October 12, 2010

Is Facebook Hurting Web Advertising?

I have another crazy theory.

I think Facebook is having a negative effect on the development of web advertising.

I think that most of us who do not have a vested interest in promoting web advertising believe that, with the exception of search, it has thus far been a disappointment. For obvious reasons, few of us are willing to stand up and say this out loud.

Nonetheless, I have very little doubt that someday the web will be a substantially more effective advertising medium than it is today. But that day may be farther away than we think.

My reason for believing this is found in my hypothesis that the enormous popularity of Facebook has been a setback for web advertising.

Here's the logic.

As I've mentioned previously in this blog, one of the problems the web has as an advertising medium is that it is too many different things. It is a medium of communication, a medium of information, and a medium of entertainment. This may be big fun for us web-addicted ADHD sufferers, but it is not good for advertising.

A medium of communication is generally not very effective for advertisers. Nobody wants to pick up a telephone and hear an ad instead of a dial tone. When we are in communication mode, we don't want to be slowed down.

A medium of information is also generally not very good for advertising. Nobody wants to open a dictionary and see an ad. Once again, when we are looking for information, we usually want it now.

As a rule, the best type of medium for advertising is a medium of entertainment. We are used to having our TV and radio programming interrupted by ads. It may be annoying, but we have come to accept it. (Believe it or not, there is even a pretty convincing study that indicates that advertising improves the enjoyment of TV watching.)

It is my hypothesis that until the web comes into its own as an entertainment medium, it will not fulfill its promise as a powerful advertising medium.

Over the past few years, the dominant emerging website is Facebook

Facebook is a vehicle for communication. It is like a "broadcast telephone." It broadcasts our thoughts to our "friends" and those of our "friends" to us.

I go to my Facebook page at least 2 or 3 times a day. I can't imagine a less impactful advertising medium. I can honestly say that I don't think I can remember seeing a single ad on my Facebook page in the last month. (As a matter of fact, I just went to my Facebook page to make sure that there actually are ads there.)

The problem is, the success of Facebook is making the web a far more compelling medium of communication than of entertainment. Other very popular emerging websites, like Twitter and foursquare, are also about communication.

Meanwhile, entertainment sites are popular but not dominating. Although 2 billion videos are viewed on YouTube daily, according to Nielsen video viewing on the web accounts for only 1% of total video viewing. Television still commands 99% of video viewing.

The more that the web is used as a medium of communication, and not entertainment, the longer it is going to take for it to reach its promise for advertisers.

That's my oddball theory, and I'm sticking to it.

Special Note...
To all you "advertising is dead/the consumer wants to have a conversation with us/the web changes everything" adherents, please don't feel compelled to leave a comment reminding me that I just don't get it. I know I don't get it. I haven't gotten it for years.

1 comment:

Terry said...

Another great post-I think your "oddball" theories are the safest bet for any small business owner.