The Latest Step Toward a Marketplace for “Engagement”

This week, Facebook announced that it is relaunching its commenting plug-in.  Under the current system, when a user made a comment on another site with their Facebook profile, the comment remained with the external site. Under the new system, those comments will also appear on the user’s news feed.  According to one assessment, this development will help publishers “to mine that much-desired ‘engagement’ that advertisers seem to value.”

Importantly, the new commenting plug-in links back to the original site, and so comments can be threaded together, “regardless if they were made on a publisher’s site or on the post on Facebook.”

What this is facilitating, of course, is a greater ability amongst publishers to effectively aggregate, analyze, and ultimately, monetize the activity of their audience, and not just monetize their consumption.  As I talk about quite extensively in Audience Evolution, this is the direction in which the audience marketplace is inexorably moving.

One thing that I’m finding interesting about this transition is how it introduces new and powerful incentives for content providers to evoke responses from their audiences.  Those who consume content but do not respond in some way are increasingly becoming dead weight in the audience marketplace.  Just as 20th century advertisers prized young people over old people, 21st century advertisers seem ready to value participants over “lurkers” (not a term we hear too much anymore). 

One can imagine how, going forward, a key analytic that web sites are going to fixate on is the extent to which visitors are “converted” to participants. How can the participant to visitor ratio be enhanced? Might we begin to see the introduction of strategies intended to drive non-participants away, in the same way that newspapers and television programmers in many instances worked to repel elderly or minority audiences that advertisers didn’t value?

These are some of the interesting questions that arise in what I call the post-exposure audience marketplace.

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