mfioretti: facebook* + online advertising*

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  1. None of this will be legal under the #GDPR. (See one reason why at Publishers and brands need to take care to stop using personal data in the RTB system. Data connections to sites (and apps) have to be carefully controlled by publishers.

    So far, #adtech’s trade body has been content to cover over this wholesale personal data leakage with meaningless gestures that purport to address the #GDPR (see my note on @IABEurope current actions here: It is time for a more practical position.

    And advertisers, who pay for all of this, must start to demand that safe, non-personal data take over in online RTB targeting. RTB works without personal data. Brands need to demand this to protect themselves – and all Internet users too. @dwheld @stephan_lo @BobLiodice

    Websites need to control
    1. which data they release in to the RTB system
    2. whether ads render directly in visitors’ browsers (where DSPs JavaScript can drop trackers)
    3. what 3rd parties get to be on their page
    @jason_kint @epc_angela @vincentpeyregne @earljwilkinson 11/12

    Lets work together to fix this. 12/12

    Those last three recommendations are all good, but they also assume that websites, advertisers and their third party agents are the ones with the power to do something. Not readers.

    But there’s lots readers will be able to do. More about that shortly. Meanwhile, publishers can get right with readers by dropping #adtech and go back to publishing the kind of high-value brand advertising they’ve run since forever in the physical world.

    That advertising, as Bob Hoffman (@adcontrarian) and Don Marti (@dmarti) have been making clear for years, is actually worth a helluva lot more than adtech, because it delivers clear creative and economic signals and comes with no cognitive overhead (for example, wondering where the hell an ad comes from and what it’s doing right now).

    As I explain here, “Real advertising wants to be in a publication because it values the publication’s journalism and readership” while “adtech wants to push ads at readers anywhere it can find them.”

    Going back to real advertising is the easiest fix in the world, but so far it’s nearly unthinkable because we’ve been defaulted for more than twenty years to an asymmetric power relationship between people and publishers called client-server. I’ve been told that client-server was chosen as the name for this relationship because “slave-master” didn’t sound so good; but I think the best way to visualize it is calf-cow:

    As I put it at that link (way back in 2012), Client-server, by design, subordinates visitors to websites. It does this by putting nearly all responsibility on the server side, so visitors are just users or consumers, rather than participants with equal power and shared responsibility in a truly two-way relationship between equals.
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  2. Mark Zuckerberg also launched Facebook with a disdain for intrusive advertising, but it wasn’t long before the social network giant became Google’s biggest competitor for ad dollars. After going public with 845 million users in 2012, Facebook became a multibillion-dollar company and Zuckerberg one of the richest men on Earth, but with only a promise that the company would figure out how to monetize its platform.

    Facebook ultimately sold companies on its platform by promising “brand awareness” and the best possible data on what consumers actually liked. Brands could start their own Facebook pages, which people would actually “like” and interact with. This provided unparalleled information about what company each individual person wanted to interact with the most. By engaging with companies on Facebook, people gave corporate marketing departments more information than they could have ever dreamed of buying, but here it was offered up free.

    This was the “grand bargain,” as Columbia University law professor Tim Wu called it in his book, The Attention Merchants, that users struck with corporations. Wu wrote that Facebook’s “billions of users worldwide were simply handing over a treasure trove of detailed demographic data and exposing themselves to highly targeted advertising in return for what, exactly?”

    In other words: We will give you every detail of our lives and you will get rich by selling that information to advertisers.

    European regulators are now saying that bargain was a bad deal. The big question that remains is whether their counterparts in the U.S. will follow their lead.
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  3. Quando Facebook dichiara un miliardo di utenti, il mondo non sarà mai più come prima: ogni azienda deve esserci, attratta dall’idea di poter mandare messaggi gratis ai propri fan. Ben presto non più gratis, bensì pagando, per la gioia degli investitori.

    Il confine fra contenuti e pubblicità sembra ormai un ricordo del passato.
    Il futuro è la televisione

    Google e Facebook continuano la propria corsa, all’apparenza inarrestabili. Negli Stati Uniti, il duopolio porta a casa 3 dollari su 4 della “pubblicità” (si fa per dire: è direct marketing) su Internet, e addirittura il 99% dei nuovi investimenti sul web.

    Il problema è che questo filone aureo (si fa per dire) si è ormai esaurito.

