New York Times: “Junk” or Barely Above

This is an assessment of its creditworthiness, not the trustworthiness of its political campaign coverage, but note this report:

The New York Times Co. reported a steep drop in third-quarter profits on Thursday, the latest gloomy earnings report in an industry battered by online competition and falling print advertising revenue.
The New York Times Co. said net profit fell by 51.4 percent in the third quarter to 6.5 million dollars, or five cents per share, from 13.4 million dollars, or nine cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

The company, which owns, The Boston Globe, International Herald Tribune and 16 other daily newspapers besides the flagship The New York Times, said overall advertising revenue fell by 14.4 percent during the quarter.

Shortly after the release of its results, Standard & Poors said it was lowering the Times’s credit rating to “BB-,” or junk status, while Moody’s Investors Service said it was placing it on review for possible downgrade.

Moody’s changed the rating outlook for the company to negative from stable in July. A further downgrade would reduce it to junk status. Both companies said the moves were based on the uncertain outlook for newspaper advertising.

Clearly the current economic situation has potential advertisers conserving cash, which increases the pressure on traditional media companies like the Times Co. But this is just a flare-up in a chronic disease: as I’ve previously noted (here, here, here, here, here, here and here), the big story about big media for the last decade has been gradual decline.

Recessions in the general economy just make it less gradual.

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Apple Neutralizing Windows Advertising

I saw this great new Mac ad during the baseball playoffs last night, with Apple counter-punching on the Windows $300 million ad campaign:


It was interesting that recent Windows ads used a PC look-alike to complain about stereotypes in the Mac ads.

Continue reading “Apple Neutralizing Windows Advertising”

Facebook Page as White Pages Listing

Note: This is the required reading for Facebook 221, part of the Facebook major track for Social Media University, Global (SMUG). More information about SMUG and the homework assignments for this course are at the bottom of this post.


I have written previously about Facebook Pages being like a free multi-media Yellow Pages listing.

I got my dead-tree phone directory analogy wrong.

In reality, with some relatively recent changes in how Facebook manages its URLs for Pages and people, and the fact that profiles and pages can now be found by Google searchers who aren’t Facebook members, a Facebook page can be a great White Pages listing.

Before Facebook launched its Pages program for organizations, I had recommended that organizations and businesses and other organizations should develop Facebook Groups. One of the key reasons was because anyone can form a group with any name, and if they mention your business name in their group description, people will find that group when they search for your business in Facebook. By creating a group and getting lots of members, your “official” group would come up highest in the Facebook search results.

But now, with Pages having been established as the way for organizations to have “official” Facebook presence, they are great tools for searching both inside Facebook and in the wider Web via Google. They’re much better than groups.

Here’s why:

  1. Facebook groups cannot be found through Google.
  2. Because of the URL structure, a Facebook page shows up high in the Google rankings when people search for your organization or business name.

A Facebook group has a nondescript URL, as is demonstrated by this group I formed in the pre-Pages days for Aase Wedding Photography and Video, a moonlighting business my brother and I have been exploring. Here’s the URL from that group:


Even if Facebook groups were available to be found by Google, their URLs aren’t optimized for search.

In Facebook Pages, on the other hand, the URLs have been search optimized. Here’s the URL for the Facebook Page I developed for our fledgling wedding photo and video business (click the graphic to view at full size):


But more importantly, look closely at the Google results (and the URLs in green) when you search for Aase wedding video


Note that my Facebook page shows up first in the Google results. It doesn’t show up high if you are searching for wedding video or wedding photography. Those categories are a lot more crowded (7.4 and 7.6 million), so it’s much harder to make the first page of Google, and I don’t have many inbound links to that page.

So that’s why I say a Facebook Page can be a great online equivalent of a White Pages listing. Your business or organization’s name is in the URL, which is major cue for Google. And maybe over time a Facebook page could become an effective Yellow Pages listing, if it attracts inbound links and if its content is optimized for relevant keywords.

