What's Next: Brief insights on the path ahead in digital communication.

New Political Ad Rules on Google, Facebook and Twitter: Well-Intended (And Flawed)

Greater transparency and disclosure in political advertising is democratic. It can improve online political discourse. Facebook, Google and Twitter have taken a step forward with new rules for verifying advertisers involved in federal campaigns, ensuring they’re US-based. So far, so good. Unfortunately, their hurried approach to rolling out these new procedures has been buggy.

Facebook was the first to launch, and their new disclosure practices are probably the least problem-prone, despite numerous errors in classifying non-political ads as political. Google’s time-to-verification has been sluggish and their support team wasn’t ready to handle the influx of confused customer support calls. Worse, Google is actually muddling political ad disclosure. They’re requiring all political ads to display the name of the Google account holder, not the actual entity paying for the ads. Hopefully they’ll soon realize that candidates and issue groups can hide behind an ad agency with this illogical approach to disclosure. Twitter’s process is the latest to launch, and could end up costing them money. They’re requiring each Twitter handle that will be used for political ads to be tied to a verified ad planner. This will lead to unprepared Twitter handles (many of which are created just-in-time for a campaign to launch) and campaign staff who shift budgets to other platforms. They’re also requiring public notary involvement in the verification process–the only one of the three platforms to add such a laborious step.

Most political ads aren’t run by the candidates or PACs that provide the funding. They’re run by agencies, consultants and media planners. Facebook, Google and Twitter will soon realize that these well-intended tools for disclosure and verification need to be updated to reflect the reality of the political ad marketplace. The big tech business model is dependent on automation. Robotic support. Algo-driven ad approvals. They’re even trying to automate the verification for political advertisers. They’re going to discover that a little more human involvement will be needed to perfect these new processes so that they yield the intended benefits.

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Amplify Your Fly-in

Hundreds of organizations send delegations to visit congress every year and deliver important messages. As “fly-ins” proliferate, the attention span of Congressional staffers and members is taxed. Their collective memory of visitor messages is shortened. Delivering a message to Congress in-person is powerful. This power is amplified when other tactics reinforce a fly-in. Especially targeted social media promotions. According to the Congressional Management Foundation, Hill staff increase attention when they see 30 social media comments on an issue. CODAVATE can empower your Congressional hall-walkers to reach members and staffers before, during and after your actual visits. Learn about the power of amplification in a conversation with us.

This year, time-to-live on Facebook might change

We all love the speed of digital. Going live with a new campaign in days or even hours. Digital makes communication faster. And the pace of modern communication is leading to changes at Facebook. From privacy policy updates to enhanced approvals on certain types of ads, Facebook is taking a deep breath and slowing down a little. This year, plan some extra time when you intend to launch political or issue advertising campaigns on Facebook. We’ll help you work through the new steps for verification and disclosure. Facebook’s changes will improve the quality of advertising on their platform. But they’ll take some extra time and effort. Don’t forget to plan for it.

Are Google and Facebook competitors?

Most people think that Google and Facebook swim in their own lanes and blissfully run a duopoly over the internet and its advertising channels. While its true that these two companies will accrue roughly 60% of online ad revenue in the USA in 2017, the two companies are increasingly competitive with each other. Consider that Facebook has become a leading platform for video (serving, sharing, advertising) in competition with Google’s YouTube. Google’s communications tools (Gmail, Hangouts) have lost market share to Facebook Messenger. Facebook has even evolved its search capabilities, becoming one of the top destinations for image searches. While Facebook can’t challenge Google on search and display advertising yet, we can foresee future incursions on Google’s home turf related to behavioral targeting (across the internet), analytics and even search.

Ad blockers are killing your analytics

Few organizations have dealt with the growing problem of under-reported traffic. Ad blockers block more than ads. They’re commonly configured to circumvent site analytics as well. Given the exponential adoption of ad blocking technology, your site analytics could be missing out on 30% of visitor activity in 2017. This battle between publishers and the web-browsing public has a long way to go. Will leading websites prevent visits from ad-blocking users en masse? Will paid subscriptions become more commonplace for everybody’s favorite sites? We have a hunch about how it will end: two can play the game of blocking. While this conflict plays out, if you’re wondering why your traffic is dwindling and interested in ways to measure all of it, let’s talk.

Rough days ahead for ad-spamming publishers

The rise of ad blockers came as a wake-up call to the digital ad business. A necessary one. Ad spamming on sites arose as publishers tried to squeeze more revenue out of each page. This has deteriorated user experience—at times leading to unusable conditions on leading websites. But the pendulum is swinging back. Google Chrome, by far the world’s most-used browser, will soon release ad blocking for auto-play videos and other types of ad spam. Sure, it will help them solidify their control over the industry. But it will also incentivize publishers to clean up their act.

Less clutter = more ad revenue

And happier users, too. Finally, some online publishers are getting the message. When you remove the click bait and reduce the density of advertising on your pages, your ad revenue can actually rise. This is because users spend more time on such sites while avoiding the ones that devolve the user experience in exchange for a few extra ad impressions. The Wall Street Journal suggests that ad blocking technology arose largely as a result of debilitating ad proliferation. Publishers must solve this problem. And it looks like the tide may be turning. Quality, not quantity, will make the future of digital advertising thrive.

Do corporate intranet sites still have a place?

Yes. And that place is in the background. They still serve an archival purpose, especially if they’re empowered by a useful search tool. But employees aren’t seeking out information on these sites as they did in years past. Smart companies are communicating with employees through well-written (non-repetitive) email. They’re using text messaging for urgent updates. And they’re using creatively-designed, social-media-style posts (in short format) to keep employees plugged into the company culture and mission.

Verizon is up to something (potentially very cool)

The Verizon acquisitions of AOL and Yahoo could lead to some powerful new ad tech in the years ahead. The big checkmark didn’t buy these web 1.0 legacies for their millions of remaining email accounts. AOL and Yahoo had robust digital advertising networks and a lot of targetable data. These assets are now part of the biggest mobility company and one of the largest ISP and TV providers in America. It’s not unthinkable that we might see a digital advertising platform evolve at Verizon that competes with the biggest player of them all: Google.

Is print news still alive?

There’s something squirrely about the latest metrics on print news subscriptions. Pew reports that print newspaper circulation has fallen to a 77-year low of about 35 million. They also report that the top 50 papers in the USA currently get about 12 million unique visitors per month, which seems low by comparison. On paper (if you’ll pardon the pun), this might lead you to think that more Americans get their news through a newspaper subscription. However, one year ago, Pew reported that twice as many Americans get their news online compared with print. So, if you’re wondering what’s really happening with all those print papers getting delivered, you’re not alone.

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