I saw some random tech article in my daily media consumption cycle that rubbed me the wrong way. "Facebook introduced interstitial video ads"
A couple days later, I experienced one of those ads, and quickly found myself annoyed. It triggered my action of simply dismissing the content stream and exiting out of the passive noise social engine experience that, in my view, has replaced our former binge TV-watching behavior.
How annoying and disturbing, I thought to myself, before my attention jumped to a higher-priority task at hand. I felt that Facebook had just shown one of its weaknesses in a very visual and undeniable way.
I was watching a Syria clip about the chemical weapons attack, and experienced the first ad shortly after the initial 15-second playback. I was annoyed but the content was too important to pass on and my engagement with its message wasn’t over…yet. But 40 seconds after normal playback, a second ad interruption occurred. Not only was I furious – I stopped watching the ad and clip altogether.
So now that got me thinking, what genius mind came up with this engagement implosion strategy? We all know that TV lost its user base once the Ad free on-demand content became available.
I know that Facebook does AB testing before they roll out features, to verify that their numbers will hold up - and this is why the new Video Ads strategy doesn't make sense.
They have been preaching that their user engagement and growth is up, but really? Is it up?
All their growth seems to be in countries that didn't have a prior Facebook presence. And about the engagement - lately, I feel like I turned on a political channel on Facebook or Twitter.
It has become my go-to news reader. I noticed that I primarily use Flipboard now to catch up on science and tech updates.
While I'm writing this post, I found out that my wife doesn't have the same features enabled on her Facebook App. She has the latest version but her interface is missing two new key features:
a. The Snapchat Story clone
b. The Rocket Feed section
I scrolled through her feed and video ads are not live on her App experience yet.
This confirms my suspicion further. It's very clear that Facebook is pushing on two fronts – engagement and monetization –either because they want to boost their numbers so that they can steal away users from Snapchat or they are countering a downward trend of user and engagement leakage.
My guess is that Snapchat is actually growing in numbers, the IPO exposed the brand and the current political climate turned Twitter and Facebook into anxiety-provoking news feed readers.
All I'm saying is that introducing a multi-interstitial-ads strategy into the fluid user experience is not something that lines up with engagement. It's either driven by greedy stockholder board meetings – asking for an epic quarterly report to dim the new wave of Snapchat voices – or it's a desperate move to hide the facts of their platform aging.