It seems most people agree.

Forbes ad block comments

What Forbes and anyone else putting up barriers seem to forget is the first lesson in economics – demand and supply. And content is supply rich for readers. If you lock us out, we’ll get it elsewhere. If anyone in the content game wants their audience to jump over walls they better ensure what they’re offering is not on this side of the barrier as well.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why Twitter will die if we keep saying it

No engagement on Twitter

I’ve been thinking a lot about twitter lately based on the many articles written forecasting its demise. I really hope they’re wrong, but I think they might be right. The main reason I think it will die, is because so many people are saying it. The same people who espoused it’s virtues when it arrived in 2007, are now nostalgic about a time when twitter really, really mattered. The problem with this sentiment, is that it will probably come true even if it isn’t. It’s a bit like a run on the banks. Here’s a short Sammartino definition:

A bank run happens hen a large number of a bank’s customers withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. As more people withdraw their funds, the probability of default increases, thereby prompting more people to withdraw their deposits. The end result is the bank’s reserves may not be sufficient to cover the withdrawals.  A bank run is typically the result of panic, rather than a true insolvency on the part of the bank; however, what began as panic or opinion can turn into a true situation.

If enough people think there is no engagement on twitter, then more and more people will stop making ‘engagement deposits’ on twitter. Those who are there will get less engagement as a result. Then they’ll leave, which makes it less useful for others and before we know it we have another MySpace on our hands. It’s classic behavioural economics.

For me twitter has been valuable the past 8 years or so – I joined in Jan 2008. While it sounds kinda weird, I met a lot of my current friends through twitter, I built my personal brand there, and it became a tool for discovery and learning. It really helped me find people who cared about what I care about. It was an incredible tool, and my favourite brand for many years.

But if I were to think of one reason why I believe twitter started to stumble it would be this:

Delayed Tweets. Yes buffer, I blame you and cohort.

It’s a bit like this. All of us were at this really great party. Some of your friends were there. You met some new and interesting people. Everyone was really interested in what you were doing, and you interested in what they were doing. We helped each other, built a great eco system and it was all very give and take. But the party was so valuable and fun that no one really wanted to leave. People didn’t want to miss out on sharing a cool idea. So people started to talk more and listen less. After a while it became hard to hear and be heard. People even started sending messages when they were’t really in the room. It was like everyone put up a cardboard cut out of themselves, with interchangeable speech bubbles attached to them. The conversation turned into a noisy nightclub where no one could hear anyone speak. You’d try and have conversations with people who weren’t really there. It lost its authenticity. Slowly but surely, the value declined, and less people turned up.

Honestly, I don’t know if this is the cause, but it’s how it feels for me. If someone shared a blog post of mine it used to mean they really liked what I wrote. Now it probably means they have an IFTTT recipe set up. I’ll probably still hangout at twitter for a while yet, I might be one of the last to leave. But if there is any lessons for business people it’s this:  Twitter is classic reminder that we can never be sure of a channels long term survival. We should all be trying to build things we own and control so we have independence. We need to be our own media channel and have a place to talk to people who want to hear from us. It’s probably a portable email list. If people don’t have a reason to follow us on our own channel, then maybe our we need to create something more compelling.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Australia's top rated TV show – Do you know it?

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 1.40.31 pm

This is Troye. He is the host of Australia’s top rated TV show. He gets more than a million viewers every week. He has been around for a few years now and yet I never see him featured in the Nielsen ratings. I find it curious.

Sure Troye isn’t on channel 7, 9, 10, ABC, SBS or even on Foxtel. He’s on Youtube. But tell his 4.3 million subscribers that he isn’t on TV and you’ll get a dumbfounded look. They might even tell you they already watch it in their lounge room, stream it from their phone to the family flat screen, watch it on their laptop or on any audio visual enabled device. And that’s exactly the point, what is TV? A screen in a lounge room, or something which serves up audio visual content?

The easiest way for any company to get disrupted is to define the market by traditional infrastructure instead of how needs get met.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.