The Problem With Facebook

Brian Wieser from Pivotal Research is a wise man. He is also a bit of a contrarian at times.

For instance, he predicts that Facebook and Google continue to be on course for complete digital advertising domination (he says the two will make up over 90% of all digital ad dollars by 2022).

At the same time, though, he has a “sell” recommendation for Facebook, based on his conclusion that Facebook has stopped growing its “time spent” audience for two consecutive months, on top of tightening government regulations in the EU and having to compete for more expensive ad dollars, namely those that are currently allocated to TV.

On top of that are increasing operating costs and diminished revenue as a result of digital “badvertising” (fraud and middle men), along with the pressure to address issues like like social media addiction, and mental health problems attributed to social media.

For example, Apple was challenged this week by one of its institutional investors to deliver better controls to its products’ addictive properties to children. No company is safe from a slowly growing awareness and, perhaps, backlash against the digital dominance of our time.



In response, Mark Zuckerberg has shared his 2018 New Year’s resolution: to start fixing the host of problems Facebook was challenged with in 2017, from bullying and misinforming to political ads and more. And while these are necessary things to do, they are also, as has been pointed out, his responsibilities as CEO of his company, and should not be just New Year’s resolutions.

The problem is that Facebook, at some point early in its commercial existence, thought it was  a community platform of do-gooders. I recall seeing a Facebook pitch years ago that invited advertisers onto the platform because it was a platform where, if you needed a kidney transplant, you were going to find a donor. So if you were a brand looking for loyal brand fans (brand donors?), Facebook was the place to be.

But a company that makes over $17 billion just in the first half of 2017 alone, driven by solid growth in advertising and mobile ad revenues, is of course not a loving company for A community of do-gooders, but a phenomenally organized commercial black hole designed to suck in ever more ad revenue.

A company of the size and dominance of Facebook (or Google!) should take on the responsibilities that come with such a position. If they believe they are a community platform, then put in place the protections any community deserves.

And so now, via the New York Times,  Zuckerberg announced major changes coming to your Facebook newsfeed: “[Facebook] would prioritize what their friends and family share… while de-emphasizing content from publishers and brands.”

For advertisers, I think that 2018 should be the time to complete Operation Digital Clean-Up. 2017 was the year that advertisers started to take back control by moving ad dollars away from fraudulent or murky programmatic platforms, and enforcing better content protections from YouTube and Facebook.

So let this be the year that advertisers demand proof that the billions of ad dollars actually move business, and demand that the environment —  pardon me, the community — is a healthy, happy place for consumers and, consequently, for ad dollars. I believe that makes it your move, Mr. Pritchard!

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