Stripped Down Ads, Instant Articles and More Not-So-Subtle Rants About Facebook Being Big Brother

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Art by Hank Willis Thomas

Welcome to the eNewsletter you never subscribed to.

Unbranded Images of Women: Artist Hank Willis Thomas looks at how “advertising can function as a mirror for the hopes and dreams — or the anxiety — of a society at a period of time.” Thomas stripped away the copy from ads through the past century, letting the images speak volumes for themselves. “I think what happens with ads — when we put text and logos on them, we do all the heavy lifting of making them make sense to us,” he says. “But when you see the image naked, or unbranded, you start to really ask questions.” I found this work fascinating and it made me wonder, especially with the shift we’re seeing in create to bold, expansive images with clean, subtle copy, what can we say without saying anything?

Facebook Continues World Domination: Instant articles, a trend I’ve been writing about for the past couple months, after the CEO of BuzzFeed announced plans to bring the content to the people at SXSW, are now being tested on the Facebook newsfeed. Facebook began testing Wednesday, with one item each published directly to the social platform from BuzzFeed, National Geographic, the Atlantic, NBC News, the New York Times, the Guardian, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel Online. The number one advantage, hands down, is speed. Instant articles will load up to 10 times faster on mobile because users do not need to leave the app. We know, especially after this week’s lunch and learn, that not only is mobile the future, mobile is now. And currently, we’re not creating content that will load fast enough for impatient users. This means that “publishers have little choice but to cooperate with Facebook.” A big fear is that publishers will lose audiences on their own sites to the instant content on Facebook. Could the future be one super-website, a network of homogeneous blue and white thumbs up symbols? For me, the bigger fear is not that all this content will available in one place, but that Facebook gets to choose what content we see. “Last year, Facebook decided to downgrade the prominence of viral content like cat videos and promote ‘high quality’ news content. A month ago, it changed course again to highlight personal posts by users’ friends and family.” What if I like cat videos, Facebook!? I do what what I want!

Meanwhile Tumblr and Pinterest Quietly Lay Siege: According to a recent study by GlobalWebIndex, Facebook is the only major social platform to see a decline in growth of active users this year, down 8%, whereas newer platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr have seen explosive growth, 97% and 94% respectively. I, for one, am not surprised. Facebook is like the World State in Brave New World, where critical thinking and individual action are discouraged; everyone fits neatly into little boxes where they tick off their interests, meticulously crafting their image. Tumblr, on the other had, is like the wild west. Rules? Who needs ‘em, man? (There are actually rules). You post what you want, you see what you want, you can even design your page appearance. Have you guys picked up that I like Tumblr? Now, who’s with me? Let’s figure out how to optimize this space for our brands. Down with Facebook!

That’s all folks.

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