During the last few months, two large Norwegian news organizations (Adresseavisen and TV2) have published articles where they explain how to get rid of ads on Facebook. From a consumer stand point this makes sense, but in a time when newspapers are struggling to find profitable revenue models online, should they be sabotaging the revenue model of a competitor?
And if removing unwanted ads is considered newsworthy for the readers, shouldn´t the news organizations also publish articles on how to get rid of ads on their own websites? Or should Facebook be treated differently?
Facebook: Ultra Local newspaper or direct mail?
Per Ravne Bugten the Consumer Ombudsman apparently believes that Facebook should be treated differently. He believes that Facebook should be covered by the same rules that apply to e-mail marketing and text messaging. The quote in the article indicates to me that he does not understand the underlying nature of the Internet. By definition everything that happens on the internet is direct marketing (if you define that all the information from commercial interests as advertising).
Facebook is a combination of ultra-local newspaper and a personal messaging system. It is completely voluntary to use Facebook and users accept the terms and conditions when they register. If Facebook is to be covered by the same regulations as e-mail marketing and text messages, it is quite natural that newspapers (Aftenposten, VG, TV2 and other advertising-funded agencies) are also covered by this legislation.
Individuals, media and advertisers must cooperate relevance.
The well-know Norwegian entrepreneur, Idar Vollvik and Netthandelen.no, a large Norwegian e-commerce company buy ads on Facebook in a similar fashion as they and others are buying ads on TV2 and VG. The difference is that Facebook requires that companies be more personal in their communication. In addition Facebook has obtained a massive amount of voluntary data from their “readers”. This allows for extremely targeted advertising far beyond what the newspapers will ever be able to.
The challenge for Facebook is that people have an expectation that Facebook should be personal and without advertising. This will change over time as people get used to advertising on Facebook and Facebook fine tune the way ads appear on. If you do not want advertising on Facebook, you can simply opt out or decline to login. It is not solely the advertisers responsibility to protect people from advertising! The advertiser, consumer and media must take responsibility for how advertising is presented.
Is all advertising bad?
The most critical people would argue that ALL advertising is undesirable and that companies should stop advertsing.
Thankfully most people have a more nuanced view on advertising. When you ask people: “If we stop advertising, how will you learn about new products and services?”. The answer is as often. “I will search for it online .. “Or” I hear about stuff from friends .. “. Google takes care of the first (search), while Facebook has made it easier to get news / tips / suggestions from friends and acquaintances.
In reality, Facebook is an improved newspaper where your friends are the news and your friends produce news for you. It is also a place where you can more easily get to know about products and services from commercial operators. It’s annoying that commercial messages are popping up increasingly mroe in the news stream. It’s also a bit scary that this news platform (and data) is controlled by a major U.S. company. These are the issues we need to continue to focus on! Let’s do it in a constructive way.