    Google e Facebook hanno un rapporto price per earning che è il doppio di quello di altre aziende media americane, ma non hanno più praterie davanti a sé da conquistare e facili e prevedibili guadagni futuri che possano giustificare un elevato rapporto P/E.

    Per difendere il proprio titolo in Borsa, devono attaccare la pubblicità di tipo brand.
    E la pubblicità di tipo brand non va sui banner, non va sui social e non va sui video delle Mentos, bensì in televisione, su programmi come serie TV, film e sport.

    Google o Facebook dovranno reinventarsi come produttori di contenuti di qualità, come ha già iniziato a fare Netflix. Ma che vantaggio competitivo possono vantare Google o Facebook su Disney (ABC), Comcast (NBC), Viacom (CBS) o Time Warner (HBO)?
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  4. For years publishers have held onto the hope that all their investments in Facebook will, at some point, pay dividends when it comes to revenue. But a new report from WAN-IFRA suggests that, for most publishers, that’s still far from the case — and they’re not happy about it.

    Surveying nearly 50 WAN-IFRA members, University of Oxford researcher (and 2016 Nieman Fellow) Grzegorz Piechota found that Facebook was responsible for an average of seven percent of digital revenue, with a median of just three percent, across all of its revenue programs. A quarter of publishers said they received no direct revenue from Facebook at all.

    In Piechota’s estimate, this puts Facebook lower than Google, YouTube, and Spotify in terms of how much revenue is shared back with publishers, though the lack of complete data makes it difficult to draw direct comparisons. Piechota concludes that, overall, “revenue shared by the leading platforms is too low to fully fund editorial operations,” even for the largest organizations.
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  5. Pressed by investigators in Congress, Facebook said Wednesday that it has found evidence that a pro-Kremlin Russian “troll farm” bought $100,000 worth of ads targeted at U.S. voters between 2015 and 2017. The finding was first reported by the Washington Post, and Facebook published its own statement Wednesday afternoon.

    A few of the roughly 3,000 ads that Facebook traced to the Russian company mentioned presidential candidates Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton directly, according to the Post’s sources. The majority focused on stoking people’s emotions around divisive issues such as “gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination.”

    Facebook wouldn’t disclose the ads in question, nor exactly how the scheme worked.
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  6. Gli editori si sono resi conto, dopo un periodo esaustivo di sperimentazione e verifica, che il gioco non valeva la candela. Con Instant Articles si lasciano nelle mani di Facebook non solo importanti ricavi pubblicitari ma anche “doti” di valore come i dati e metadati degli utenti che oggi sono l’unica moneta di scambio per il mercato dell’informazione. Certo la migliore esperienza di un caricamento rapido delle pagine aveva una sua logica per fornire un servizio più efficace ma, probabilmente, anche il progressivo miglioramento della qualità e velocità delle connessioni hanno posto la questione in secondo piano.

    La pubblicità è ancora la maggiore fonte di entrata per l’informazione online, ma le grandi testate internazionali stanno svoltando, in maniera decisa, verso entrate più sicure e meno dipendenti da fattori terzi, come l’instabilità ed il monopolio del mercato pubblicitario online.

    Gli abbonamenti in primis ma anche il modello delle memberships, adottato tra i primi proprio dal “The Guardian”, sono gli obiettivi a cui puntare e, per fare questo, è necessaria, come afferma la testata britannica, “la costruzione di rapporti più profondi con i lettori”.

    Ma la distribuzione resta nei social

    Restano comunque le piattaforme social, Facebook in primis, il luogo dove le persone leggono le notizie, e quindi invariato il rapporto di dipendenza delle testate da queste.

    La notizia è solo una parte di un processo molto più ampio e coinvolgente che è la conversazione e l’interazione sociale e, al di là delle distorsioni cognitive, filter bubble, confirmation bias e algoritmi selezionatori, è oggi forse più importante della notizia stessa il parlarne, lo scambio dei punti di vista, il confronto e la socializzazione che ne deriva.
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  7. I have no illusions about what Facebook has figured out about me from my activity, pictures, likes, and posts. Friends have speculated about how algorithms might effectively predict hook-ups or dating patterns based on bursts of "Facebook stalking" activity (you know you are guilty of clicking through hundreds of tagged pictures of your latest crush). David Kilpatrick uncovered that Facebook "could determine with about 33 percent accuracy who a user was going to be in a relationship with a week from now." And based on extensive networks of gay friends, MIT's Gaydar claims to be able to out those who refrain from listing their sexual orientation on the network. When I first turned on Timeline, I discovered Facebook had correctly singled out that becoming friends with Nick was a significant event of 2007 (that's when we met and first started dating, and appropriately enough, part of why he joined Facebook).

