facebook ads and failures of monetization.

Depressingly, I do not have access to the screen shot I took of the specific Facebook ad that so offended me. If I get to it, I'll edit it into this post in the near future.

One of my issues with monetizing social networks is that it's always done in the least logical model possible. Instead of selling information (which, really, is the only product they have to offer other than the easily offended and fickle masses that make the entire engine run) they inevitably attempt to create a full service perfect storm of failure, that ends up making the advertisers look clueless and stupid, and makes the company itself look like they don't value the community in the least.

Looking at you, Facebook.

Here's the short version of my experience with Facebook ads. On my News Feed, I find an ad for Modest Mouse. I like Modest Mouse, and Facebook knows this. Because I told them, in my profile. Facebook also knows I live in Canada, again, due to my profile.

What Facebook doesn't seem to know is WHERE in Canada I live, or which venues are conceivable accessible to me, despite that information being very available to them. So I get an ad that says, more or less, 'Hey Canadian Modest Mouse fan! Modest Mouse is touring Canada. Now click this and dig through a bunch of crap to find out when they are near you! Then go to ticketmaster and go through more crap!'

I can see why they wouldn't want targeted ads that are actually well targeted. More work, more money, and the assumption that the true fans (the kind who label themselves such) are willing to hunt a little. And I guess that's fine. But from my point of view, it's also a waste.

If that ad had popped up with "Hey [NAME], Modest Mouse is playing at [Venue] and [Venue] near you, on [insert dates here]. If you would like tickets or further tour information, click here [link to ticketmaster page with info on the concert / venues]."

This wouldn't bother me, if the ads were calibrated to my stated interests, and my stated location. This is, I would argue, the whole value of social networks. The idea that advertising can be so targeted that it stops being an intrusion, and starts being a service.

A little more effort on the experience, and a fairly meaningless ad could, conceivably, have driven me to buy tickets on the spot, rather than compose a blog post in my mind.

I'll be following this up very shortly (possibly this evening) with another, more general post on my issue with how social networks are monetized, and how they could generate revenue without disrupting the user experience on which they completely rely.


the doug morris hypothesis.

By now, everyone has read the shockingly idiotic statements of Doug Morris, CEO of Universal Music Group.

If you haven't, here's a fairly accurate and completely awesome summation.

This, for me, raises an interesting question. It's fairly clear that Doug Morris isn't qualified for his current position. What the Wired profile also makes clear, is that Morris is a very experienced and proven A&R guy. He knows about finding that thing that makes an artist salable, and he knows how to push them over the edge, to fame. He more or less directly states that he considers that his real job, and all of the technology related issues are considered an annoyance.

This would be cool, if he was still just an A&R guy. Or even heading artist development, although one would hope the focus would be on a grander scale than breaking individual acts. Morris is a CEO, however. Which, to me at least, seems a lot like hiring the world's greatest car salesman to run Toyota. Yes, it's an important skill set, but it's also woefully unsuited to the issues one would hope a CEO faces.

This leads me to a potential explanation for everything wrong with the current state of the music industry. What we're seeing is an army of content management experts who think they are also experts in content ownership.

The roots of this are pretty simple to see. By the time the major music industry players started demanding ownership of songs, they had created a near-perfect system for creating stars. If you wanted to make it, you had to play by their rules - so why only ask for a percentage of the revenue when they could ask for the back catalogue, which is more or less a license to print money. This was fine when the most important parts of the industry were content management roles, like arranging recording, arranging printing physical merch for sale, building a buzz, media relations, etc. Even the direct content ownership stuff, like royalties and sales, was relatively simple. There was a major approved method of delivery, it was the only viable one, and the legal product was inevitably and noticeably different than any knock offs.

The game has changed. Music is, for all intents and purposes, free. So, content ownership has gotten messy. While competition in music sales was traditionally a matter of attention, fighting with other artists and labels, now it's a matter of fighting pirated material which is 1) free, 2) often easier to use as desired than legal options, and 3) more or less interchangeable with the legal alternative, the inadequacy of the music industry machine to deal with these issues is becoming somewhat clear.

I've, for a while now, been advocating that if music labels want to survive, they should abandon content ownership as a means of making all of their money, and focus instead on content management. This would require negotiating a percentage of revenue with each artist, or a set yearly rate, and offering the ludicrous amount of experience in these companies to break artists, create public interest, manage tours and appearances, promote, etc, all the things that the music industry has always done, and considered essential but secondary to getting paid for the creative creations of others.

A company like universal, to me, doesn't actually sell a product so much as they do a service. That service, in short, is making bands into a marketable commodity, and turning that notoriety into money. What they don't seem to do well, however, is create new revenue streams, deal with the issues related to format and distribution, and adapt to the current digital media landscape.

Everyone is looking at guys like Doug Morris and expecting some bold new strategy that is going to keep the content ownership portion of record label business prominent and afloat. Doug Morris just wants all of that to go away so he can find the next big thing, and teach them how to fill stadiums and empty wallets. Why is anyone asking him to figure out big picture stuff that he considers a waste of time?