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Making Sense of the Superbowl and Facebook

Jan 31, 2015

Credit npr.org

Super Bowl XLIX doesn't just feature The Seattle Seahawks against the New England Patriots.

It also features lots and lots of commercials selling for four-and-a-half million dollars for 30 seconds.

And Facebook wants a piece of the Super Bowl advertising action.

If you post anything on Facebook about the Super Bowl, ads will show in in your feed tailored to your particular interests.

And that's just the start of Facebook's effort to make money off the big game -- and all those eyes watching it.

"It is the largest amassed audience in America," said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute's Sense-Making Project. "Well over 100 million people will watch the Super Bowl and it's a rare opportunity for advertisers to get that many people -- which is why the ads cost four-and-a-half million dollars for 30 seconds.  So, sure, Facebook sees all that money and they want in."

So how does Facebook make money off a TV event like the Super Bowl?

"First of all, they're going to take everything you say about the Super Bowl and match it up to advertisers," explained McBride. "So if you start talking about an ad you saw in the Super Bowl on Facebook, it's likely that advertiser's going to show up in your feed."

But, Facebook is going further than just matching your Super Bowl interests with advertisers.

"The year, they're trying something new and it's called Trending Super Bowl." said McBride. "If you log into Facebook and then put Super Bowl into your URL, you're going to see a live scoreboard, you are going to see a play-by-play, you're going to see a lot of content about the game -- and this is content that celebrities might be creating on Facebook and also what your friends are saying on Facebook. And, of course, this is all tailored specifically to you by an algorithm and that algorithm will match advertisements that Facebook will make money off of."

But, money isn't the only object of Facebook's Super Bowl frenzy.

"We talk a lot these days about the second screen. Of all the people who own a smartphone or a tablet, 84 per cent of them use that device when they're watching live television," McBride explained. "And Facebook believes about 85 per cent of that group is actually on Facebook. This is as much about Facebook trying to kill Twitter's dominance in real-time conversation during events. Even though Facebook has a much larger audience than Twitter, Twitter has been ahead of Facebook in this particular area for a long time. This is as much about Facebook trying to reclaim some dominance from Twitter as it is about trying to make money."