This has been a year of self-reflection for the media and advertising industries. And trust us, it was long overdue.
A list of fake news stories from Buzzfeed that went viral last year showed most of them were not only about politics, but revealed a deep media illiteracy that both fake news publishers and ad tech providers took advantage of.
BuzzFeed News used BuzzSumo to identify the top-performing Facebook content from 96 fake news websites, including the network of more than 40 sites exposed in a recent investigation. This list of English-language fake sites has been built up over the past two years of covering this topic, and was compared to this chart from the creators of Hoaxy to compile a more comprehensive list of pure fake news sites. Click here to view the top 50 hoaxes, and to see the list of fake news sites.
We won’t spend too much time on fake here other than to say advertisers have finally gotten hip to the fact that having their brand seen on some of these sites is counterproductive. Look for them to take some action this year, including more careful selection of vendors.
Fake news is the tip of an iceberg. Advertising thought it could just use the same metrics on digital that it used for years with TV and print, and that things would be just fine.
Not so. The historical metrics of advertising have been reach and frequency. Those were fine when CPMs were high enough to make sure both had natural limits. However, once advertising went digital, CPMs dropped, and amazing reach and frequency became possible. The number of global viewers of a digital video ad can be in the millions, or even the hundreds of millions. And because of relatively low prices for digital advertising, greater frequency became affordable.
All of this was exacerbated by Facebook, which purported to aggregate audiences and make better targeting possible. But look what has been the result: greater use of ad blockers by consumers bombarded by ads that may or may not be relevant to them, cost them money to view, and hog bandwidth resources, along with loss of power exerted by individual publishers with smaller, but more engaged audiences.
For the media industry to survive, it is going to have to re-think those metrics and be willing to pay for quality audiences, rather than just large audiences. Also, frequency caps are going to have to become more common.
Some publishers have already questions their deep involvement with Facebook, and what it will bring them in the future. And Facebook itself will begin to compete with publishers as it launches a monetization scheme for its live videos, which clearly mean a great deal to their product roadmap.
As usual, we continue to offer high quality publishers and outstanding customer service, breakthrough formats and technologies, and global ad serving and ad ops.
Happy New Year!
This year, resolve to go deep rather than broad, niche rather than general, and authentic rather than fake. You’ll win that way.