Record Drop in Facebook Shares Plunge After Revenue Miss, Monthly Active Users Drop

Facebook Faces Biggest Drop for a Company in Stock Market History

FBN’s Susan Li reports on Facebook’s second-quarter earnings.

Value of Facebook shares dropped 19% on Thursday, July 26, 2018 after executives warned that revenue growth at Facebook would slow as the company focuses on user privacy. According to Thomson Reuters, the $119 billion loss in market value is the biggest single-day loss for any public company in history. According to Forbes, Mark Zuckerberg personally lost $16 billion. Forbes tracks the wealth of billionaires in real time (Forbes: The World’s Billionaires), and on Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. Mark Zuckerberg ranked the 6th wealthiest billionaire in the world.

Facebook’s previous worst single-day performance was July 27, 2012, when the stock fell 11.7% after concerns about the company’s ability to sell mobile advertising. Mobile ads in 2018 Q2 count for over 90% of Facebook’s advertising revenue.

Facebook (FB) Chief Financial Officer David Wehner reported in a conference call with investors Wednesday that Facebook is “putting privacy first,” responding to the Cambridge Analytica scandal that triggered a regulatory hearing, criticism in the press, customer criticism, and loss of active users.

Facebook is also convinced that there is a user shift toward visual experiences from textual experiences — a very strong trend. Facebook is working on ways to prioritize visual content.

Wehner said Facebook will put more development muscle behind the company’s Stories feature. Facebook Stories are short user-generated photo and video collections that can be viewed up to two times and disappear after 24 hours — similar to competitor SnapChat.

The feature is available in the Facebook app, and is focused around Facebook’s in-app camera which allows users to overlay fun filters and Snapchat-like lenses to their content as well as add visual geolocation tags to their photos and videos. Users can access the camera by swiping right on Facebook’s mobile app.

Facebook Stories will work like Instagram Stories with content from friends that have shared to stories that will appear at the top of the Facebook News Feed. To view a story, users simply tap a friends’ circle at the top of the app.

Once a user shares a post to his or her story, it will display for 24 hours and then be gone forever. This auto-deletion works just like Snapchat and Instagram Stories work. No archives. Videos and photos posted in a Facebook Story won’t show up in the News Feed or on a user’s timeline by default, but users can choose to share to the News Feed if they want.

Facebook makes more money on its core News Feed than on its other products, so this is where the drop in revenue is forecast. Over the past few years, Facebook has observed a drop in original user-generated content, such as personal status posts and image posts. Between mid-2015 and mid-2016 there was a 21% drop, according to subscription-based news website for tech-based executives The Information. Instead people have increased activity related to sharing links from news websites and sharing posts from other Facebook timelines.

Apparently, Facebook can gather more information about you for advertisers by understanding the original content you produce, compared to the content you share.

In other words, Facebook’s walled garden — designed to keep people in Facebook, instead of the rest of the Internet — has backfired by creating an echo chamber in their walled garden. The rise in the echo of news content from brands posting to Facebook has taken away the charm of Facebook for some people — the charm of personal posts from friends. But it’s also probably taken away some of the ability to understand what you like, and to tell advertisers about you.

It might be that bragging about your new car, or sharing photos of your trip to Acapulco have much more value than sharing news about a burglary down the street, or the latest salmonella warning.

While many people seem to enjoy the ability to read and share news stories on a timeline, the population of news junkies may be limited, too. Additionally, people are very finicky about what shows up in their timeline. They may get upset if a certain news page shares a post that doesn’t align with its perceived mission. For example, there might be complaints about posts that are too political, or on the wrong side of politics, or not local enough, or too silly, or not perceived to be newsworthy … the list goes on. Sometimes users’ moods change. They might like a certain type of post one week, and share it to friends and family … then the next week they might complain that the same type of post is showing up on their timeline. They might just be suffering from timeline fatigue. And that’s not good for Facebook.

Perhaps instead of trying to turn Facebook into a do-all site with SnapChat and Instagram features, it should work on improving the user interface of Facebook, and make it a highly-configurable, user friendly source of a highly satisfying timeline. Facebook would also probably obtain valuable new metrics for advertisers by monitoring how users change their configurations — hourly, daily, monthly, seasonally.

Is Facebook making a mistake by trying to turn it into an app loaded with SnapChat and Instagram features? Perhaps Facebook should focus on improving the timeline, and be honest with users. Earlier this week a Facebook user sent one of Arlingtoncardinal’s pages a message. He asked why our posts were showing up in his timeline with the header Popular Across Facebook. He never heard of us, and wasn’t a follower. We were never involved in any type of promotion of our articles with Facebook, but I think he suspected we did something to bombard (news spam) his account. He sent a screenshot of the article we shared to our followers, and it wasn’t a particularly popular article either. It wasn’t shared at all, and yet Facebook notified this man that our article was “popular across Facebook.”

The bottom line is that Facebook might be reaching a point of saturation in its walled garden. Future growth may never reach past gains because of competition, market saturation, general fatigue with the whole Facebook concept, and bad user experiences — such as capricious suspensions and censorship. There are certain demographics that won’t be attracted by SnapChat-like features. These people will only stick with Facebook if it respects people’s privacy, develops a customer service department, develops user interface improvements to its timeline, respects the First Amendment, and develops a corporate culture that is genuine.

Facebook succeeded because it was fun and new, and appealed to a variety of addictive behaviors related to vanity, interaction, instant gratification, and curiosity. Facebook will keep crashing down with loss of user activity if users are reminded continuously that Facebook is not at all genuine.

Stuart Varney: Facebook growth stalled, stock is down, something’s got to give.



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