It’s been a common theme of mine and this publication for months, but it bears repeating: The Facebook and Google duopoly have never been more vulnerable. So, the time is right for publishers to double down on proven tactics and test new ones in pursuit of gaining market share.
If you still need convincing of market conditions, consider the news of just this week from three of the most influential publications on the planet:
- A coalition of 20 consumer groups are about to file a federal complaint against YouTube/Google for violating a children’s privacy law (NY Times)
- Facebook’s CEO admitted to a “huge mistake”, and the platform may have leaked info from 87 million users (Wall Street Journal)
- A lawmaker said the scandals plaguing the social media giant might be “too big” for it to fix alone, and that he might “be in favor of regulating Facebook” (Washington Post)
This coverage is, of course, in addition to the real whopper involving Russian meddling in the most recent U.S. presidential election. These venerable newspapers – which collectively influence millions directly, and tens of millions indirectly – are singing from the same hymnbook. When it comes to the duopoly, they are on the attack. It’s not so much that Google and Facebook have been consistently bad actors, necessarily. But let’s face it, Congressional hearings and privacy problems make great copy. Or, maybe it’s personal. No matter – this is happening either way.
A Perfect Storm
Several overlapping and intersecting factors, occurring over many years, have lead to today’s market conditions: shifting consumer needs and market demand; thinly-veiled, monopolistic corporate behavior characterized by overreach and insufficient self-governance; and unintended consequences of streamlining the advertising supply chain. To be sure, the past decade has been tumultuous. But the current state of affairs in digital advertising will not come as a surprise to DCN community members.
To wit: Last week, Mark Glaser warned publishers to be careful about gloating in the wake of Facebook’s troubles – sage advice. Last month, DCN CEO Jason Kint addressed Google’s “battle with transparency” when reporting its massive digital advertising revenues. And at the beginning of the year, I offered techniques for publishers to employ to sell more advertising to media buyers via easily digestible sales tools,an emphasis on branding, and formidable client service. Even with all this attention, however, I don’t know that the community expected the situation to get *this hot* for the duopoly.
Having experienced extraordinarily challenging conditions since the late 2000s – and being in the unenviable position of shrinking in the face of a growing, ancillary market –– publishers now have a compelling talking point, a reason to reach out to customers, prospects, partners, and the press. Certainly, behaviors change slowly. Customers are risk-averse, and no one has “gotten fired for buying ads from Google and Facebook” in quite awhile. Now, if only for reasons of diligence, media buyers now have to pick their heads up from Google and Facebook dashboards and assess alternatives.
If Not Now, When?
Last year, and for the first time, companies spent more on digital advertising than TV spots. We all saw this coming, but it actually happened last year, and it signaled an official changing-of-the-guard in the industry. Most professional prognosticators believe digital ad spending will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, to eventually capture 40% or more of the overall marketplace.
Publishers certainly continue to face meaningful growth challenges. However, it’s difficult to imagine conditions being more fertile than today for building market share. The time is right for making aggressive moves.