Why Facebook Bugsmenot and helps me heart my Westie

OK, so we screwed up.

By we I mean the people such as me who were running news Websites.

When we did it, you rightfully hated it.

What’s remarkable is that Facebook is doing it and you love it so much you can’t get enough of it.

And I think it has some tremendous — and positive — implications for online advertising revenues.

Back to the beginning.

We screwed up by suddenly deciding one day in 2004 (or sooner or later) that we would club you over the head with a two-by-four and forcibly prevent you from seeing content on the site until you registered. When you registered, we asked you to tell us your income, whether you like music or sports, your age and give us all sorts of personal information.

Speaking as one who was on the receiving end of a bazillion vitriolic emails, I can say definitively that you hated it. I would come in each morning and start answering emails with “I am sorry …. but ….”

Believe me, I felt your pain.

The reason we launched registration, of course, was money.

I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t really all about you personally. It was about the collective you, and how much more we could charge advertisers when we told them about your fabulous demographics.

Right. Except that every other news Website did the same thing, so we were no better than anyone else. And sadly, you sliced out into such small groups that it was almost impossible to figure out how to price the ads targeted to your group.

And we spawned a growth industry: BugMeNot.com was born to quickly give you a password on request so you could get around all that crap. And with that, the reliability of the underlying data came into question.

Along comes Facebook. And it lets you create a page. And join groups. And join more groups. And even create groups. Facebook makes it easy for you to self-select into tiny niche slices and voluntarily – eagerly! — give out that very information that you hated giving to news Websites.

Take my eclectic list of groups.

I heart Westies. I heart my Westie Portia
I heart Dobermans. Trust me, I’m a journalist. Dallas Times Herald Diaspora. I’m not in any political groups, but I’ve been severely tempted by He’s not Kinky, he’s my governor. I did join my neighborhood, Mahncke Park, in San Antonio.

When I created a Facebook ad to find home for two puppies, I had the option, for another buck or two, to target the ad to a specific group.

Holy cow! For not much money I could make sure people a few blocks from my home who are dog lovers and have a good sense of humor see my ad? I seriously like that.

And so should the real estate agent down the street. And so should the deli around the corner. And so should the woman up the road who is running for Congress. And so should my friend over in Austin who is looking for people to work on an out-of-state campaign.

One more thing. Newspaper people on the content and editorial side never liked to acknowledge how many people bought the paper for the ads. Sacrilege!

Guess what? If I am on the I heart Westies page and I see an ad about a shampoo to help with their notoriously dry and itchy skin, I think that’s a good thing. Not an intrusive ad.

God forbid, I may actually think of it as content. Because I am there because I Heart Westies. To me, that ad is information.

I know. This is heracy. But it BugsMeNot.