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Future of Media: Time to talk Facebook, GBBO and Fortnite's smart OOH


By John McCarthy | Media editor

September 23, 2021 | 11 min read

Welcome to your weekly Future of Media briefing from media editor John McCarthy. You can get a more comprehensive version sent to your inbox here - if you'd prefer.

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We need to talk about Facebook

Five articles from the Wall Street Journal dropped big Facebook revelations this week, some you'd assume were true, some were new.

These covered: whether there was a secret elite getting around policy rules; unreleased research that detailed how Instagram was ‘toxic’ for many teens; news that its 2018 algorithm redesign made the site angrier; that its content moderation (although vast) had gaping holes; and how it has made efforts to combat anti-vax struggled against the misinformation machine. (All here). Then the announced departure of CTO Mike Schroepfer marked a busy week.

Responding to the sorry affair in its ‘newsroom’, vice-president of global affair Nick Clegg wrote ’What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong’ in response to the teen research story.

“These stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees,” said Clegg, who knows a thing or two about egregiously false claims after U-turning on his Liberal Democrat tuition fees pledge.

He then failed to really detail ’What the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong’.

In journalism, corrections are often issued over email – it’s usually a few short bullet points. The journalist can dispute the correction or amend the piece. Some corporate PRs opt to threaten and coerce a softer angle. A report from Mother Jones accused Amazon of doing just that earlier this year. There’s friction here, but there’s a process that requires the complainant to faithfully engage with the article and detail the shortcomings.

Instead, Clegg attempted to discredit what turned out to be one of the biggest investigations undertaken by one of the world’s leading publications, without substantiating his claims. No doubt Facebook felt under siege. But it doesn’t get to be outraged if you’re being bombarded by truth bombs.

The worst is yet to come. Founder Mark Zuckerberg was active on his social network, seemingly upset that the Times didn’t know what a hydrofoil board was. This is a mistake he appears to have wrongly labeled as “defamation”.

Come on, surfer dude, Facebook’s scale is unsurpassed in the history of humankind – approaching 2.89 billion monthly active users. Can we take all of this a little bit more seriously, please?

During this, Graham Mudd, vice-president of product marketing at Facebook, slipped out a technical post in the newsroom foreshadowing a “change” in advertiser performance and measurement. God only knows Facebook’s been promising more transparency since 2016 because demonstrating advertising effectiveness is vital to its existence. But this time, a welcome change. It appears to be underreporting, which is unlikely to spark another boycotts from hundreds of top brands.

They don’t last and they don’t really impact the bottom line. The top 100 advertisers make up less than 20% of Facebook’s ad revenue. There are more than 9m advertisers on the system. Many of these SMEs find that it works well for them. And top brands usually/often seem to think so too (although there are dissenters).

With regulation, social competition, user and advertiser fatigue, and, most importantly, a tech war to consider, Facebook’s going to have to get better at sorting its shit out and handling its comms.

Mudd’s blog said Facebook is under-reporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%. Advertisers will have seen a downturn in performance that was merely a huge swatch of Apple users being missed (because of its new privacy framework). Apple users now have to opt-in to allow advertisers to track them. You wouldn’t expect many to grant Facebook – whose egregious use of tracking has well documented – this access.

I’m going to leave you with a Gizmodo piece that details how any coming ad boycott of Facebook is “doomed”. Users and advertisers alike seem to be stuck with Facebook and its many apps. We love them and wish they loved us back.

If you’re a media buyer or advertiser with a budget going into Facebook, I welcome your thoughts on the above issues – either on record or anonymously. My contact details are at the foot of this article.

More top reads

I’ve run out of space to talk you through more of our top stories this week. It’s Facebook’s fault. I’m sorry. Anyway, without further ado...

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