Zuck drives final nail into Organic Reach’s coffin

Credit: Giphy

In a New York Times interview and companion blog post, Facebook announced that they’re introducing massive changes to the News Feed. Content shared by friends and family, and posts with high engagement, will now be prioritized overpublic content from brands and publishers.Per Facebook, publishers and advertisers (or really anyone with a Facebook page) can expect their "reach, video watch time and referral traffic [to] decrease.” — This is going to be transformative for the content ecosystem.

Pitting “Audiences vs. Traffic”

This move accomplishes three goals for Facebook:

  1. Finalizes Facebook’s multi-year process of pushing marketers towards spending on Facebook Ads
  2. Forces brands and publishers to optimize for on-platform engagement and audience building — which could help keep consumers on the platform while lowering the level of click-bait
  3. Starts to rehab Facebook’s current image as the primary driver of “Fake News” to get ahead of potential regulatory action

As far as the impact for content creators goes — as Casey Newton of The Verge wrote on Twitter — So many publishers think they have audiences, when what they really have is traffic. I think we’re about to find out who has an audience.”

Since most brands already derive the majority of their Facebook traffic from paid at this point, they shouldn’t see significant impacts on their business — and in fact could see some reduced upward pressure on CPMs as more inventory opens up. Brands who have managed to hold on to a large pool of consumers who “liked” their page or joined a public group can consider that investment mostly worthless.

For publishers, how bad the news is depends on their revenue model. Organic is still a major traffic driver for editorial operations — and traditional ad-supported models will suffer.

Branded content operations however — particularly those of video-centric, new media publishers — are largely powered by paid Facebook traffic already, so that side of the house shouldn’t really see much change.

What does it mean for content marketers?

  • As Sara Fischer at Axios said"It puts tremendous pressure/focus on great storytelling. If you want the reach, you have to get readers to engage vs just click.
  • The flip side of this: Many will try to game the new system by re-emphasizing old-school virality tactics. Alex Kantrowitz at Buzzfeed described it in a nutshell: “Comments Are The New Shares”. Expect a rise in (even more) content designed to spark controversy and argument.
  • The “pivot to video” is likely over, or at least going to go through major changes. New York Times tech reporter Mike Isaac suggested on Twitter that he had “heard the word ‘video’ quite a few times as something on the death list.
  • ”Marketers' new mantra: Organic is dead, comments over clicks, audiences over traffic.

 Viacom adding influencers to its Branded Content offering

Credit: Giphy 

Viacom, home of TV channels like MTV and Comedy Central, acquired influencer marketing platform Whosay for an undisclosed amount. Best known for their seemingly ubiquitous watermark on the photos of your favorite celebrities and #influencers, Whosay has built one of the most powerful influencer marketing networks in the industry.

Why this, why now?

With the explosive growth of influencer marketing over the last few years, it is no surprise to see that more big media companies are adding influencer capabilities to their offerings. In just the last two years, The New York Times bought HelloSociety, Google bought FameBit, and Time Inc. launched an influencer network.

These days, everyone is a publisher. Top influencers can reach audiences larger than many publishers. Influencer marketing has been repeatedly proven as an effective and powerful marketing strategy, so it makes sense that media companies struggling to grow revenue are aiming to diversify their offerings. Expect this trend to continue in 2018.

More on what’s shaking up influencer marketing for advertisers:

 The Ad-blockalypse is coming

Credit: Marketing Land

The ad-blocking version of the Chrome browser is coming out next month. Everyone in digital media is freaking out — whether they admit it or not.

What is going to happen?

With the browser used by 60% of the internet now blocking crappy ads there are going to have some significant impacts short-term and long-term.

  • Users will be happy. Let’s be honest, most people don’t like intrusive ads and they’ll prefer their new web experience without them
  • Media spend won’t decrease, it will shift. Expect CPMs for premium inventory to shoot up (look for the major publishers to have strong earnings calls in Q2) and more spend to shift into other mediums (like search and video — hmmm...who benefits from that again???)
  • Publishers will look to adopt ways to avoid the headache of being flagged by Google, such as putting more emphasis on their AMP standard, pushing even harder for subscriptions, and expanding branded content volume
  • The gross underbelly of the web will take a hit. Low quality junk site networks built around maximizing low cost traffic and profiting via complicated ad systems will suffer when their ads aren’t run. This could create a downstream effect on the traffic sources that feed these sites (See: content syndication networks)

 Surprise: Low Value Traffic is bad for everyone

Credit: Equedia

According to  new research published by verification company GeoEdge, redirected links and click fraud cost publishers and advertisers $1.13 billion dollars a year. Everyone in the industry knows that fraud, click farms, and the like are a huge problem — but $1,130,000,000 is a lot of money and really puts into perspective how much is being lost just from a single attack vector.

Low Value Traffic is showing up in branded content too

You may have missed this over the holidays, but Buzzfeed dropped a bombshell report at the end of December describing how some digital publishers were exposed to invalid traffic sources on their branded content.

Every digital marketing format goes through the same lifecycle — and it looks like Branded Content is reaching the phase where there are enough dollars and volume for brand and publishers to start being concerned about the various types of low value traffic (especially of the fraudulent variety).

What’s next?

Expect advertisers to get serious about verification with their branded content. You’ll see it in RFPs, vendor selection, and in the choices of the partners they work with.

You can also expect vendors to get more sophisticated in the way they detect invalid traffic. Algorithms for detecting bots are fairly pervasive, but the arms race between sophisticated detection techniques and smarter click farms will accelerate.

Diving deeper on Low Value Traffic

Like so many other things on the internet, the origin of many of the latest invalid traffic schemes was in pornCryptocurrency news is entirely unavoidable. The latest? Fraudsters are using ad networks to hijack computers and use them to mine for currencyIn case you need it, here is a helpful primer on video ad fraud

 Other news you should know about

Curated and published by Adam Orshan, Alexis Krantz, and Matt Levin in New York City.

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