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Google and Facebook are under pressure over fake views.The Google and Facebook brands may be facing their biggest threat to date.

Did you know that if you were to sit down at 9am on a Monday morning with the task of watching all the videos on YouTube, and you didn’t stop for lunch, dinner, sleep, or even a toilet break, but you just watched videos, it would take you 60,000 years before you had viewed them all.

Except, you wouldn’t, because roughly 300,000 videos are being added a day – you would never finish.

Yet somehow, Google has to police them. It has to know whether a video is perfectly normal and falls within the parameters of what is considered to be acceptable content. But how, how can it police that much content?

There are two answers to that question. Answer number one is algorithm, answer number two is you, me and the bloke next door – or to put it another way, crowdsource it.

Neither of these techniques seem to be fool-proof. And that is why the UK government, the Guardian and a host of other organisations are hopping mad with Google, after discovering that their ads have been appearing alongside totally impropriate content and have been busy pulling their ads.

Err, let me re-write that – some of the other publishers are not so much hopping mad, as hoping like mad that this problem will escalate. Which it seems to be doing.

Now attention has shifted from inappropriate content, and fake news, to fake views – so that’s the artificial manipulation of data measuring traffic visiting a web site – for example, bots programmed to visit web sites, boosting the number of views. And then Google Ads appear on these sites, making Google and the people behind the web sites oodles of money, all based on false premises.

Now Facebook has got caught up in it, too.

Cost effective re-written

When Google Ad Words was introduced to the world, it was the most cost effective form of advertising ever invented – it was a brilliant idea, link ads to search enquiries, thereby knowing that the only people who see the ads had some interest in the product being advertised – at least that’s the theory.

It’s not perfect and the ads would occasionally get it wrong – but compare this form of advertising to what we used to have. Old fashioned advertising is a hit and miss affair. So, a company may take a slot on the front cover of a specific newspaper, for example, or during the ad break within a specific TV programme. The ads might have been seen by millions of people, but advertisers only had vague information on who those people were and the majority of people who saw an ad were never going to buy the product being promoted.

But Google Ad Words, and now Facebook, with a huge volume of data about visitors to its platform, can target ads with a degree of accuracy that has no precedent.

It has turned the publishing industry upside down.


Of course, the cost of ads on Google and Facebook are determined by an auction process, and these days, the bidding process pushes the price up, such that the ads are no longer so cost effective – but what it all means is that the global advertising cake is now cut up so that Google and Facebook get giant sized slices.

The backlash

Maybe Google and Facebook are seeing their biggest backlash yet against their advertising model. You can practically hear executives in the publishing industry and TV companies rubbing their hands together.

Fashion is a funny thing – ideas can go in and out of it. It is also the case that when the media gets the bit between their teeth, it can hold on, like a pitbull – we have seen this over and over again – for example, earlier this decade, you could barely move in the US without seeing an article castigating Toyota – it was unfair castigation, but it suited the home grown US car industry pretty well.

That is what it is like when the media gets hold of an idea.

It is just that this time the idea that they have grabbed rather supports their own businesses.

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