Why Facebook works

It doesn’t get eaten by advertising

It’s that simple. In an age when an estimated 38 per cent of global web users are now blocking ads on desktop alone, it’s clear that the industry has a problem. Not Facebook though. The social networking site continues to make content king, delivering a clear, crisp user experience more akin to a traditional print magazine than an online publication.

Let’s look at an example. Here are two screenshots of the first things that popped up on my screen when I went to both Facebook and The Telegraph via mobile browser. 

Telegraph Facebook page ()

You’ll see with Facebook I’m straight in there. I’ve got my content, I’ve got my branding, I’m away, I’m scrolling. The Telegraph on the other hand: small logo at the top against a generic white background, a massive ad taking up more than 50 per cent of the page, and I’m a little bit apprehensive as to where to put my finger to scroll to be honest in case I accidentally click thru to the wrong place. On desktop this dichotomy is extenuated. The familiarity of Facebook is contrasted heavily by pop-ups, video ads, and the long loading times that have come to be associated with ad-heavy online destinations. 

The clue’s in the title

What makes Facebook work is its lack of clutter. It’s ironic that while many modern publishers are scrambling to reinvent themselves as technology companies, Facebook has achieved a high degree of its success by applying an old skool publishing model to the online world. It’s a FaceBook. And yes ads are laid around user generated content, and yes this represents an arguably easier model to monetise than paid for journalism, but with ad revenues up 56.8 per cent to US$5.64bn over the Christmas period, you can’t say Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t learnt a thing or two about monetising his publication.

The business of media

The lesson to be learned is that user experience is still key. Media outlets are entertainment (and information) brands and as such they must put the reader first in order to succeed. Of course the Jerry Maguire Mission Statement can be a difficult one to make, especially in a tough economic climate for publishers. But when an online version of a high school publication sits poised to challenge Google as the number one poster boy of the silicon world, then simply by empirical observation, that becomes a much easier statement to make. 

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