US$17 billion not enough for Zuckerberg?

Perhaps because of the looming initial public offering (IPO), Facebook feels it needs to show potential investors what a great opportunity its shares are. It’s not happy with being one of the wealthiest companies on the planet. It’s not happy with the Facebook page sidebar being stuffed full of advertisements. It’s now putting ads right in the news feed.

At least that’s what those “Trending Articles” now appearing amongst your news feed look like to me. You didn’t put it there. Your friends didn’t put it there. Facebook did. And what other motive could they have other than making money. Your  “Trending Articles”  might be different, but all mine take me straight to Yahoo, so I can only guess that some sort of deal has been done between Facebook and Yahoo.

Sometimes I like to imagine the marketing executives discussing a concept like this at one of their meetings. For “Trending Articles” it might have gone something like this…


[The curtain rises with two marketing executive sitting at each end of a huge conference table. Behind them are floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows looking down on the Manhattan skyline. To each side are walls covered with original Picasso, Cézanne, Rembrandt  and Monet paintings. A flunky enters carrying a tray of exotic fruit and Bling H2O bottles. He places the tray in the middle of the table (where neither of them can reach it) and exits stage right.]
Marketing Exec 1 You know those ads we have on our Facebook page?
Marketing Exec 2 Yeah.
Marketing Exec 1 How much of the screen do they occupy?
Marketing Exec 2 About 33%.
Marketing Exec 1 Well I don’t think that’s enough. We can increase our bonus if we increase the number of ads the Faceslaves click on.
Marketing Exec 2 But how can we squeeze more ads into the sidebar? 33% of screen real-estate is already a bit over the top, even for us.
Marketing Exec 1 Well, here’s an idea – what about we put ads in the news feed?
Marketing Exec 2 Nah – we can’t do that. The Faceslaves might revolt and move to Google Plus.
[There is silence for five seconds, and then both execs break out into riotous ironic laughter. After about 10 seconds, Marketing Exec 1 stops suddenly, leaving Marketing Exec 2 laughing by himself. He is embarrassed but recovers by looking lovingly at Marketing Exec 1.]
Marketing Exec 1 But seriously, why don’t we put ads in the news feed?
Marketing Exec 2 Maybe you’ve got something there. But the timing is not right with the IPO imminent. We don’t want to hit the headlines for the wrong reason.
Marketing Exec 1 OK, here’s an idea. Let’s put the ads in the news feed, but make them look like news.
Marketing Exec 2 That might work. But wouldn’t even the Faceslaves spot it?
Marketing Exec 1 Yes, perhaps you’re right… but wait, what if we call them something catchy…
Marketing Exec 2 Yes… what about we call them “Interesting Articles”. It’s sort of alliterative and…
Marketing Exec 1 No, it’s too meaningful. Wait, I’ve got it! Let’s call them “Trending Articles”.
Marketing Exec 2 [with both eyes firmly focused on his next appraisal]Why boss, you are just brilliant. You’re a legend in your own lifetime. How proud your kids must be to have a father like you.[Then, quietly to himself]But what does it mean?
[Curtain falls with Marketing Exec 1 standing and staring into the distance looking like an explorer who has just discovered a new continent while Marketing Exec 2 looks at him with a mixture of admiration and confusion.]
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