Facebook "Likes" beat Google "links"

By Paul McIntyre | 20 April 2011
Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

EXCLUSIVE: Google’s mighty search machine may have found its match if the international boss of News Corp’s IGN online gaming network is right.

IGN’s London-based managing director, International, Ian Chambers, said there was a fundamental shift underway in how “content gets discovered” by online users and he’s seeing it first hand.

When IGN bagged the global exclusive for a preview trailer earlier this year unveiling a gory new game release called Dead Island, it clocked up more than 6 million online views.

Most of the views, Chambers said, were generated not by Google search queries but Facebook users hitting their “Like” button, which spruiked the trailer to their personal social network.

“It’s social versus search,” Chambers told AdNews. “Search is the traditional way people discover content but what is changing is the way they are shifting from being given links from a set of algorithms by people sitting in California to being given links by friends on their social networks. Dead Island and Call of Duty are examples of that.”

Chambers said the average number of Facebook friends per user globally was about 130. The Dead Island trailer, he said, generated about 150,000 “Likes” . 

“So 150,000 times 130 is a big number [19.5 million] and that was the potential traffic that was delivered back to wherever it was  viewed - most of it came back to IGN,” Chambers said. “It then opens up the question: is a ‘like’ more important than the [search] ‘link’?”

Asked if it was, Chambers said: “Personally, I would rather discover something from a social circle of people who know me rather than an algorithm that doesn’t.”

Likes and links were part of a broader distribution strategy for IGN’s own content, which Chambers said was seeing considerable interest beyond 18-34 year-old blokes who have driven the gaming network’s growth to date.

About 35 million unique browsers hit IGN’s network every month globally and advertisers, he said, were jumping on the wagon.“We are seeing much more interest from consumer brands that want to get into gaming,” he said.

“It’s a huge growth area and why wouldn’t it be when you’ve got a game that is bigger than any film release [Call of Duty]. It gives them an opportunity to do all sorts of things.”

Chambers was in Australia this week as part of IGN’s global expansion plans. He said he expected IGN and another News Corp-owned site, AskMen, in Australia to mirror the strong revenue growth seen in the UK and US.

Ad revenues in the UK were outstripping audience growth, he said.News Digital Media has been appointed to sell advertising for the sites here.

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