Opinion

Anthony De Rosa

Separating truth from fiction about Facebook

Anthony De Rosa
Mar 5, 2013 19:45 UTC

There’s a lot of inaccurate information out there about the way Facebook is promoting posts from people who pay for it. Some of this misinformation comes from writers using their experiences as an example of how things happen to everyone on Facebook, not realizing they’re different than many other people on the service or other people who use the “follow” option (formerly known as “subscribe.”) There’s also an unfortunate tendency to not check facts with Facebook. 

We should not take Facebook at its word but we should at least give it a chance to explain how it sets the rules. We can judge for ourselves how honest they’re being. It’s far worse to assume. This isn’t an entirely new thing for Facebook, Sponsored Stories were rolled out back in January of 2011. This resurfaced because of an article by Nick Bilton at the New York Times who suddenly seemed to notice his Facebook posts were not seeing the same number of comments, likes and shares as they once did. (Update 3/6: Nick does cite Facebook’s statement that although “people who have more than 10,000 subscribers is up 34 percent from a year ago” they also admitted to him ”there has been a 2 percent drop in interaction on the news feed.”)

Misconception #1: Sponsored/Promoted Content is replacing organic content on Facebook I spoke to Vadim Lavrusik, Facebook’s journalism program manager. Here’s what he told me:

“One important thing to understand is that when someone promotes a post in feed and pays to promote it, the stuff that’s getting distribution organically still gets distribution, it doesn’t get replaced from feed. It may get a lower placement, but it doesn’t get replaced. And the placement of the sponsored post or promoted post is also based on the quality of that post (so promoted content still has a quality algorithm attached to it.) If the promoted post isn’t that good, it gets lower placement, but it will get more distribution either way because it’s being paid for, but it’s still takes quality into account.

The claim that I’ve seen explains it as if these paid posts replace organic posts, which isn’t the case. The News Feed algorithm is separate from the advertising algorithm in that we don’t replace the most engaging posts in News Feed with sponsored ones.”

Most people don’t care about their digital privacy

Anthony De Rosa
Dec 17, 2012 20:28 UTC

Most of us simply don’t care about our digital privacy. Sure, you see people citing their displeasure every time Facebook changes their terms of service, but with more than a billion users, few actually leave. Today, Instagram took a chance on its own privacy policy, betting that people will treat its service the same way. Instagram now will feature advertising on its mobile application that uses your name, likeness and content, tracks your location and shares the data with Facebook.

The geek chorus is again warming up its pipes. However, I doubt that many will bother to stop taking fauxstalgically filtered photos of every waking moment.

Here are the key additions from Instagram:

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

You don’t own your hashtag

Anthony De Rosa
Nov 28, 2012 22:37 UTC

Today the Obama administration unveiled a hashtag “#My2k” to push their “fiscal cliff” message that if middle-class tax cuts aren’t extended, middle-income families will lose $2,000 of income a year. Soon after, conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation purchased the following sponsored tweet that appears at the very top of any search for #My2K:

Below the sponsored tweet are people of all political affiliations and sides of the issue tossing in their two cents. Here’s a sample:

Where social media fails

Anthony De Rosa
Oct 19, 2012 18:37 UTC

I’ve been thinking a lot about my use of social media and how helpful it is in informing the people who consume it. This election season has particularly made me think more critically about how sometimes the short, context-less text updates can lead to a poorly informed public. I’m certainly not the first person to realize this, as Craig Kanalley recently wrote in detail. People increasingly latch on to the latest minutiae of the campaign, the Big Bird, the binders, the memes, which have little relevance to the actual issues that matter: employment, foreign policy, the expanding income gap, so on and so forth. Here’s what we plan to do to improve the signal to noise ratio.

    Focus my updates on more short, rapid-fire networks like Twitter on doing fact checks, linking to substantive articles about issues related to how the candidates will govern: economy, taxes, social issues, etc. Find flaws in the arguments of both candidates with detailed pieces that point out where they have either been too opaque or flat out lied. Engage with people all over the political spectrum to start a dialogue and understand what they care about. It is “social media” after all and I see many people who are supposed “social media editors” who never engage their readers. Spend more time live blogging, which allows for longer posts and rich media

The Elections 2012 live blog format gives us the room to provide context that you may not be getting from Twitter and Facebook. I’ve put together a number of lists that might also be helpful, which I try to update as much as possible:

Facebook buys Instagram for a billion, releases their own inferior photo app

Anthony De Rosa
May 24, 2012 18:09 UTC

Facebook is launching a stand-alone photo sharing mobile application. This comes weeks after the social network bought Instagram for a billion dollars.

Someone please explain to me why this makes sense.

Here’s why I ask. Instagram, after its 2010 launch, quickly became the most popular photo sharing application on mobile devices. After the acquisition, many users feared that Facebook would ruin the Instagram app. Until now, Facebook has left the product alone. That was a wise move.

