While Brexit has either been dragging along for years with nobody actually doing anything, or lots of people rushing around doing a lot of big, important things that nobody really gets to see/understand, one thing remains constant, and that is that I'm not writing as much as I'd like to. (That is, more than about a post a month.)
So; an overdue Unordered is here... but not before a little bit of self-promotion; I did a podcast recently for work, talking about 5G, and I think I managed to sound like I know what I'm talking about. (Given the number of reports I've read, conference talks I've attended and analysis I've done, I really should do...) You can listen to it here.
Facebook's updated ad policy
Facebook have updated their T&Cs for advertisers, and now expressly forbid advertising with "false or misleading content". Which sounds like a sensible move- except that a) its a narrowing down of what was previously considered "unacceptable", and b) it doesn't apply to political advertising.
I just don't even know where to start with this. Is this supposed to be an open invitation for regulation to do a job that Facebook don't want to do? Regulation around political advertising - in the UK, at least - tends to be media-specific, and for online its pretty much non-existent. Last year, the IPA called for a suspension of micro-targeted political advertising, making the point that politics (read: democracy) relies on an open, collective debate - adverts that only certain people can even see doesn't contribute to this, and is "vulnerable to abuse".
And, while we're in the middle of a big Brexit advertising campaign funded by the UK government and a prime minister using the Queens Speech to set out his election manifesto, "an increasing number of countries have experienced coordinated social-media manipulation campaigns. It’s now 70 in total, up from 48 in 2018 and 28 in 2017, according to a report by researchers at Oxford University."
Ben Thompson has a great post that puts Zuckerbergs' recent speech into some historical context - anything that talks about what is happening right now in the context of the impact that the printing press has had on society will always make my ears prick up.
On the topic of Facebook and politics - Rob Blackie has a Twitter summary of a presentation about Trump's 'winning' communication style and how it works that is well worth a read; https://twitter.com/robblackie_oo/status/1179378135365750789
The Only Grindr User in the village
Nice piece from the BBC on dating apps/websites and small communities; https://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/article/c3a7ba4e-b79d-4c2a-9fbf-fb3ddd54d972
But the thing that blew me away was this embedded tweet;
To me, that is a story about a seismic societal shift going on - people don't meet through friends, or family, or work, or any of that old-fashioned "social" stuff. They either meet on the internet, or "in a bar or restaurant".
One of the (many) reasons I've long been suspicious of Facebook is the idea that it sits inbetween you and your friends and chooses who gets to see what. But the idea that the bonds that form the foundation of families in the 2000s aren't built on a shared network of friends and family - ie. the kind of support network that you need in tough times - but chance (happen to be in the same bar at the same time) and algorithms is just mind-blowing to me. I mean, I've been very aware how lucky I am that I met my now-wife at University through mutual friends and never really had to do either the "dating thing" that we did before apps took over, or the "dating thing" that replaced all that with Tinder or Grindr or Bumble or OKCupid or whatever, but "met online" is now bigger than "met through friends" has been for the last century...
(And I don't even want to think about how many of those who "met in a bar or restaurant" consider the Tinder bit that preceded it irrelevant/embarassing...)
Netflix: Bring on BARB Measurement
A bit niche this one, but Netflix have indicated that they would welcome BARB measurement for their platform. Jon Manning (a colleagure who knows a lot more than me about TV advertising and measurement) wrote a piece for Campaign magazine (UK advertising industry trade press) about how it might signal agree with Jon on this one. It probably warrants a post on its own, but given my typical speed of publication (see: time between this post and the podcast that prompted it) I'm just going to say for now;
- Netflix need to justify their stock price above all else, and their stock price is currently predicated on a future entertainment monopoly. To do that, they need to demonstrate not just that continued growth is possible, but also profitable.
- That means that a business model that lets users stop subscribing but still able to see the flagship shows just won't work. If they were to go with a super-premium advertising product, they might be looking at something like a £50 CPM (cost per thousand advertising impressions delivered.) Think about how many adverts would need to be delivered to compensate for a lost subscriber at ~£10 a month (the lowest UK price is currently £5.99 a month, but you pay more if you want to cover a household where more than one person might be watching at once/HD etc., and I'm thinking about where they will be in a year or two- not where they are today.) The numbers just don't add up - it worked OK for Spotify, where "adverts that irritate people into subscribing" certainly helped their growth story. But it isn't going to work in a competitive environment.
- Part one of their story is done - they switched from "21st Century DVD rental company" to "online video platform", and it isn't hard to find numbers that show that they have a lot of subscribers.
- Part two of the story is different though. Its not about "Netflix vs TV" - its about "Netflix vs. Amazon, Disney, Apple, HBO, Britbox, a bunch of other SVOD providers vs. TV". They need to prove not just that they have a lot of customers, but that they are their customers favourite out of a bunch of subscription services.
- To do that, they need numbers that show not just how big their audience is, but how engaged they are. How they watch more of it than the others. How they check whats on Netflix before they check whats on TV.
- If you want to do that, you don't do it by drip-feeding your own numbers that happen to support your story. You do it by opening up to independant, trusted 3rd party measurement that is comparable with whatever you want to benchmark yourself against. Which, in this case, in the UK, means BARB.
Again - this is a topic that I think is well worth going into in more depth- TV measurement and Netflix are very interesting to me at the moment, especially with Disney+ and the Mandalorian on the horizon.
And speaking of Star Wars, I can't let this pass without mention;
Lots for the old-school fans in there- lightsabers, Tatooine, Endor, the Falcon, the blockade runner... and the closing Carrie Fisher shot.
(I still don't really know what the title is about, but then I'm staying a lot further away from spoilers and the Star Wars online communities than I did the last time around...)
Related: the story of the kid who Alec Guinness asked to not watch Star Wars again: https://www.buzzfeed.com/chowdad/alec-guinness-hated-star-wars-and-i-should-know-20egr
Fortnite's "The End"
I watched my son spend at least two weeks getting excited about the next Fortnite event, watched the event as he watched it (sidenote: watching a First-Person Shooter when you're not the First-Person is incredibly annoying) and listened to him chatting with his (online) friends (or should that be "friends online"?) was quite an interesting experience. Some thoughts;
- Even though it was a ten minute "event", they were still talking about 40 minutes or so into the post-event "black screen with a black hole in the middle", waiting for something to happen. I was simultaneously dismissive of them wasting their time in such a pointless way, while also being kind of jealous of the enthusiasm. Just imagining how I felt about something like a Star Wars trailer or a Grand Theft Auto launch, and how I would have felt about being able to experience it with my friends online (not just "online friends") - I would totally have spent an hour watching nothing happening in the hope that it would.
- Also - it did! There were some numbers, that led to a secret code, with a secret message... that reminded me of when Lost was cool and mysterious and exciting.
- I can't think of anything in terms of a "cultural event" like the Fortnite one from my lifetime that wasn't on TV.
- I still think that Save the World is way better than Battle Royale though.
I haven't given this Untitled a number, partly because I've kind of lost track and partly because I'm taking a leaf from both Fortnite and Dan Hon's books and preparing for a Season Two reboot. So watch this space for that...