Homework Assignments:

  1. Go to Facebook and search for Mayo Clinic. Note how many groups you find, but also that the official Mayo Clinic Page shows up at the top of the search results.
  2. Try the same Mayo Clinic search in Google. Note that the Facebook page doesn’t show up anywhere in the first several pages of results. For organizations that already have lots of web presence, a Facebook page will not immediately come up high in the Google rankings. But then again, people will be able to find contact information for those organizations through conventional Google results.
  3. Search in Facebook for your business or organization. You’ll see how many groups have been formed that mention your organization. If an official Page doesn’t come up first, you may want to consider developing a page. And if someone not affiliated with your organization has created a Page for you, you can seek to have it removed. This will be covered in more detail in Facebook 310.

To enroll in Social Media University, Global (SMUG), join this group in Facebook. Read more about SMUG and our Curriculum.

Facebook Demographics Don’t Matter


In what may become a series of posts related to “things about Facebook that don’t matter” (which started with advertising click-through rates), here’s a link to a blog post (via TechCrunch) that outlines interesting demographics of Facebook users, including the fact that nearly two-thirds are women. In one sense that’s important to know, because for some decisions (e.g. health care) women are the primary decision makers.

But in another sense it doesn’t really matter what Facebook’s overall demographic breakdown is, as long as there is a significant number of people that might be interested in your product, service or organization.

So even if, for the sake of overstated argument, 90 percent of Facebook users were under 30 (they aren’t, but just bear with me), Facebook can still be a good place to reach an older group.

Why? Because Facebook is not primarily a mass medium. It’s a personal, conversational medium.

So, for example, if AARP wants to reach “U.S. Americans” over age 50 to become members, it would currently find over 377,000 people fitting those criteria in Facebook. Unlike mass media, in which you pay for the entire audience, AARP could advertise just to those who could qualify for its programs. And with the pay-per-click advertising model, the costs would be low. You’re not only not paying for the other 50+ million users who don’t fit your demographic; you’re also not paying unless those who are in your demographic click the ad.

Would Facebook be the cornerstone of an AARP membership marketing strategy? Certainly not. But it could be one element. And as Facebook membership continues to grow across all demographics, it can be a good way for all kinds of organizations to engage with and create a relevant community.

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Facebook Ads Click-Through Rates Don’t Matter

facebook ads

Nick at raises some interesting issues about the poor click-through rates for Facebook’s new advertising system. I subscribe to Nick’s blog and had meant to write about this, but appreciate Jeremiah Owyang making Nick’s post part of his weekly digest so it brought it to mind again.

I’m not sure why a low click-though rate on Facebook ads should matter to advertisers, if they are only paying for the clicks.

For instance, I ran a brief campaign in a major metropolitan area and was able to target to a specific age group and communities. For less than $20 I got more than 137,000 impressions and 39 clicks, or a click-through rate of about .03 percent.

But why does that low rate matter? Could I have bought even one 30-second radio ad in a top-ten market for under $20. Not a chance, unless it was a low-power obscure station with 1,000 listeners.

How about a newspaper classified ad? Not likely to get much for a pair of Hamiltons in newsprint, either. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to include a picture.

It’s doubtful I could get a single ad on any TV station, even in a bottom-10 market, for that price.

And if your potential “customers” are not concentrated in a geographic area, obviously national mass media are prohibitively expensive.

For radio and TV there also would be creative costs for ad production, whereas Facebook ads are do-it-yourself.

Which is why I think the advertising that will be successful on Facebook will be more like eBay and less like NBC. It won’t be the huge brands dumping their tens of millions of dollars into buying push advertising. It will be mom-and-pop shops targeting ads to people most likely to need their products and services. And it will be about two-way dialogue, not pushing out messages to amass eyeball counts.

Low click-throughs may not be great news in the short term for Facebook, though, because it only gets paid when someone clicks. But the Facebook management is walking a tightrope in trying to avoid the garishness of the MySpace experience for its users. This leads them to disapprove some ads for the simple offense of one capitalized word in the text.

The new Social Ads system is only a couple of weeks old. I think it’s too early to tell whether big corporations will find ways to use Facebook effectively. They’ll need to invest more in people (staff) to engage with the community and listen to customers, and spend less on just pumping out the mass-media messages.

But for smaller businesses, non-profits and others that haven’t had opportunities for widespread advertising reach based on demographics, I believe Facebook will be a great medium. For organizations that have loyal members or customers, it will be an excellent way to spread word-of-mouth as people become Fans.

And like Craigslist and, Facebook’s ad platform is one more serious challenge to newspapers as we have known them.

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