This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. 941 donors have already invested in our efforts to combat corruption and predatory conduct, particularly in the financial realm. Please join us and participate via our donation page, which shows how to give via check, credit card, debit card, or PayPal. Read about why we’re doing this fundraiser, what we’ve accomplished in the last year and our current goal, funding our guest bloggers.
This is such a straightforward presentation on Facebook’s significant and systematic exaggeration of how many people see its ads that we’ve decided to embed the analysis by the Video Advertising Bureau and give only a short intro so as to encourage you to read it in full. You can also read it here.
It is remarkable that advertisers and investors have not come down harder on Facebook for the grotesque overstatement of its audience. As the report shows, every way you cut the data, Facebook claims to have considerably more viewers in every age group than exists in the population. For instance, Facebook’s “potential reach” for the 18-34 year old cohort in the US is 97 million, versus an actual population of a mere 75.3 million. That means Facebook says it can get ads in front of 34.2% more people in that age group than actually exists. And the exaggeration looks even more dodgy when you see that the overstatement occurs most in large cities, which generally have higher incomes than the US overall.
This overstatement is even more flagrant when you factor in that Facebook does not have everyone as its customer. Pew found that 84% of all American adults use the Internet as of 2015, so the 16% that don’t clearly cannot be Facebook targets. Facebook makes it impossible to delete an account; many users who have tried to report that the tech company reactivates it down the road and tries to re-enlist them as users. And there is a vocal but indeterminate-in-size contingent of Facebook refusniks.
Advertisers may be unduly jaundiced by virtue of the fact that publishers have a great deal of difficulty stating with any degree of accuracy how many unique viewers they have. There aren’t good ways to tell that a user who visits a site from his phone, his work computer, and his home computer is one person and not three.
But Facebook makes very forceful claims about how much it knows about its users, down to saying that it has their real world identity. The fact that it so grossly overstates how many users it has should lead any advertiser to doubt all of Facebook’s other claims. Facebook’s verifiable whoppers should also give investors pause.Facebooks-Reach