Facebook’s Paywall Test is an Unpaid Advertisement for Marketing Strategy

The Guardian reported yesterday that Facebook was running a test in small national markets that created two news feeds, one that had posts from friends and another secondary feed that had posts from pages users had “liked.” The catch was that promoted content – the posts page administrators had paid to get to an audience – showed up in the former feed. This meant that organic, non-paid content was unlikely to reach its target audience, and many pages saw their non-promoted content reach drop by as much as two thirds with no warning.

Most who heard of this assumed that Facebook was testing something many marketers have long feared, which is a full pay-to-play barrier between brands and Facebook users. This isn’t a new concept – most advertising throughout history has required marketers to pay for all access to an audience – but for organizations that depend on organic Facebook content for their marketing reach the implications were sobering. Left in place, this change would have completely rewritten marketing plans and budgets, as well as the ROI calculations for all the work those organizations had done to build their organic Facebook followings.

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Meeting a Hero

This isn’t necessarily work-related, but I wanted to share it regardless. We use the word “hero” a lot, but I was honored to meet someone whose claim to that word is beyond debate.

ColeThis is Col. Richard Cole, who was Jimmy Doolittle’s co-pilot during the famous “30 Seconds Over Tokyo” raid of 1942. To get America a much-needed victory and reset Japanese strategic calculations after Pearl Harbor, the “Doolittle Raiders” launched bombers that had never before flown from an aircraft carrier on a mission where they had no real expectation of landing at an actual airfield. (Cole’s crew bailed out over China when they ran out of fuel.) They bombed military targets in Tokyo, doing minor physical damage but sending shockwaves through the entire Japanese military and delivering notice that America wasn’t going to go down without a fight.

At 102 years old, Col. Cole is the last surviving member of the Doolittle Raiders.

I met him because this past weekend, my family and I were honored to be guests at the 93d Bomb Squadron’s centennial celebration, which included a change-of-command ceremony. My grandfather Charles R. d’Olive was a member of the 93d in World War I, when it was a “pursuit squadron” (we call them “fighter squadrons” now), and scored the first victory in the 93d’s history. Today, the 93d is a USAF Reserve B-52 squadron based at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

The men and women of the 93d continue to serve in the best tradition of Col. Cole, my grandfather and their brothers in arms. Their legacies are in good hands.

Expert Opinion

It’s always nice to have people whom I respect like my work. But it hit an entirely different level today when nationally-known and widely respected economics professor Mark J. Perry wrote a blog post for the American Enterprise Institute to point people at my “excellent” and “insightful” Jones Act corporate welfare article.

That makes one thing I’ve written that Dr. Perry liked and found valuable (as far as I know), so I’ve only got several hundred more to go until we’re even.

They’re Aware. Now What?

Any time you’re told someone wants to “raise awareness” of a policy issue or topic, your immediate response should be, “OK, and then what?” Just as if you were trying to sell pickup trucks, hamburgers or prescription medication, awareness of a policy topic is only the first step in a marketing funnel-based strategic process that gets your target audience to the point where you can close the deal.

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