Blog: Facebook… And The End of Online Advertising?


In March of this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced the company’s new intensified privacy policy. The pivot is a result of mass public scrutiny of the company’s practises, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal from 2018.

Publishers as a whole have yet to receive any details from Facebook regarding what specific implications the privacy pivot may have for their business. The assumption by many analysts is that it could make featured advertisements nearly impossible. 

“It’s kind of a wait and see game to see exactly how Facebook is going to pivot and what changes,” one executive said. 

While Facebook’s less-than-forthrightness about its policy changes is par for the course, what is shocking is publishers’ lack of alarm regarding the situation. They’ve been completely left in the dark, and they seem fine with that. They’ve grown used to Facebook’s rapid policy changes. “I’m not losing sleep over what they may or may not be doing in the background,” one executive laughed.

This is just the latest in a long line of changes Facebook has made over the years. First to video, then to live-streaming, and now back to regular video. Facebook makes these changes, tells the publishing world to jump… and many publishers didn’t even have to ask “How high?” Because they were already in the air!

In January of 2018 Facebook made a massive change to how their algorithm (there’s that word again) worked. An action that shook the publishing industry, and showed many publishers that they couldn’t rely on Facebook to be a stable platform for them to monetize. 

Since then, most publishers have diversified away from Facebook’s News Feed, leaving them less concerned with the rapid comings and goings of the company’s privacy policies. 

“Prior to the privacy updates, I think a lot of the shift started even a year and six months ago when they made their first news feed shift. That’s when we started thinking of things like Groups,” said Ken Bloom, Senior VP of Advertising Strategy and Partnerships at BuzzFeed. 

As Facebook has begun to deemphasize publisher’s content in their News Feed, using a chainsaw instead of a scalpel on the problem of Fake News, they’ve also begun emphasizing the use of Groups to bring like-minded people together. Which may or may not be an absolutely terrible idea, considering some of the groups that pop up on Facebook. 

When Facebook introduced their video platform in August of 2017, they encouraged publishers to create groups alongside their video content. Since then, Groups has mostly fallen by the wayside, since Facebook’s video platform didn’t exactly take off.

Publishers are glad they started their Groups though since that’s where much of their content will be housed with Facebook’s new privacy changes. Those privacy updates aren’t exactly at the top of most publishers’ priority lists though.

“When news publishers think about the major privacy issues, Facebook’s pivot to privacy doesn’t even come up on the top 10 list,” said David Chavern, President and CEO of News Media Alliance. 

The California Consumer Privacy Act, going into effect on January 1, 2020, tops the list for many publishers. “We have to be ready by the end of the year, so that takes high priority,” said an unnamed executive. On top of that, many publishers are still dealing with the new European privacy laws, as regulators step up enforcement. Google and Apple have also made substantive privacy updates to their web-browsers, which stand to impact publishers ability to advertise online. Some people will even be able to use new private browsing in Safari to sidestep paywalls altogether. 

By the time publishers have figured out how to deal with all of these aforementioned hiccups, Facebook may have shed more light on their own new privacy policy. 

In the meantime, it may behoove publishers to read our blog on how to generate non-subscription-based income. Just in case.



-James Somerton

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