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Twitter Will Show Who Pays for Ads and How Much They Spend (bloomberg.com)
416 points by champagnepapi on June 28, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 89 comments

I dislike both Twitter & Facebook, and am on the verge of closing both accounts, however I give them kudos for this - increasing transparency instead of censorship. While I understand our desire and pursuit for truth, I would like to leave the interpretation of any ultimate truths and meaning to rest with the end user, and not with any corporation or even government.

This is about financial transparency, nothing blocks them from increasing censorship and shadow-banning accounts and advertisers.

Yup good move. TV news orgs need to do this too. Next too all their flashing banners and scrolls. Especially when the talking heads of both side are raging. I'd really like to know if Coke or Apple or whoever is footing the bill.

They can increase both transparency and censorship at the same time.

What I'd like is a "Twitter made $x from you in the last year through showing you ads. Click here to pay us $2x and not see any for the next year."

It's been tried. Most directly by Google, but almost any publisher on the internet has tested various forms of subscription model.

While some high-quality publications (the New York Times, Economist, etc.) have seen some success in recent years, the overwhelming evidence is that the economics just don't work out among the general public.

Most people also underestimate the costs. IIRC, Google needs about $100/pa to supplant advertising revenue.

Yes, you may be willing to pay, so why aren't more services willing to take your money? Apart from the administrative hassle of such a program, the $100 (or whatever) are also an average. People willing to pay as much for an ad-free experience just happen to be at the top end of the value distribution for advertisers as well.

In other words: If you're willing to give me 2bucks, it's gonna cost you 5!

Google is currently selling this service for youtube, branded "youtube red." It costs $10/mo and as part of that they also offer to repair some of the crippleware in the youtube app.

It doesn't seem worth it, to me. I need ad blockers anyway for other ad services and annoyances so I end up just avoiding their built-in ad-riddled apps and going through a browser for things like youtube. It's a poor experience but better than dealing with ads.

I understand the value prop for shipping crippleware apps in a low cost android phone, but they ship the same stuff on flagship $1k phones like the pixel. It's a bizarre choice.

I've been paying for YouTube Red (now Premium) ever since they started it. It's very much worth it. Between Netflix and Youtube you can replace cable.

It's frustrating how people complain about ad supported models while at the same time aren't willing to pay for it. So much entitlement. There's also the option of not consuming their resources.

I already don't have cable, there's nothing to replace. I don't use youtube very often and if Google wants to paywall youtube entirely that's fine by me. Don't disingenuously introduce some silly entitlement canard - I never made a suggestion of entitlement.

What I did point out is that they're making a mockery out of their premium phone brand by shipping it with crippleware. Check back and see what that decision costs them in a decade.

Google is absurdly bad at product.

I pay it. For the most part I'm pretty happy about it. I fucking hate ads, and I do like watching YouTube videos. It's a straightforward model.

Same here. I got it as a trial to watch Cobra Kai, and then when I realized there weren't any more ads for anything I stuck with it! I've been watching way more Youtube now too, and have been discovering some great content that I wouldn't have found otherwise due to my severe distaste for ads.

It comes with Google Play's streaming music service too, though.

You should get a discount if you never click on ads. I've been blocking them for years, so any subscriptions I sign up for are 100% free money. The same is true of people who block ads mentally.

Among many other reasons referenced by others, the users who would be willing to fork over a subscription fee to access twitter are exactly the demographic that twitter needs in order to keep its advertising attractive to marketers. A successful subscription option for a service like twitter would greatly diminish the value of their advertising inventory.

“I’m rich relative to the mean Twitter audience, please ruin your business model for something that is privilege at best and crypto-HN virtue signaling at worst.”

It’s been awhile since I’ve had the chance to measure the caliber of Twitter’s finance quants, but last I knew it was pretty fucking hard to get past the phone screen for that job. I enjoyed jousting with them.

Oh, please. Twitter's average revenue per user is something like $2-3 per quarter. Your notion that you have to be some kind of Scrooge McDuck to spend $25/year on a Twitter Premium subscription is ridiculous. Jamming "virtue signaling" into places where it doesn't fit is its own kind of virtue signaling.

