Mark Higginson

The web is a social artifact.
Here is a collection of related items selected by me.

The problem with sponsored content

This is rather bad for The Atlantic. It appears as though a piece of ‘sponsored content’, styled to look like an Atlantic article, in praise of Scientology appeared on the site and was then hastily taken down after protests from readers.

Boing Boing have satirised the incident at the above link and linked to a cached copy of the original piece: Dread Cthulhu Leads His Cult to Milestone Year

What is most worrying is that no unfavourable comments appeared with the article, the implication being the sponsor of this post was able to moderate what appeared and what did not.

On another post on the site, recommending a book about Scientology, one of the reader comments sums up the problem with this behaviour:

And so the ‘trust’ - or at least the acceptance of the implicit inherent journalistic bias that the reader is aware of and understands is destroyed. Everything becomes suspect.

Live by advertising. Die by advertising.

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“What are some attributes of these networks that will help us make predictions? Is it number of followers? Is it engagement of followers? Is it what time you tweet? Is it who else is tweeting at the same time?”

Another look at how news spreads on Twitter. What I question about these studies that claim to help understand when to post is that nowhere does it mention the effect of the content of the post on its propensity to ‘travel’. 

That is surely the ineffable question to which everything else is peripheral. But then that is not something that can be predicted by an algorithm.

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“The early but faulty insight was that the internet was an extension of the world of publishing.”

Fantastic article about the creation of the BBC’s News Online website.

The next time I hear someone use the words ‘content’ and ‘strategy’ in a sentence I’m going to point them to this.

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“How, if at all, has the rise of social media changed what you’re doing?”

"Not that much, really. It’s changed a few of details, but I really don’t think that it’s all that revolutionary. It’s another tool, but people have done really cool, fun projects in all kinds of ways. Before social media, there were pamphlets. In between pamphlets and social media, there were emails. (Twitter) is just short emails that reach a lot of people, instead of only the people they are addressed to. We’ve used it."

Quoted from an interview with The Yes Men.

I liked this response. Notably free from the usual hyperbole about ‘social media’.

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“… individuals from all walks of life; and businesses, both large and small, began to detect—for it was almost imperceptible at first—that the volume was getting turned down on their Facebook reach.”

This is a big deal. The problem is not only that you can only reach a small percentage of your follower-base but that you will only reach people who are already pre-disposed to interact with you. The people who have shown prior interest but who have only been listening up until now won’t see your posts. Unless you pay.

This is the inherent problem in a social network being a closed platform and not based on a protocol that anyone can write a client for, like email. In order to make money the next step is to turn the platform into a channel, where your users have to keep paying to maintain a connection with their audience.

However, in one survey less than 17% of people indicated any willingness to pay anything to extend their reach. This is a big problem for Facebook, especially when their other advertising is so ineffective.

People don’t just follow brands with deep pockets, they follow all sorts of Pages about all sorts of things. This reduction in reach makes Facebook a generally poorer place to find interesting content.

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Here’s another chart to go with my last post.
Searches for ‘world of warcraft’ are shown in red; searches for ‘second life’ are shown in blue.
There seems to be a collective amnesia about the over-hyped potential of marketing in Second Life from that time.
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Here’s another chart to go with my last post.

Searches for ‘world of warcraft’ are shown in red; searches for ‘second life’ are shown in blue.

There seems to be a collective amnesia about the over-hyped potential of marketing in Second Life from that time.

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Absolutely love these two posts:
The decline and fall of social networksSocial networks implode quickly 
Check out the charts. I know this is using search volumes as a proxy for ‘level of interest’ but fascinating to see how this is reaching a plateau for Facebook. What is interesting is how even large networks die out - the chart above shows searches for ‘myspace’ in red and ‘twitter’ in blue.
I’m going to keep checking back as the implication for Facebook’s future is clear. Will the effects of size ensure interest is maintained in a network as huge as Facebook’s? Or is collapse an inevitable part of how these networks function?
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Absolutely love these two posts:

The decline and fall of social networks
Social networks implode quickly 

Check out the charts. I know this is using search volumes as a proxy for ‘level of interest’ but fascinating to see how this is reaching a plateau for Facebook. What is interesting is how even large networks die out - the chart above shows searches for ‘myspace’ in red and ‘twitter’ in blue.

I’m going to keep checking back as the implication for Facebook’s future is clear. Will the effects of size ensure interest is maintained in a network as huge as Facebook’s? Or is collapse an inevitable part of how these networks function?

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“I believe that future social platforms will behave more like infrastructure, and less like media companies. I believe that a number of smaller, interoperable social platforms with a clear, sustainable business models will usurp you. These future companies will be valued at a small fraction of what Facebook and Twitter currently are. I think that is OK. Platforms are judged by the value generated by their ecosystem, not by the value the platforms directly capture.”

Great observation. Can anyone tell me what Facebook is raising money for from the perspective of innovating on behalf of its users? Same question to Twitter. Seeking profit for shareholders appears to degrade the user experience as platforms implement the same broken and easily ignored advertising models.

The ‘value’ of these platforms is entirely notional. Annoy enough people who have somewhere else to go and this value is completely destroyed.

“Facebook was charging us for clicks, yet we could only verify about 20% of them actually showing up on our site.”

The implication is that bots were responsible for the remaining four-fifths of clicks. According to ‘Limited Run’ they investigated and it transpired that these clicks were from a source that had javascript disabled. Very few people browse with javascript disabled. Something very strange has apparently been happening in this case.

Here is an article from Baekdal highlighting a similar point: Facebook Promoted Posts Another Test, Another Puzzle.