Facebook & Google: A Media Duopoly Under Scrutiny

IDGFrom their humbler beginnings as a social media platform and a search engine, respectively, Facebook and Google have today become mass media for many audiences, providing content focusing on national politics, prominent brands and individuals, and much, much more. A 2016 Pew study found that at least 66% of Facebook’s 2 billion users rely on the outlet’s news feed as a news source.  For many, the “Big Two” even serve as their only sources of media. More than just a filter bubble, consumers are being fed information designed to drive clicks rather than to inform.

The Facebook-Google duopoly is expected to account for over 60% of all annual digital advertising revenue in 2017. These players have had a series of missteps years in the making come home to roost: targeted misinformation campaigns, transparency issues, emotional manipulation experiments, and the repeated misstating of advertising metrics. Once seen as the holy grail for marketers, advertisers’ trust and confidence in these platforms has now changed. The once smooth surface is developing cracks as both of these outlets have lost quite a bit of their luster and more questions arise for marketers.

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Consumers have grown increasingly wary of Facebook and Google’s shortcomings as well. There will be increased scrutiny placed on these behemoths in 2018, more so because it is an election year. Throughout 2017, it became increasingly apparent that Facebook and Google have grown less reliable as content sources, with major issues surrounding emotionally-charged false viral videos, siloed shareable content, and bad actors gaming the system. How are consumers supposed to trust the information sourced from the duopoly that let them down on so many an occasion just one year prior?  Appropriately, the magnifying glass is now firmly trained on both the content and advertising sides of the house and it will take more than tweaked algorithms and transparency-focused publicity campaigns to regain trust. Simply put, audiences don’t know who to believe.

Without a doubt, marketers have taken notice of the growing skepticism of consumers to these players as media sources – marketing strategies still revolve around the consumer. An increased focus on transparency and trusted content lead back to familiar territory: driving growth and ROI.  This is a great development for marketers and brands. In 2018, vanity marketing, manipulative tactics and “clickbait” content will be replaced with value marketing, with an increased focus on what works for business. Ultimately, for brands and marketers alike it’s always been about return on investment, and the money will pour into whatever vehicle can best show a measurable ROI.

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The “Big Two,” which once seemed too big to challenge, are increasingly being evaluated by the same standards as all media outlets – they’re no longer infallible. This is good news for both consumers and marketers. And it is a great way to enter 2018.

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