Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Facebook Makes the Election a For-Profit, Free Ice Cream Event

Asked to explain how social networks can ever get advertisers to spend real money to reach their huge audiences, digital ad optimists like to talk about getting marketers to shell out for “branded experiences.” This is a gussied-up version of saying “Thing X, which you value, is brought to you by advertiser Y, whom you should patronize.” Which of course is about as basic as advertising gets.

No matter. If it works, it’s going to make a lot of people happy. So who’s biting?

Well, Ben & Jerry’s, for one. The groovy ice cream maker–owned by less-groovy conglomerate Unilever (UN), but who’s counting?–is one of Facebook’s favorite examples of a brand that has used the site to do more than just generate click-throughs. Last spring, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talked up a free cone promotion that drove hundreds of thousands of people to the chain’s stores.

So if it worked once, why not do it again? The two are running a new version of the promotion today, with Ben & Jerry’s sponsoring Facebook’s election page, which features a Google (GOOG) map that tells voters both where to vote and where the nearest B&J outlet is. Pretty clever, really.

Also clever: Facebook’s running total of users who’ve declared that they’ve voted in today’s election, which stands at about 2.06 million as I type this. Since this is a self-reported number and one that doesn’t come tethered to any other demographic information, it’s statistically useless.

But that won’t stop endless commentators from using the stat tonight and in the days to come as an indicator of what the “youth vote” did or didn’t do today. Which, of course, will drive more traffic back to Facebook–and Ben & Jerry’s.


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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald