Net Neutrality has been a hot topic these last weeks ahead of the FCC vote. Yet marketers seem vastly unaware of the importance of this arcane bit of regulation. It might actually completely redraw the rules of online marketing.
But let’s go back to what actually happened
On December 14th, despite massive opposition from the American public, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal the rules set up in 2015 protecting Net Neutrality. These rules guarantee that all Internet users would be treated equally and prevented favoring certain channels at the expenses of others.
The 2015 rules were put in place following a complaint by Netflix against Comcast (an ISP – Internet Service Provider ), as Comcast was slowing down Netflix streaming time in order to give an advantage to their own services.
Now that Net Neutrality repeal has been confirmed, it will take time to be implemented, especially as California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Mississippi, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Washington are already challenging the FCC’s decision.
Yet, if and when Net Neutrality is effectively removed, it will have a direct effect on online Marketing and on Influencer Marketing.
The way ISP providers could maximise their profit in the post Net Neutrality era fall into two main categories. One is applying differentiated fees to the user, and force the user to privilege certain types of content or be charged extra for more. The other one is charging the content provider to ensure they will get access to the fast broadband and that their content will be displayed with minimal buffering time.
Let’s consider the second way, the broadband management per content provider.
From an online marketing point of view, once ISPs are allowed to privilege certain content providers at the expenses of the other, it will directly affect the rating and visibility of all content providers. Though giants like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter etc will be able to invest considerable amounts in preserving, or even improve, their broadband access, smaller content producers with limited budgets will be elbowed out in the slow broadband lane.
When looking at affiliate marketing, for example, this will have a direct impact on the efficiency of affiliate relying on a large number of small publishers, as small publishers will likely be relegated to the slow broadband lane, and thus suffer diminished traffic.
More generally, Cecilia Kang of the NY Times explained how it will affect small and free internet companies.
“Small online companies believe the proposal would hurt innovation because telecom companies could force them to pay more for the faster connections. Only the largest companies, they say, would be able to afford the expense of making sure their sites received preferred treatment. Companies like Etsy and Pinterest, for example, credit their start to the promise of free and open access on the internet.”CECILIA KANG
When talking about influencer marketing, this has many implications.
Today, influencer marketing is divided between those growing their audience on major platform influencers such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and so forth, and bloggers relying on organic growth in SERPs (Search Engine Result Page). Especially as loading time is one of the key elements used by Google algorithm to determine your site value.
Major platform influencers are relatively immune from the potentially crippling effects of the end of Net Neutrality but bloggers are likely to bear the brunt of the real penalty.
A Kissmetric study indicates that
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
- 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
- A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
Once loading time is directly dependent on paying a fee to ISP providers, bloggers who can’t afford it will see their loading time soar and their audience shrink, keeping only their most faithful readers, those patient enough to soldier on despite excruciatingly slow loading time.
Banners were already fast losing value due to their marginal click through rates, but sponsored native content, which was increasingly replacing banners as the favored advertising form, will also lose its attractiveness, at least on non-major publishers.
So, when planning your upcoming online marketing strategy, keep an eye on the way ISPs will opt to maximise the end of Net Neutrality to maximise their profit.