Are Social Media's "Ads For Eyeballs" Valuations About To Be Eviscerated?
There’s a peculiar tone emanating from the social media space. It’s a little hard to hear, but if you listen closely, it’s there none the less. That sound is the sudden gasp of realization that the most dominating reasoning and defense that encompassed the entire social media space may in fact being laid-to-waste right before their screens. That horror?
The eyeballs for ads model doesn’t work. And – it’s being stated by one of their own. (Insert the scary music tones here)
In a blog post the online publishing platform Medium™ stunned what I refer to as “The Valley” (i.e., the everything social and disruption purely for its own sake devotees) when it announced two stunning proclamations. The First: It was jettisoning about one-third of its workforce. Second: The reasoning behind it, Here’s an excerpt, to wit:
“We also saw interest from many big brands and promising results from several content marketing campaigns on the platform.
However, in building out this model, we realized we didn’t yet have the right solution to the big question of driving payment for quality content. We had started scaling up the teams to sell and support products that were, at best, incremental improvements on the ad-driven publishing model, not the transformative model we were aiming for.
To continue on this trajectory put us at risk?—?even if we were successful, business-wise?—?of becoming an extension of a broken system.
Upon further reflection, it’s clear that the broken system is ad-driven media on the internet. It simply doesn’t serve people. In fact, it’s not designed to.”I encourage you to read their entire post for your own conclusions. So, with that said, I’ll now give you my “two cents.”Is it not funny how the “ads for eyeballs” model which was the be-all, end-all model to $BILLION dollar riches and IPO cash out dreams suddenly finds itself being shunned (i.e., self implied “Needs another model”) by none other than a company whose CEO once founded one of social media’s most coveted “ads for eyeballs” companies? (e.g. Twitter™)
Now to be fair the article does in fact state 2016 was their best year yet, with “readers and published posts up 300% year on year.” Those are impressive statistics. Also, I don’t know anything other than what I read in the aforementioned post. It may be in fact this outlet wishes to transform itself, or its business model, purely for the sake of journalistic integrity. And if that is indeed the case I wholeheartedly commend them. Yet, what falls short via my acumen is the timing. Here’s the reasoning…
Let’s use just one of the said key metrics: “Readers.”
If an “ads for eyeballs” designed platform experiences a 300% year-over-year growth in the sole bedrock, fundamental, metric of the “ads for eyeballs” formulation. Would that not mean, or at least one could rationally infer, the YoY profits realized by supplying ads to a tripling of “eye balls” in one year warrants an explosion of generated profits?
For another sentence caught my eye which doesn’t seem to fit if readership was up 300%. e.g., “Even if we’re successful.”
This is a very critical point to ponder. i.e., If a 300% increase in viewership YoY didn’t move the needle as to not state “even” implying that it is not – than what would?
Again, for It needs to be repeated: The basic core metric that allows the entirety of the “eyeballs for ads” argument to even exist – is – the reasoning behind dismantling, and jettisoning one-third of the company? Remember, they state, “Our vision, when we started in 2012, was ambitious: To build a platform that defined a new model for media on the internet.”
It can be reasonably assumed it did just that – and in spades! (e.g. 300% growth in “eyeballs” this past year alone.) And for that comes the conclusion to immediately lop off 1/3 of staffing and announce a complete change or overhaul to its business structure?
This is like stating (if we’re to take the reasoning at face value) “We’ve tripled the #1 key metric that supports (and advertisers will pay for) the entire “ads for eyeballs” model, and for that accomplishment – we’re downsizing, and laying off 1/3 of you. Great job, and here’s looking at 2017, cheers!”
Something just doesn’t square here from my perspective, or opinion.
Let me express it this way: What can be rationally inferred by anyone with just a modicum of business acumen in this underlying quandary? Or said differently:
What was the decision-making process that impelled a company to jettison one-third of its personnel along with simultaneously stating a dismantling of its former business model first (and that’s a very key point) not after it tried to change that very model as some form of “work in progress” putting what can only be inferred as an ever-increasing hardship on both authors, or content providers, If, the sole intention is to reward those content creators to begin with?
Is that not as they say “Throwing the baby out with the bath water?” Unless…
A 300% increase in readership didn’t mean squat to paying advertisers because – all they were getting was the bill for more “ad sales” and no sales. So they in-turn are now stating: Thanks, but no thanks. (Think P&G™ and its decision to jettison one of Facebook™ most coveted ad models)
Personally, I feel it’s more of this, than the former, and is becoming so prevalent, it can no longer be ignored. i.e., The writing’s on the balance sheets.
There’s a reason why I make this point. For I once was involved with advertising (albeit years ago) and actually ran and designed a campaign for a multi-national consumer brand which still runs to this day decades later. And it is this:
Advertisers rarely scale down or remove ad dollars from venues that produce sales. And what they surely won’t do, is remove or scale-down ads from a venue that can demonstrate increasing sales. Especially one that has shown a growth in audience of some 300% YoY. For if the audience has grown, surely, that implies any successful prior ad sales during that period should also have been the benefactor of explosive sales results. Maybe not 1 for 1 as in 300%, however, explosive in comparison YoY should be apparent nonetheless....MORE