The keynote interview of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at SXSW’08 by Sarah Lacy has all ready had plenty of coverage. Generally, the coverage has been about the supposed awfulness of the interview and the Geek revolution that took place but from listening to the interview, AdViking believes that many people missed some very interesting insights into Facebook and in particular the Facebook strategy around advertising.
One important point that Zuckerberg was at pains to get across is that Facebook is really just part of the macro-trend about bringing technology to bear to facilitate the ease of connectivity and communication between people.
Within seconds of Lacy turning the conversation towards advertising, a punter in the crowd neatly summarised the majority of opinion by shouting out, “Beacon Sucks!”. To which Lacy responds by promising that we’ll get to that.
AdViking thought that the primary takeaway about the Facebook monetisation strategy is that it’s going to be an organic evolution that is inline with how people use the platform, both on the site and across the wider web. Zuckerberg also admitted that they announced the basic idea (Beacon) too early and believes that the solution isn’t going to be found in the next couple of years but actually over the next couple of decades.
AdViking would argue that Facebook needs to take the thinking a bit further and provide Users with empowerment tools to become nano-publishers. That is, if Facebook is making money off people’s use of the platform, then those that are keen to do so should be able to get involved in that marketplace.
To this question, Zuckerberg shrugs his shoulders and agrees with the indictment. He then takes a step back and takes the opportunity to explain the vision behind Beacon, which can be summarised as:
Beacon was first attempt at trying to tap into a growing trend (very web2.0) that social media interaction is quickly moving away from monolithic sites (e.g.: Facebook) to a collection of social services (e.g.: TripIt, Dopplr, 30Boxes) across the wider web. That is, Beacon was hoped to be a collection point for the usage of social services with a tie into the Facebook ad system and then turn those actions into ads/endorsements.
Another point that AdViking found interesting was that the development of Beacon was done by the Platform team and not the Ad team.
In response to what went wrong, it all came down to communication and in particular about how users can tune the permissions.
With regards to the $15 billion valuation that was gained through the Microsoft deal, Zuckerberg said that others focus on the deals but at Facebook, they believe that to realise their vision they need to build revenue quickly and this was one way.
As to if Microsoft are happy, this was skirted around but jokes were flying about calling Ballmer to ask him.
Adviking’s takeaway is that Facebook views this deal as some easy cash and resources that allows them to focus on the big picture.
The above image was an interpretation of the keynote by graphic artist Sunni Brown.
* WTF – Was Lacy’s rather interesting way of putting a burning question from most people’s minds.