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Facebook Sponsored Stories Ride Off into the Sunset Only to Be Replaced By. . .

The process has begun – “Facebook will sunset the creation of sponsored stories” starting right now. You can no longer create this type of ad unit and after April 9th 2014, “existing domain and open graph sponsored stories will cease to have delivery.”

Wow, that sounds beautiful, doesn’t it? Like page out of a western novel only Sponsored Stories aren’t going out with their boots on. They’re being run out of town on a rail. Back in 2011, Facebook ad execs thought it would be great to use check-ins and likes as social endorsements.

sponsored stories Facebook

The concept was sound. We know people are more likely to act on a recommendation from someone they know. So if Aunt Susie likes Cup a Joe coffee, then by gosh, I want to try some, too. The trouble is, people normally get paid to endorse a product. At the very least, they give their permission to be quoted in advertisement. But Facebook didn’t pay and they didn’t ask permission – sort of. They say that the very act of leaving a public comment means you’ve given your permission. People sued, Facebook settled but they didn’t give up the fight.

They posted this on the Facebook and Privacy Page:

An Update to Facebook Ads

January 9, 2014 at 10:33am

Last year, we announced some changes to simplify Facebook ads, including eliminating different types of ads that had the same purpose and making our ads look more consistent. We also announced that marketers will no longer be able to purchase sponsored stories separately; instead, social context — stories about social actions your friends have taken, such as liking a page or checking in to a restaurant — is now eligible to appear next to all ads shown to friends on Facebook.

This week, we gave notice to our ad partners that this change relating to sponsored stories will start in the first quarter of this year so they can update their tools and continue supporting the marketers they work with.

So what does this mean for people on Facebook? As before, you are in control of who sees what you post on Facebook, whether it appears in News Feed, next to ads, or elsewhere on Facebook. You can visit your Activity Log to see who can see stories about your social actions and change the audience or unlike or delete the content at any time.

In addition, you can visit your Ads and Friends setting to limit when stories about your social actions are paired with ads shown to friends.

If you read the post I wrote earlier today, you know I think Internet Privacy is an oxymoron. But I don’t see this as a privacy issue. This is about using consumers to promote your product without them knowing it. It’s like Facebook’s become one, giant, hidden camera commercial.

And frankly, I don’t understand how what they’ve written here is any different than a Sponsored Story. First of all, let’s get rid of the word “story”. Advertisements aren’t “stories.” Jack and the Beanstalk is a story.

“Social context — stories about social actions your friends have taken, such as liking a page or checking in to a restaurant — is now eligible to appear next to all ads shown to friends on Facebook.”

What does “next to” mean? Are they going to add a column to the sidebar so the social context doesn’t appear to be part of the ad itself? And how is this going to work on mobile?

Might just be me, but I think this raises more questions than it answers. And in the end, this whole sunset process isn’t Facebook bowing to public pressure, it’s Facebook changing the language so it will hold up in court.

Do you understand this new “social context” thing. Please explain it to me.