    Since our engagement, there have been enough mentions of "engagement" and "wedding" in mine and my friends' comments littered throughout my profile to suggest to Facebook's keyword crawlers to deduce that we've got something big planned. The fact that he's tagged in my cover photo, we have numerous albums taken in remote locations where we're the only two people tagged, and that we both currently live in Chongqing, China, all should make it obvious to Facebook's relationship-weighing algorithms that we're pretty important to each other.

    friends 2007.png

    So shouldn't it also be obvious to Facebook that I "know him well" and he's "one of my best friends?" We wouldn't be tagged in so many pictures together (70) if it weren't true. And could there be any chance at all that "I don't know him" given these data points? Though Facebook isn't outright asking me if we're in a relationship, it sure sounds like that's what they are getting at. Moreover, why hasn't Facebook asked me the same question about someone like Jen Hudon? I share more mutual friends (121) and am tagged in almost as many photos (67) with Jen as I am with Nick, and her wall posts feature prominently in my Timeline. (Facebook might interpret these data points and suggest I choose her as one of my bridesmaids, which I have done). No, Facebook has us figured out: we went to High School together and she's "one of my best friends."

    Watson Hudon.png

    So why does Facebook care to know more about the nature of my relationship to Nick? The short answer is that Facebook wants to know as much as it can about my relationships, even though Facebook's current policy is not use information from user questions like this one for advertising.

    My response to the relationship question would act as an important input into the algorithms deciding what shows up in my feed. If I said Nick is "one of my best friends," Facebook might weight his posts more heavily than they already do. For example, my feed has recently been inundated with more posts about my cousins' wife's pregnancy now that I've confirmed him as a family member (though I hide it on my profile for security reasons).

    But what happens if I don't want these relationships to alter my feed? This is a "Filter Bubble" problem, where Facebook's personalization algorithm is opaque to us as users. I don't know what I'm missing, but I can tell that I'm seeing more of certain people as a result of declaring a certain kind of relationship to them. But there's no master switch board for us to tweak the dials on our social filters; if I'm seeing too many of a certain friend's posts, I have only the binary choice of turning them on or off, and I have to alter that detail on a person by person basis. Any other input into the algorithm requires a fair amount of proactive and clever gaming of the system (like declining family member requests to avoid filtration). And who wants to explain to Aunt Joan that's why you can't confirm she's your aunt?

    And if I did change my relationship status to engaged -- not just answer the question Facebook posed to me -- the company could then target ads based on that information. We've seen how pregnancies are a pivotal marketing opportunity for companies like Target. Marriage is another big life event where habits, loyalties, and purchasing behaviors change. And then there's the brief but highly lucrative wedding planning and purchasing period itself; it's a critical and fleeting moment that marketers are eager to pin down. It comes as no surprise that Facebook and its advertisers would want to know what stage of life I'm in right at this moment. They want to know if they could be making more money showing me engagement ring, registry, or mortgage advertisements. For the most part, that targeting is harmless, but it's gold to Facebook and advertisers to know that I've shifted demographic categories. I imagine that my literal value in terms of price per click might even go up as I enter into the "engaged" category.


    And even though the pairing of the carefully phrased question and advertising were coincidental, it's as if Facebook is saying, "I know you guys have been together for a while now, shouldn't you be thinking about getting engaged soon?" Hint hint, nudge nudge. And then it comes off as a sassy girlfriend shouting over martinis, "Girl, when's he gonna put a ring on it?" So Facebook isn't outright asking me if I'm engaged. But I find myself reading for subtext as I would an aunt's pointed but tactfully indirect question.
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  8. While Bethany Howell napped on the couch last week, her daughter Ashlynd, 6 years old, used her mother’s thumb to unlock her phone and open the Amazon app. “$250 later, she has shopped for all her Christmas presents on Amazon,” said Ms. Howell, of Little Rock, Ark.