Even amongst those who say they would pay $25/year for Twitter premium, we'd first have to account for stated vs. revealed preferences of how many would actually pay. I can't speak about you as an individual, but study after study has shown that this can be a huge effect. And keep in mind, this is only among privacy minded tech people. The vast majority of social media users do not give a shit about this (and will explicitly say so). Also, I imagine the people who are willing to pay for Twitter premium are highly correlated with the people who constantly rail about social media and threaten to quit/actually do quit. For those people, switching to a paid model is just going to provide the impetus to go ahead and quit anyway. All of which serve to bring the per user expenses up, but then increasing the cost of online services usually prompts a huge hue and cry (see: every time Netflix ups their prices), so you can't keep up with inflation even. And so people start quitting, and then due to network effects everyone else also starts quitting and the service dies. This is not in Twitter/Facebook's best interest and rest assured, they will not ever do it.

I don't think anybody's suggesting Twitter move to only having a paid offering, which I agree would be fatal. I also suspect the market of people who really would pay is not large enough for them to bother with, but it depends on what they put in the premium version. Dropping ads is easy to implement, but is a niche market. On the other hand, being able to create private spaces could be huge. And they do a decent business in access to data that nobody seems to mind.

Couldn't that get awfully expensive for people with lots of followers?

Perhaps people with lots of followers should be able to make money on Twitter, just like people with lots of views make money on YouTube.

Considering that right now Twitter has a link to give you the reason you're seeing an ad, that almost always doesn't give the answer. Are they afraid to show what they've deducted of my profile directly ? I don't care how much an advertiser spend, but I want to know who they wanted to target, or at least what they decided to target that led Twitter to show me the ad. We're not there yet.

I'd love to see a "how much did you loading this page make the site owner"

Perhaps a "with adblocker" and "without adblocker"

The average facebook account nets them something like $2 a month in the US, or under a dollar a month in europe, that's a tiny amount.

When people realise how little their personal data and time is being sold for, perhaps there will be more of a backlash against advertising.

I think Facebook's monthly ARPU is closer to $7 in the US in 2017, which is absurdly high (vs the rest of the world). Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2018/01/31/facebook-earnings-q4-2017-ar...

Ahh yes, the figures I saw were the same $26, but implied it was yearly rather than quarterly.

I wonder why USians are so much more valuable to advertisers than Europeans.

Probably because (and this is personal opinion, not researched facts) the US is in a huge advertising bubble. We have found out just how effective advertising is at selling products and we have numbers to back it up so and decent sized business is throwing money to advertisers like mad to drive sales. If sales start to drop though, they double down and throw more money for more advertising; but what they top level administrators aren't considering is the non-linear nature of advertising and exposure and eventually advertisee fatigue enough. By time the sales numbers come back for your second or third round you already paid for the advertising and just burned through tons of your initial profits for minor gains. At the end of it all though you likely still have positive overall numbers from advertising, they don't show how badly advertising performed per cost near the end because the big initial exposure brings up the average. Rinse and repeat!

Also, there aren't much of any protections for consumers against false and deceptive advertising unless you have a million dollar legal team to take on the business's multi-million dollar legal team.

I do wonder who is paying that $7. Is is companies trying to get you to buy their product (that you need) rather than a competitor. Is it companies selling you tat you don't need. Is it companies trying to scam you. Is it companies trying to get your vote?

I guess US people have bigger wages + have more of a credit-card culture.

Another interesting metric would be "did the owner make more from this page than you spent in mobile data to retrieve its ads"..

Won't this just lead to "laundering" platforms like what happened with Whois?

Not necessarily. Twitter has the power to deny anyone they want from purchasing ads from them. WHOIS is not centrally controlled in the same way. Twitter could easily block "laundering" platforms from functioning simply by not allowing them to purchase advertisements.

The laundering will work the opposite way. Instead of hiding behind one big entity, political advertiser's will hide behind a multitude of smaller entities to make themselves look like grassroots organizations.

You won't see "promoted by [Koch|Soros], who spent $8.5m on ads this year", you'll see things promoted by "milualkee citizens for freedom, who spent $1500 this year". But the money will be coming from the same place.

If you give advertisers more space, they'll figure out a way to use it effectively. Even if the point of that space was to try and keep them honest.

Right, but those groups also have to disclose their donors.

yes. Added friction is still typically good in an adversarial problem like this one. This won't fix the problem forever but will weed out certain actors due to extra effort.

In other words, it's a step in the right direction, good for twitter.

yes good for twitter, it is a positive change. not sufficient by a country mile, like it or not there will have to be some legislative remedies if we are to avoid dire consequences.

