The latest update from Facebook and Instagram is going to affect publishers... again.

Facebook rocked our world a few weeks ago when it announced plans to cut back on publisher content inside its news feed, but the changes Facebook quietly made to its branded content guidelines last month have the potential to impact more than just traffic. 

According to the new guidelines, which are scheduled to go into effect on March 1, page owners are not permitted to accept “anything of value” in exchange for sharing content that they did not have a hand in creating through their pages. 

Translation: You cannot sell posts on your Facebook pages any longer if you are linking to content you did not create. 

Now, how are Facebook and Instagram going to enforce this? It claims it will rely on a system developed to detect the difference between content shared by a publisher organically versus content shared with the likelihood of a financial arrangement.  

If you aren't currently selling posts on your Facebook or Instagram account, and do not plan to, this does not affect you. Keep calm and carry on. But if you are, it would be wise to consider the potential consequences of non-compliance, which initially include warnings from Facebook, but can ultimately lead to having your page shut down. 

Facebook and Google are certainly making it their business how publishers can monetize their audiences, which despite being done in the name of user experience, certainly has the ability to affect the bottom line. 

Dissecting New Google Changes

Google is making a major change in Chrome and punishments for violation are pretty severe. Beginning February 15, Google Chrome will begin forcing websites to abide by new ad standards by blocking all ads including those served by Google, on websites not in compliance. Translation: Google is now telling you how you can monetize your site.

Publishers take note: this new change could block all ads on your site for 30 days.  

Why Better Ad Standards?

Formed by several trade associations and online media companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, and Google, the Coalition for Better Ads set out to “improve consumers’ experience with online advertising.” Initial research from the coalition included an ad preference survey of 25,000 North American and European internet desktop and mobile users, with more countries to be surveyed later. The goal was to determine which types of ads prompted users to adopt ad blocking software.

Notable from the research, consumers least preferred the following types of ads:

  • Pop-ups

  • Flash or animated ads

  • Autoplay videos with sound

  • Ads that require a countdown to dismiss

  • Sticky ads that fill more than 30% of the screen

  • And more.

These results were used to create better ad standards that would be better for consumers, but also marketers and publishers as well.

Are These Changes Better for Publishers?

It could be... for publishers who are paying attention to their audience.

Although the standards are voluntary, Google has chosen include the “Better Ad Standards” as part of its Chrome browser beginning in February 15, 2018. Chrome currently has over 55% of the user market, with over 2 billion downloads. This statistic means that there is a likely chance that your user has Chrome for their browser and your websites could be affected.

Websites accessed by Google Chrome that feature the “least preferred” ads, such as popups or autoplay videos, will be reported via the Ad Experience Report. If your website is reported for review, you have 30 days to fix the issue and resubmit the site for review. After 30 days, if the website still has a “failing” status within the Ad Experience Report, Chrome will then remove all ads on websites that fail to meet the standards.

Learn more about which ads would cause your site to be marked for review.

What Can Publishers Do to Stay Compliant?

Be aware of violations. The first thing publishers need to do is understand how to access and use the Ad Experience Report to see if they are in violation. Google will offer the report to users and owners of website properties through Google’s Search Console. Your webmaster can help with access to the report.

To learn more about Ad Experience Report, watch this:

If you do have any ads that violate the standards, work with your webmaster to remove or change the ads on the website and resubmit the site to Google for review within 30 days.

Look for alternatives. As an example, one of our clients is exploring an ad platform called “Adventive” which allows you do to some interesting ads that don’t violate the standards. Google also offers other ad suggestions that won’t violate new ad standards including:

  • Ads that don’t slow down or block content.

  • Native ads that blend seamlessly with the content.

  • Ads that are relevant to the interests of the user.

Know your audience and explore other paths to monetization. Google’s implementation of better ad standards is only part of the wave of changes that’s making it harder for publishers to monetize their web visitors. Apple recently added a new privacy feature to prevent advertisers from tracking users on the web through their Safari web browser. Microsoft and Facebook will also likely follow in Google’s footsteps since they too are a part of the Coalition for Better Ads.

With more changes in the coming year, and the major players taking a role in deciding how brands can monetize their site traffic, publishers have all the more reason to focus on audience development and reader revenue opportunities.


Facebook's latest identity crisis is over (for now). After their honest look in the mirror, it's time for publishers to do the same.

Digital marketers, social media managers and the like have been acutely aware of the announcement made by Facebook on Thursday. Prior to the announcement, we knew, that Facebook knew, it had a problem. With growing conversations about the role Facebook played in the election and continues to play in the dissemination of fake news, Facebook has been under siege.  And while publishers waited in the wings, keeping a hopeful eye on The Facebook Journalism project, Facebook has finally drawn their line in the sand. They are not a media company, nor do they want the responsibility as such. They are not publishers nor do they want the responsibility as such. And their algorithm will now mirror this newly found sense of self (essentially favoring your friends and family content over news outlets). So now we know. Fortunately for us, we are publishers, we are media companies, and we’ll take it from here, Mark.

Publishers are equipped to provide meaningful content and engagement with their readers over a quick click. It’s how the legacy publishers initially built a foundation and a relationship with readers, long before Facebook was conceived.

Sure, Facebook distracted us all at times. They created a new game and we all eagerly played by their ever-changing rules. But the smart publishers never lost sight of their true identify—journalists starting and facilitating meaningful dialogue in their markets, not creators of click bait forever chasing Facebook’s tail. For those who did, the time of reckoning has arrived. As one Twitter user pointed out this week, “So many publishers think they have audiences, when what they really have is traffic. I think we’re about to find out who has an audience.”

While it may sting a bit as our referral traffic ebbs and flows and we settle into the new norm, most publishers, after the initial panic, realize this is a good thing for all of us.

Yet there are still moves to take to prepare. Stay with us as we share those moves. But take heart, dear media professionals. This new algorithm aligns with who you are.

And for those who may have lost themselves a bit, stay tuned. We’re here to help.



Exciting Things are Happening at Twenty-First Digital

Formerly Melissa Chowning Media, newly named Twenty-First Digital, has hired Ashley Mulder, an audience development director with over 10 years experience in city and regional publishing.

The name change is a nod to the twenty-first floor that D Magazine occupies and where Melissa and Ashley worked together and honed their proven audience development tactics and strategies. Together, the two bring an experienced and strategic take on audience development with a combined 24 years’ experience working on more than 10 different publications. 

“I’ve discovered that the need in the audience development space is far beyond what I imagined. There’s an incredible opportunity to help regional and niche media companies take their strategies to the next level.” says Melissa Chowning.

Together, Melissa and Ashley have developed a philosophical approach to audience development that is rooted in service to the content, the advertiser, but above all, the consumer experience. Additionally, both firmly believe that audience development is the solution for the many challenges that are facing media companies. Their approach is strategic and methodical with a relentless dedication to understanding the stories that emerge from the data.

Twenty-First Digital is excited to be working with media companies across the country to raise the bar in audience development and keep pace with the major brands that are rapidly changing the consumer expectation. Never before has audience development and reader revenue been so relevant and important in the publishing space, and for good reason. The path to continued profitability comes from knowing, understanding, and serving your most valuable asset—your audience. 

When you're ready, let's chat.

Are Publishers Ready to Capture the Duopoly's Dollars?

Are Publishers Ready to Capture the Duopoly's Dollars?

In the publishing world, change can be a four-letter word. With the reliance of ads and clicks to stay in business, website and media publishers are losing traffic and ad spend to Facebook and Google. With a whiff of change in the air, it’s time publishers understood the trends and tools available to increase audience engagement and advertising dollars.