Aviation Suffers From Facebook Addiction
Opinion Editorial written by Jason J. Baker – “We do not issue press releases – relevant information is primarily shared on Facebook”. This is what a European aircraft manufacturer tells press people upon inquiring on what it takes to get included on their “news release list”. We seem to have become addicted to the convenience and ease of Facebook and Co. in obtaining information and it is damaging our industry more than it helps.
Ever since 2010, I have monitored (not without sincere concern) the tidal change that is occurring in the aviation industry. While – at least prior to 2010 – aviation was squarely in the stone-age all things online, the industry has morphed into a social media addicted mass entertainment monster, which is hard to follow and even harder to understand in 2018. I used to think exactly 180° different just 8 short years ago. Here’s how it looks today.
Genuine Content Creators Declining
“Facebook pushed out the ability for publishers to reach a lot of people organically; a lot of them are losing 80–90 percent of their organic traffic. You’re now seeing more paid content, and if you want to communicate with the people that you’re supposed to have a connection with, you have to pay Facebook for that communication.”
People barely read these days, information must be communicated within one, maximum two sentences – better yet – by hashtags, incredibly short videos or sensational pictures. Heaven forbid anything goes deeper than usual hyperbole. As a consequence, the number of outfits which generate own content is naturally
declining. More will throw in the towel.
An example for this thesis are our “colleagues” at Seaplaneinternational.com. The website silently ceased publishing at the end of 2017 and shifted its entire focus over to Facebook. Suffice to say, even a dead website that produces no own content whatsoever is rather successful at least in terms of followers on Facebook.
Facebook is a ginormous recycling farm, which measures and assigns popularity by a set of constantly changing and highly complex algorithms. Facebook unfortunately also controls 100% of reach for publishers who choose to use the organic reach of the platform. For example, links which lead the “consumer” to another website which isn’t heavily monetized by Zuckerberg, get little reach. Then, you should consider that the various platforms compete for hits and each one of them would obviously prefer to have publishers spend their money with them.
For us, Facebook accounts for only 6-8% of our daily traffic, even though our Facebook page being followed by nearly 1500 people. That’s down from 20% just a year ago. We’re lucky, because we never depended on Social Media to spread the word, some others are not! Our net-reach has increased by some 15% this year, completely organically and we now see increased attention from various associations.
Aviation Events Get Lousy Coverage Online
Unless one is one of the larger established aviation news outlets, covering events has become nearly impossible from a financial perspective. Sponsorships? Difficult! Companies in the industry have either been brainwashed to stick with status quo in print advertising while those who have seen the light swing right on over to social media based advertising. The gloves are off whenever you contact some of the companies marketing directors. Sponsorship dollars are hard to get.
What matters? Reach, demographics, numbers and ROI. For most marketing directors the consumer of online news is potential revenue, no more and no less. That makes sense from a business perspective, but it insults the audience. For us here at the magazine, readers are fellow pilots and colleagues, friends and acquaintances and a whole bunch of people who have been neglected for decades and who show us every day that this magazine is welcomed.
Independence Is Nearly Impossible
The independent aviation press suffers the consequences through constantly declining reach and advertising revenue plus, greatly reduced information flow. Who suffers the most is the large number of individuals who haven’t enslaved themselves to Zuckerberg’s new Social Media World Order. Our industry largely ignores those people. That’s frustrating, considering just how many people love seaplanes and water flying.
What many don’t realize is that 85% of the content shown on many websites is targeted content or its tone is heavily influenced by potential advertising revenue. A trip to Airventure costs a tremendous amount of preparation, time and money. Money which is difficult to raise from the audience – because everything online ought to be free – and money that cannot be raised from advertisers – because the audience tries to avoid seeing more advertising. Facebook has more paid reach and consumers are FORCED to put up with the ads. What gives? Coverage! We effectively have to limit Seaplanemagazine.com in order to keep it sustainable. This means most event coverage is cancelled – putting the site at yet another disadvantage. In order to function like your Facebook timeline, we would have to have one paid article, which you are forced to scroll through, for each piece of generated content.
Reality Isn’t Always Beautiful (← don’t miss reading this!)
Cold Hard Cash Determines What You See
Then there’s whats called “Tailored Content” – Well written advertorials, disguised as news. Emotion and Psychology rules the game in Marketing, everyone knows this. Bruce is most likely to respond well to a puppy dog – so lets show him puppy dogs. Nancy is prone to like and share things with flowers – so lets make her world smell of flowers. Advertisers pay through the nose to place their product in front of the most highly targeted audience possible. Everyone gets to see what they most like and with doing so, the world turns extremely beautiful and nice. Real happiness and endlessly successful people dominate in reach and these days, while influencers get paid cold and hard cash to like or share anything on Social Media! How nuts is that, folks?!
My world smells of AVGAS and involves machines which often match or exceed my age. These machines are kept together by rivets and screws and sweat and hard work. These airplanes and most pilots which influenced me didn’t become popular through pictures on Facebook of Twitter.
I steadfastly refuse to submit to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other highly popular network and will continue to do so, in hopes to see our industry wake up to reality. I am dreaming, I know, because 12+ million people followed Airventure 2018 on Social Media, nearly 6 million on Facebook alone. Only 5.400 visited Seaplanemagazine.com that week.
Yet, people who are not prone to Social Media and those who can’t attend events themselves, see little. The new social media world order is leaving a great number of people in the dark. Publishers who do not submit to this new doctrine, see a net reach-decline of 60% over the last 6 months. In other words: If we wish to reach our nearly 1500 Facebook followers, each article we share would have to cost money, so that we can promote it to the largely faceless Facebook audience.
Our industry’s future and growth won’t get created by scrolling up and pushing a “Like” button. Knowing that most Social Media addicts won’t suddenly change their behavior, I still hope that maybe some companies will open at least one eye to this fact. What say you? Is there hope?
Jason Baker works as a freelance writer and marketing & advertising consultant. He holds a commercial pilot certificate (SEL/SES/MEL), instrument rating as well as advanced & instrument ground instructor certificate. Jason is the owner & managing editor of Seaplanemagazine.com and also serves as Editor Europe for AVweb.com. For more information about consulting services offered, visit Baker Aviation Consulting & Services.