    After Ashlynd’s parents received 13 order confirmations for Pokémon items, they initially thought they’d been hacked, then they figured Ashlynd had bought them unintentionally. “No, Mommy, I was shopping,” Ms. Howell said her daughter told her. “But don’t worry—everything that I ordered is coming straight to the house.” Ms. Howell added: ”She is really proud of herself."

    The Howells could return only four of the items. So Ms. Howell came up with a solution and told Ashlynd, “Well, Santa found out and that is what Santa is going to bring you for Christmas.”

    Zeke Tischler, a 30-year-old social-media professional from Northridge, Calif., had the same sort of gift problem outside of the Christmas season. Ads for engagement rings began popping up in his Facebook news feed after he searched for rings online last year.

    One evening, as his girlfriend was looking over his shoulder, an ad for opal engagement rings—her favorite gemstone—popped up on his Facebook news feed. Mr. Tischler said he tried to pass it off as a glitch.

    Several weeks later, however, when he got down on one knee and presented the opal engagement ring, his girlfriend presented her own ring for him. Online ads ”ruined one of the largest surprises in my life,” Mr. Tischler said. His fiancée, he added, “thinks it’s pretty hilarious.”
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  9. In addition to losing control, advertising itself has also been transformed by the rise of new technologies, the most important of which is what’s called “programmatic” advertising. In a nutshell, this is ad delivery driven entirely by algorithms. Software looks at what users have seen or clicked on, chooses ads from various networks and automatically places them. Virtually no humans are involved—just data.

    From a publisher’s point of view, this creates a number of problems. One is that because of the massive explosion of supply—an almost unlimited number of webpages, as opposed to a strictly controlled number of newspaper and magazine pages—and the use of software instead of expensive human beings, digital advertising generates orders of magnitude less revenue than it used to (there’s also a huge problem with ad fraud).

    This has also proven to be a disaster for readers and web users. The combination of publishers’ desperation to generate more revenue and the rise of programmatic and other tools has created a kind of perfect storm. The result is a web filled with useless and annoying banner ads, popups, pop-unders, page takeovers, un-killable auto-play videos and other monstrosities—including the use of literally hundreds of tracking agents, cookies, super-cookies and other invasive tools.

    The bottom line is that the hellish landscape that is web and mobile advertising has done nothing to improve the financial health of publishers and content creators, and at the same time has given even more power to platforms and middlemen like Apple and Facebook. A big part of the reason why Facebook’s “Instant Articles” pitch is so appealing to media companies is that their own mobile app and mobile browsing experience is not only terrible for users but also financially irrelevant.
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  10. The natural order of the universe was disrupted yesterday when BuzzFeed, NBC News, the New York Times and a number of other prominent media companies shockingly ceded to Facebook the marketing and monetization of portions of their valuable content.

    The move, which represents a further step in the transfer of power from the media tribe to the technology tribe, means that some of the biggest names in media have conceded that they are neither large enough nor strong enough to thrive as independent digital publishers without the help of at least one of their fearsome frenemies in Silicon Valley.

    In addition to Facebook, the other frenemy, of course, is Google. Although the media companies like to think that the quality of their work speaks for itself, Facebook and Google referrals steer the preponderance of the traffic to almost every news site.

    The Facebook deal institutionalizes as never before this long-running dependency.

    Difficult as the decision may have been, it was inevitable, given the several critical capabilities that Facebook has developed. These are its not-so-secret superpowers:

    Superior mobile prowess. In addition to the sheer size of its audience, Facebook has mastered the art and science of mobile publishing better than almost anyone. In the first quarter of this year, the company reported, 65% of its traffic and 73% of its ad revenues came from such highly optimized mobile sites as its Paper app.

    Superior audience engagement. Based on the amount of time people spend on Facebook, it is fair to say its users are considerably more passionate about the service than the visitors to a typical news site. According to Alexa.Com, the average user spends 18.4 minutes per day on Facebook, as compared with 9.5 minutes at the New York Times, 6.4 minutes at NBC News and 5.4 minutes at BuzzFeed.

    Superior customer data. Because enthusiastic users frequently and liberally update the site with a plethora of personal data, Facebook knows more intimate and accurate details about more people than any company in the world. The information is updated dynamically in real time, as people report everything from their favorite new song to the jeans they want to buy to the fact they will have a baby in six months.

    Superior ad intelligence. Facebook enables advertisers to target messages with heretofore unprecedented precision, thanks not only to the rich information supplied by users but also by analyzing information captured from the friends in their networks.
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