This ad was purchased by Americans for America.

At least that's something you can research, unlike now where you have no information.

I want to be optimistic about this ... but it's not like people particular care who is feeding them this stuff. They will complain about shadow government fake news in one breath, while at the same time sharing loads of drivel from `UberPatriotEagleGuns News`, or to be fair, `SocialistOther96PercentDemocratHose`

I agree that people don't care (broadly speaking) but people who do care still have a chance (my original point) and perhaps more importantly, journalists can investigate and publish articles that can be read by the middle segment of people who care enough to read the news but don't care enough to investigate themselves.

"This add paid for by Real Americans, No really! We're Real!"

This is going to make blocking promoted tweets even more fun than it already is.

You mean easier, yes.

I block everything promoted and it never stops feeling good.

I wonder how much of their business is political advertising, if it was small enough I'd be inclined to ban it all and save a lot of hassle.

I would imagine quite a bit these days, considering in 2014 they released this handbook:


This is possibly a bad move business wise as it possibly exposes business intelligence information that a company may not want competitors to have.

I thought that as well but closer reading of the article indicates it’s specifically for political advertisements, not generic ad spend by corporations.

It seems that we will be able to see all the ads related to an advertiser account. [1]

[1] https://ads.twitter.com/transparency

I went to twitter.com/spotify, where is the link to see all their ads? Am I missing something?

So this is only applies to political advertisements? The title is misleading and should be changed.

No the article says its for all advertising accounts but political one in particular they will divulge more information than just budget.

I'm not sure, their competitors different enough that I can't see it being that valuable.

For advertisers it might be a different matter, it isn't that hard to figure out what your competitors spend on ads but I'm not sure it's in Twitter's interest to make it easier. Google seems to go a long way to obfuscate what is going on in your Adwords account.

This is going to give away a huge competitive advantage for good marketers.

If I know my political ads are most effective with Women, 45-65, who are Hispanic, and that's where I'm focusing my spend....

Is it fair for the opponent to have that information? If they give that level of detail for political ads, I hope they at least spare startup businesses who are still researching to find their ideal audience.

> Is it fair for the opponent to have that information?

I'm parsing "fair" in the form of: imagine two societies, one where such information is private the other where it's public. Who outperforms?

Would the number of start-ups which cave because an incumbent snipes their marketing outweigh the number who could piggyback on an incumbent's revealed slicing? (The latter, by marketing to the same customers better or noticing who is being left out.) Will consumers see more advertising or less? If more, will they respond to the deluge by defaulting to the incumbent or trying new options more frequently?

I don't know. But we have an opportunity to find out. If this drives innovation, I'd say a case is to be made to open up these data across advertising platforms. Who knows. Maybe it's the tool to pry apart Facebook and Google's stranglehold.

You realize though that at least a Facebook has the same features, right?

In fact FB went much farther in that for example they let you go back 7 YEARS in a pages ad history and not just 7 days like Twitter does

> FB went much farther in that for example they let you go back 7 YEARS in a pages ad history

I am not completely familiar with Facebook's ad platform. Does it really let anyone see, for example, which demographics Procter & Gamble is targeting with a particular Gilette ad? (Or its Gilette brand, generally?)

Yep it does. They tell you exactly why you are seeing a ad.

For political ads you can also go to a page and look up all the ad campaigns they are running, how much money was spend, who was target, what the ad creative was, etc

> They tell you exactly why you are seeing a ad

Pardon me, I meant that anyone should be able to see who anyone else is targeting. Currently, when Terrible Kale Bar® shows me an ad, I can see it's because I liked a post of my Portland friend's. But I can't look at Terrible Kale Bar®'s page and see a list of whom they're targeting.

> by marketing to the same customers better or noticing who is being left out.

Noticing who is being left out would be a start-up’s marketing strategy that can be sniped by the incumbent.

I agree with the overall sentiments however.

Yeah, as a consumer, this sentiment isn't gonna get any sympathy from me ... I already despise being "marketed to", which has made me really jaded about content marketing; particularly when I consume it but only realize it's just shilling some product or service after the fact.

All advertising should be (by law, or at least industry standard) clearly marked and disclosed.

