The other day someone was lamenting to me that they felt “targeted” online. They felt someone was watching them and trying to figure out what to advertise to them. Well, duh! There is an entire army of dedicated technology and media folk trying to do exactly that, and it’s going to get worse, quickly.
The people at Facebook recently announced some interesting changes to their advertising policies. It used to be that if you were a brand you were limited in how many of your followers Facebook would let you reach out to. In effect, irrespective of how many likes a brand may have they were limited in how many they could reach with advertising messages to about 15%.
Facebook filters out most of the ads as not highly relevant. But in the new world, Facebook has declared ads to be “messages” rather than ads, and brands will be able to reach closer to 80% of their likes.
It appears that Facebook is moving from being averse to advertising to becoming more “message friendly.” Back in the old days when Yahoo was slathered in pop-ups and banners, a key reason for Google’s success was its lack of advertising. Today, premium cable and TV shows offered on iTunes thrive because they are ad free. I would much, much rather pay a buck an episode to watch “Walking Dead” commercial free than have the zombie mayhem constantly interrupted by car and beer commercials.
A key reason for the rapid growth of Facebook at the expense of MySpace (which was heavily monetized) was exactly because it was nearly commercial free. As Facebook moves toward its IPO it is clearly moving to embrace the evil advertising dollar, and it will be interesting to see how its users will tolerate being even more heavily targeted.