And now comes along this new mobile app, called “Facebook Camera.” In almost all aspects, it’s an inferior product to Instagram. The interface is clumsy; the filters are not as good; the product feels like something someone developed long before Instagram and was crushed out of existence.

Facebook brings new ad opportunities to brands

Anthony De Rosa
Feb 29, 2012 19:36 UTC

Facebook unveiled a number of new opportunities for advertising on their social network today, the biggest being the ability to post ads to mobile devices, which they had not yet been offering.

Facebook calls the new ad opportunities “Premium for Facebook” and it opens up the following placements:

    Larger ads on the side of the Facebook home page that users see when they first log in Ads that run inside the Facebook Newsfeed Ads on mobile devices Ads that appear when a user logs out of Facebook The ability to run video ads on all these placements

Three challenges for Facebook’s IPO – Tech Tonic

Anthony De Rosa
Feb 25, 2012 05:38 UTC

Can Facebook live up to the hype? I uncover three problems standing in the way of Facebook’s future growth.

Red flags in the Facebook S-1 filing – Tech Tonic

Anthony De Rosa
Feb 25, 2012 05:29 UTC

Sam Hamadeh of PrivCo talks with me about the potential pitfalls in Facebook’s S-1 filing yesterday and why he’s bearish on Facebook’s IPO. Watch and find out why you might want to hold back some irrational exuberance when FB shares debut.

Open source politics: Reddit drafts “The Freedom of Internet Act”

Anthony De Rosa
Feb 25, 2012 03:50 UTC

Reddit users have taken it upon themselves to draft legislation in place of SOPA and PIPA, unsatisfied with Washington politicians, who seem to have shown a willful ignorance of how the Internet actually works. Using a Google Doc open for anyone to help write and edit, they’ve come up with a draft version of “The Freedom of Internet Act”

The act addresses some basic tenets they’ve set forth. Note that these proclamations are subject to change as this is a living document and only reflect the content at the time of this publication:

    Censorship – No government of any form presiding over any land, people, or assets in any form within the United States of America shall pass any law, nor ratify any treaty, which imposes or administers any kind of censorship on the Internet, except content found to be illegal content in accordance with this act. Culpability – Only the creator or uploader of data is responsible for whether that data is legal to upload, possess or make available to other users or information services. Restrictions on the Internet - No federal union or sovereign state may pass unilateral restrictions on the Internet. Content removal - Notice must be given to an administrator of the information system and to the uploader of the content within at least 30 days in advance of any deletion of data from any information system or service, or within 24 hours of the transfer of the data in question from publicly accessible storage to privately accessible storage. Judicial proceedings - Anyone undergoing judicial proceedings based on this document must be judged in the courts of the nation where the alleged offence was committed. Appropriate punishment - TBD Rights of the user – Addresses right to anonymity, privacy, use of proxies, encryption without fear of discrimination or suspicion. Liability and Settlement of Copyright Infringement Claim - All calculations related to this are to be carried out in a consumer, retail, individual level pricing upon which the production cost, marketing cost will not influence, capped at 200% of calculated damage.

The sub-Reddit page for FIA is located here, where it was created by a user named “RoyalwithCheese22

The most interesting data points in Facebook’s IPO

Anthony De Rosa
Feb 1, 2012 22:09 UTC

Here are some of the most interesting bits of information in Facebook’s IPO filing:

    Zynga accounted for approximately 12% of Facebook revenue Net income rose 65 percent to $1 billion in 2011, off revenue of $3.71 billion Sheryl Sandberg’s 2011 Facebook compensation: $30.9 million Facebook CFO David Ebersman’s 2011 total compensation was $18.65 million Advertising accounted for 85% of Facebook revenue in 2011 Mark Zuckerberg’s compensation in 2011 was $1.49 million 845 million active users on Facebook Total capitalization as of Dec 31, 2011: $4,899 million Full time employees increased from 2,127 as of December 31, 2010 to 3,200 as of December 31, 2011 Mark Zuckerberg holds stock with total voting power before IPO of 56.9% Facebook major ownership: Mark Zuckerberg : 28%, Accel (invested in 2005) :11.4% Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz 7.6% DST: 5.4% Peter Thiel: 2.5% Mark’s letter in the middle of the IPO filing Mark Zuckerberg’s annual salary will fall to one dollar starting 1/1/2013 Facebook had 483 million daily active users on average in December 2011, an increase of 48% as compared to 327 million in December 2010 425 million monthly active users of Facebook’s mobile products in December 2011 An average of 2.7 billion likes and comments per day were generated by users during the three months ending December 31, 2011 Facebook cites Google+, Cyworld in Korea, Mixi in Japan, Orkut in Brazil and India, vKontakte in Russia as competitors Also cited by Facebook as competitors: Renren, Sina, and Tencent if they “are able to access the market in China in the future”

Peter Lauria points out that 85% of revenue dependent on advertising makes it more reliant than CBS, the most ad-dependent old-media firm.

Another interesting section addresses risks:

Any number of factors could potentially negatively affect user retention, growth, and engagement, including if:

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