Yes it's fair. In the 2016 presidential election campaigns were using micro-targeted voter suppression campaigns that attempted to get certain demographics to stay home. From a story in The Atlatnic: "The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook 'dark posts'—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as [campaign digital guru Brad] Parscale puts it, 'only the people we want to see it, see it.'" If the opposing campaigns had this information they could potentially re-deploy resources.

Source: https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/trumps-...

In my opinion, not only is it fair but it’s important that all ads — particularly political ads — are transparent in this way. This transparency is a public good for media literacy. Marketing is manipulation and often people don’t notice or are tricked into thinking elsewise.

Perhaps this will make more money for Twitter due to advertisers who buy ads for irrelevant segments to obfuscate their strategy.

If your marketing strategy requires depends entirely upon your market not knowing they're being marketed to, or your competitors not knowing who you're marketing to, there's something wrong with the strategy.

It's similar logic in the security industry to the idea of security by obscurity alone.

FB is also doing the same thing, starting today. Brutal.

Is it fair to the people being targeted for manipulation to not know why they're being targeted?

This is smart. It can help move the responsibility away from Twitter's issues with policing it's own platform and onto the people paying for the advertising. Without transparency the blame stops at the platform. With this people can scrutinize the actual content and sources of the content.

Thumbs up from me! This is the kind of transparency I like to see when it comes to politics.

This and Facebook's equivalent are great. But what about Google/YouTube...?

Yes, this should be a requirement for all ad platforms.

The funny part about this is when I do see ads from companies like Apple, Google, or other news sources, the comments thread is like pure gold.

Unless they’re publishing KYC data, I call bullshit.

I hope this sounds the alarm on how shockingly cheap it is to promote political extremism on these platforms. Donald Trump saw much cheaper effective ad rates than Clinton on social media by crafting viral outrage memes as ads.

It will be interesting to look at the effective CPM rates of various candidates on Twitter using this data. I'm hoping they don't just show how many people were shown the Tweet as an ad, but also those who saw it from organic distribution via retweet.

I think you'll find that outrageous, incendiary politicians pay a lot less per view than reasonable ones.

The amount of blatant paid advertising going unmarked in Twitter Moments is ridiculous.

I assumed they were all paid for to begin with honestly.

Is this factual truth that advertisers can pay to be on the front page Moments? If so I am surprised, and would have expected at a minimum Sponsored disclosure like they do with paid tweets

I never used my twitter account because it was obviously all branding and marketing in a public facing way in the 2000s.

This is an awesome step in the right direction.

This only applies to overt ads which are hardly the problem. It does nothing to mitigate the armies of astroturfers influencing public opinion.

Still, it's certainly a welcome change, and a step in the right direction.

I wonder what the best way to combat large-scale astroturfing on a platform like twitter would be; My first thought would be a rep system akin to those of StackOverflow or HN, but I'm not sure how you would implement it such that there's not a large impact on legitimate new users - there's no system like upvotes Twitter could use to stratify.

I believe Reddit does have a problem with advertisers purchasing (or renting) accounts from established users who have enough karma/longevity to post in the various subreddits that block new users to avoid spam.

I think that is still an ongoing problem but you can use reddit sort of like a company forum where you don't have to pay reddit a dime by having a community manager and learning the platform.

> where you don't have to pay reddit a dime

So you, and your company's data, are the product that reddit monetizes.

> I wonder what the best way to combat large-scale astroturfing on a platform like twitter would be

Report them to the FTC because paid endorsements/reviews/etc are subject to disclosure [1].

[1] https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/ftc...

astroturfers influencing public opinion.

For the most part, people don’t look to social media to find content that helps them form their opinions; they look to it to reinforce already held opinions. It's an echo chamber.

That means astroturfing may lead to more divisiveness, as people seek out content that makes them more sure than ever that their opinion is the one and only correct one. But it does not “influence public opinion” since nobody is jumping to the other side of an issue based on astroturfing. It just makes the world a more hostile place.

That seems unlikely. For anything new or unfamiliar, people will not have established opinions yet. Their opinions will form under the influence of their experiences, including astroturfers on social media.

Sure, for something new or unfamiliar. But most astroturfing campaigns are not directed at such issues.

Everything is new and unfamiliar to someone.

Also, pushing things further to the extremes/reinforcing the belief that "Everyone I speak to agrees with me on <topic> so I should therefor stand up for it because it's right" isn't less bad than fooling someone who hasn't yet formed their opinion.

For a lot of people it’ll be their first time being exposed to a concept.

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