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Digital Trends

Tragedy of the Commons — Digital Edition In 1941, Orson Welles released what many people believe is the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane. The main character, incomparably rich newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane was believed to be based on real-life incomparably rich newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. How quaint, someone getting rich off of newspapers! Nowadays, news is subsumed under the general category of content and content is, increasingly, cheap or without value. The poor, bastard stepchildren of Charles Foster Kane attempt to juice their negligible earnings by hurling ever-more-intrusive digital advertising at their diminishing audiences. And these audiences respond by deploying ever-more-sophisticated ad blocking software to spare themselves the onslaught. Publishers, rightly view ad blocking as an extinction event for their dying industry and respond with ad blocking detection software which attempts to undermine the ad blockers. And downward, ever downward it spirals Application to Marketing: Digital advertising is killing itself. Every publisher has an incentive to add more advertising to their content, even though everyone knows that more advertising will lead to more ad blocking. This is known as a Tragedy of the Commons. (Wikipedia has a lovely explanation). You can’t really blame the publishers, who presumably have children to feed and employees to pay. But it does make clear that advertising-supported content is something we have collectively maintained for almost a hundred years. This is something that, as marketers, is fundamental to our livelihood. And we’re frittering it away one pop-up banner and autoplay video at a time. Next Steps: Ultimately, clients are going to have to be the ones who demand quality over quantity. It is their money that is being wasted by the current system of obnoxious and excessive advertisement. Read More The Canary in the Coalmine Anecdotally, I’ve been hearing for years about people disengaging from Facebook. Friends and colleagues would ruefully note that it had been months since they had checked their feed, which at one time they would have checked daily or hourly. But whenever I suspected this must be leading to an overall decline in Facebook usage, the company would come out with new statistics proving their vibrance and strength particularly with millennials. Oh well, I shrugged. Must be I’m just getting old. Then the news came out (article below) that publisher reach per post on Facebook was down 42% since January. The company that noted the change, SocialFlow, works with publishers to place their articles on Facebook. SocialFlow was quick to suggest that the decrease in reach was probably due to tweaks in Facebook’s algorithm. But one wonders. Application to Marketing: Mark Zuckerberg isn’t stupid. (Nor is he the spectrum-disorder misanthrope of “The Social Network.”) He bought Instagram for a reason. He could easily have just enhanced Facebook’s image sharing capabilities. He did, in fact, try that. So the one person we know for certain has unfettered access to Facebook’s actual usage statistics thought he should buy another, younger, cooler social network. Perhaps that’s just a coincidence. Next Steps: On paper, Facebook looks healthy. But I can’t help but wonder if social networks have an expiration date – less like cottage cheese and more like skinny jeans. Not this year, maybe not next year. But soon. Read More ANA is shocked (shocked!) I’m going to have to tell you something. It’s not going to be easy for you to hear. But it’s important that you know the truth. Apparently, some agencies have side deals with ad tech firms to make money off the technology they sell to their clients. The implication is that agencies occasionally recommend technology based on their own self-interest, rather than what is right for their clients. I know how devastating it is to learn that the paragons of virtue in advertising have betrayed their sacred trust in this way. Application to Marketing: If you are a client, caveat emptor. Ask your agency to specifically disclose the nature of their agreements with all their sub-vendors. If they aren’t willing to do so, it means that something is rotten in Denmark. If you are an agency, hey, I get it. Clients are squeezing margins to death and demanding more service than ever. Consider disclosing the nature of your relationship with your sub-vendors. Clients are adults. They know the deal. If you’re an ad tech firm, sorry if this is all shocking, but that’s the nature of middlemen. They take a cut. Next Steps: Carry on as you were. There’s still some money to be made in the traditional advertising business model. Might as well ride it out. Read More Great on SEO, Terrible on AI I don’t know where to begin about the article below: “Artificial intelligence is changing SEO faster than you think” by John Rampton of TechCrunch. The article begins with an explanation of why artificial intelligence will soon exceed human intelligence. While this is a possibility, the reasons given in this article are (to put it kindly) nonsense. The reasoning is so flawed, I am shocked an editor didn’t tell the author to strike the first few sections and publish his otherwise cogent observations about the changing nature of SEO without the speculative preamble. It is a pity no one stopped him. It’s like Darwin beginning his Origin of Species with twenty pages of Twilight fan fiction. Application to Marketing: So let’s skip to the valuable parts of the article. Beginning with the subhead “SEO has changed forever,” the article proceeds to unpack how Google uses multiple algorithms and a form of AI to evaluate the value and the ranking of sites. There is so much disinformation about SEO around today. This article (after the initial sections) is a rare bit of clarity. As far as his observations about artificial intelligence, well, they reflect a depressingly reductive definition of intelligence that has become all too common in tech circles. Next steps: Read the article. Mr. Rampton is really, really intelligent about SEO. Read More

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