Cookie Directive: How To Kill Off European Publishers; While Giving A Monster Monopoly A Competitive Advantage

Facebook is in hot water again, as it seems to have re-instated the “datr” cookie to track all users on sites using the “like” button – whether you are logged into the social network or not. It would seem Facebook wants to cookie the world and collect the data for its ad network – sorry social graph. For FREE! The full details of the latest indiscretion can be viewed here.

But wait: isn’t Facebook flouting the European directive law? Oh yes. I don’t see them telling users they are about to be “text-filed”. No industry initiative. No IAB love-in. Nothing. I have been told that Facebook was pretty reticent (that should read AWOL) when the industry was negotiating the cookie directive with the EU. I’m not surprised. The truth is Facebook is delighted with the EU directive. The opt-in is tailor made for its business model. Everyone uses Facebook. And because its log-in automatically opts-in users (read the fine print) to be cookied on non-Facebook sites, it can tippytoe around the most idiotic piece of legislation ever to emerge form the bureaucrats in Brussels.

What Brussels don’t realise is that they have handed the initiative to a company that doesn’t create any content of its own – and, without knowing, lumbered the European digital media industry with a law that will have a major impact on revenue. Sure Facebook is driving traffic to all these tagged up sites. But at what price? Publishers are giving up data to a vendor that is now competing directly for agency budget. All that growth in European display is not coming from traditional publishers. It’s Facebook. Agencies are shifting huge amounts into the Facebook channel.

Its universal cookie is also allowing it to win the post view metric battle. It can cookie bomb everyone – and win the last impression. Facebook is getting all the plaudits in agency land for hitting KPIs – and it’s got scale and reach, etc… But is Facebook really adding value with its tiny, tiny, tiny pic and text ad? Does it create brand awareness? Are you serious? This tactic of cookie-ing everyone and gaming the post view window is clearly distorting the real value of Facebook display campaigns. And publishers are helping them. This is nothing new. Some ad nets have been doing this for years – and making boat loads of cash. I’d love to see a proper debate around this. Maybe the AOP could do a panel around it at its next event. Or maybe we should accept the inevitable rise of the FB monster, shutter our sites and build content on Facebook – letting them make fat margins off the socially targeted ads running against the content. Just a thought.

Disclosure (the first ever!): ExchangeWire uses the Facebook like button, and has no idea why as it drives less traffic than other referrers, including Feedburner and regional Japanese search engines. I’m also aware that Disqus is dropping third party cookies on users. But thanks to the UK government, ExchangeWire has 12 months to get its house in order. ExchangeWire would like to thank the unelected, faceless EU politicians for getting involved in an industry they will never understand. ExchangeWire would also like to extend its appreciation to wooly-jumper wearing privacy advocates for protecting us all from evil targeted advertising. Special mention goes to the WSJ for spectacular hypocrisy on this whole issue.

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