Blog: My Brain Dump

Facebook’s Sharp Stick In The Eye

As of the end of 2011, there were 37 million Facebook pages (aka “fan pages”) for which 10 or more people have clicked the “Like” button. They range from major brands like Pepsi to creators of witty word graphics to indie musicians. Almost everyone knows that Facebook profits greatly from the use of the personal information of its users…but now, they have a new profit center to target: owners of Facebook pages with more than 400 fans.

As the owner of several FB pages in service of a number of my web sites, I spent a lot of time building up the fan bases over the past couple years…including spending money on Facebook ads…to get the word out to those who might be interested. As a fairly heavy Facebook user myself, I felt it made a lot of sense to connect with people as part of their daily FB activity to let them know of new postings on my sites which they might find of interest.

My 3 most active FB pages have 650, 2100 and 7100 fans respectively. To be clear, none of these involve sales of products…rather, they notify particular niche audiences about free music, stories, coloring pages and music videos, which (obviously) many people have found valuable enough to express interest.

I also have a number of friends (music artists, mostly) who started out with standard Facebook accounts…hit the 5K-friend hard cap…and were forced to try to get their fans to switch over to FB pages. These pages are, by nature, less appropriate for interaction with fans…and most of the migration efforts were marginally successful, at best. And then, FB came along and told them they really should have just had people *subscribe* to them anyway. Talk about mixed messages!

So, back to the point: After this investment of time and money to maintain and grow these pages, I am now informed (initially by a blog post from Shane Eubanks) that only a small percentage of those who thought enough of my pages to press Like ever see the posts I make on their behalf.

What percentage? Hard to say definitively…due to a bug in in the Facebook interface at the moment, I can only check one of them. But on that one page, my posts this week ranged between 1% and 7% of my 2000+ subscribers. In other words…almost no one.

As an average FB user, I have always resented being told that Facebook knows better than I do what I want to see of my friends’ activity. But, that’s a minor irritation compared to them blocking my subscribers/fans from seeing what I posted based upon their declared interest! I respect Facebook’s need to make a profit, but I consider this move on their part awkward, ill-considered and utterly unjustifiable. And yet…they do try to justify it.

First off, things *have changed about how your posts are shared. They are barely shared at all. Just because the sharing mechanism remains the same hardly excuses such a statement. And, they also don’t say that most people have a limited view of activity because Facebook controls it instead of allowing you to do so. And it’s a flat-out fabrication to say that “many of the people connected to your Page may still see it”. Not when only 5% of the subscribers ever have the chance!

So, Facebook sees a potential goldmine here. And…how do they choose to implement it? By charging page owners for every single post they make on their page (assuming that the owner wants their subscribers to actually see the post)!

I can understand Facebook seeing page owners as a potential profit center. And a small monthly or yearly charge might be reasonable for many/most active page owners, considering the potential value of connecting with an interested subscriber base.

How will fan page owners react?

  • Will they be satisfied with only reaching 5% of their subscribers for free?
  • Will they pay $5 per post (or whatever Facebook demands at any given time) to reach up to 70%-80% instead?
  • Will they shut down the pages entirely…and attempt to drive fans back to their web sites or email subscriptions, where everyone at least has the *chance* to see everything in which they’ve expressed interest (also, thereby depriving FB of the opportunity to show display and profit from their own ads)?

Or is it possible that, as word of this gets out, that the backlash from page owners will force Facebook to relent and offer a more reasoned approach?

By the way, I’d LOVE to find out that I’m wrong about this…either Facebook’s actions or my interpretation thereof. But as of now…the evidence seems fairly clear: Page owners are screwed.

New Kids Music Video: Water Slide

I’m pleased to announce the release of my latest music video for kids. It’s based on the song, Water Slide, which appeared on my first Chuckleberries album, Yellowberry Jam. Enjoy!

(UPDATE: November 2018) This video was received nicely on YouTube initially, as were most of my videos. If I recall correctly, after about 5 years it had amassed some 40K views, which made me happy. But…somewhere along the line, something changed. Someone, somewhere linked to it from a high-traffic site or shared it in some large forum and it just exploded. As of this writing, it has amassed nearly 2.5 MILLION views. Thanks so much to all who have viewed and shared it over the years! 🙂

Harmony Magazine: Interview With Phil Keaggy (March 1976)

Over the Easter weekend in 1975, my friend Bill Gray and I traveled to Ithaca, New York to interview guitarist/singer/songwriter Phil Keaggy. We had actually interviewed him over the phone earlier in the week, but due to a bit of technical incompetence on my part, the quality of the phone recording was indecipherable. Bill and I were both fans of the Scott Ross radio show (which aired Sunday mornings in Central Ohio on WNCI), and we had always been curious to see the church where Scott was a leader and Phil Keaggy and Ted Sandquist were involved in the music program. So we used the occasion of my technical bumbling to head to Ithaca, to visit and interview Phil at his home…with plans to attend Easter services on Sunday, before heading home.

The interview was a wonderful experience. Phil and his new wife, Bernadette, were extremely gracious…despite the fact that I was an awkward 17 years of age at the time. After the interview, Phil pulled out his guitar and shared with Bill and I the song he had just recorded for his Love Broke Thru album…As The Ruin Falls (a C.S. Lewis poem, set to Phil’s lovely composition…still a favorite to this day). Afterward, I shared with Phil that I had recently begun to write songs as well. He handed me his guitar and asked me to play one…so I played the most complex song I’d written to that point…which was Proverbs 4:20-23 set to a contemplative melody. I was pretty proud of the song, as I had used a lot of unfamiliar chords pulled from the back page of a book on guitar lessons…but after I was done and handed the guitar back to Phil, he ran thru all the chords effortlessly. Of course, I was stunned!

The next year, in 1976, I moved to the Pittsburgh, PA area for a few months to work in radio. First, at WPLW, a small and very conservative station. That didn’t last very long, as contemporary Christian music was a real stretch for them. But then I got a call from WPIT-FM (now WORD-FM) in Pittsburgh (you KNOW a station has been there for a long time when they have the first three letters of the city’s name in their call sign!), and they wanted to talk about adding some contemporary music to their very conservative format as well. So I began playing Christian music there in the afternoons…and apparently, with a few bumps along the way, that’s still the general format of the station today…35 years later!

I also was living with a family just north of Pittsburgh at the time…the Hanchericks (Lou, his wife Peggy, and their kids). Lou was the publisher of Harmony Magazine, which was one of the earliest publications dedicated exclusively to the emerging genre of Jesus Music (later known as Contemporary Christian Music (or CCM). I still had this Phil Keaggy interview, which had only aired once previously on local radio in central Ohio…so Lou decided to make it the cover story of the third issue of the magazine (spring 1976), and then the interview was completed in the following issue (I don’t have a copy of this one anymore).

I thought it might be fun to scan the cover, the table of contents and the 3-page interview and post them here (click on the thumbnails to see the full-size scans). I hope you enjoy it!