Net Neutrality Part II

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Anyone working in digital marketing knows the constant struggle of increasing costs and decreasing results. What once seemed like a great deal has over the years consistently become more competitive, and therefore more difficult for your brand’s voice to be heard – at least without paying more.

Unfortunately, the repeal of Obama-era laws to safeguard net neutrality in December may have only accelerated this trend. Interviewed in AdWeek in November, UM’s Joshua Lowcock said  the changes will “fundamentally change the way (marketers) can approach digital media, the ROI they can extract for it and even what partners they should be looking to and considering.”

The FCC’s decision to repeal net neutrality rules means that digital marketing is now headed for a shakeup. Many internet providers are also content and media platforms, and they may now begin to give preference to their own ads – making them load faster than ads from other media sellers. You could end up in a situation similar to how Facebook’s algorithm gives posts done directly on the platform preference over posts that are scheduled using a tool like Hootsuite. Brands could start being charged for loading speeds of ads in addition to current determinants like target demographics and placement.

Overall, a digital marketing world without net neutrality is one that is going to make life much more difficult for small businesses. Digital marketing is generally a great way for small businesses to even the playing field a bit, and take advantage of lower advertising costs and savvy opportunities to make a name for themselves. The repeal of FCC rules means this is now under threat as large businesses can try to crowd them out by paying a premium for advertising speeds and preferential placements through partnerships with ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Organic engagement rates have been dropping for years, but the new legal changes could once again weaken their importance. If the average person has no chance to see your content, they won’t be able to engage with it at all, and digital marketing overall will become much more about ad spend than content quality, despite what Google says.

And from this content marketer’s point of view, that’s a pretty sad loss. We’ve already managed to fill the internet with a lot of junk, and we’re being naive if we think that consumers can’t tell the difference between lovingly crafted content and a bunch of keywords thrown together. It’s sad to think that the end to net neutrality might hasten this trend and stamp out space for small business voices.

Our recommendation? Keep an eye on regulations, but in the meantime develop clear brand guidelines and agreements with your agency so your brand can put out some banging reactive content. In a crowded digital marketplace, it might be the best place to go.