Earlier this week, The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to reverse Obama-era regulations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) which disallowed companies to speed up service for some websites or applications, over others for a variety of reasons.
Advocates for net neutrality fear that a repeal could lead to Internet providers giving preferential treatment to sites that they own or have been paid by and legally discriminate against those that they don’t like, for whatever reason.
By and large, influencers can be considered sole proprietors or small businesses owners, whose primary route for growth is through their website, content, and audience engagement. For influencers, they imagine a scenario where their audiences, turned off by the slowed response time of the influencers’ platforms, may eventually stop viewing their content all together.
The influencer marketing industry stands to be directly and, in some cases, immediately impacted by the repeal of net neutrality regulations should ISPs like AT&T and Verizon start placing commercial interests ahead of fair access principles.
Here are five potential ways it could affect the influencer marketing industry, overall:
More Pay for Equal Play
In order to see their content served up in the speed their audiences are accustomed to, influencers and influencer networks may have to shell out more money to their internet providers in order to see this happen. So, what does this mean for brands and agencies that count on influencers to advance their programs? Well, someone has to cover those costs, and that means that influencers and their agents may offset their incurred costs by charging higher talent fees to agencies and brands.
Knowledge Now Has a Price
The majority of the US gets their news and information from search platforms, and from web-based encyclopedias like Wikipedia. But, because of the volume of their content and the archival nature of their data – they are likely to be deemed more expensive to host by their ISPs. In this instance, those companies would then be forced to start charging their users in order to offset costs via a subscription fee. Spoiler Alert: this may well extend to the platforms you currently enjoy for free.
Your Cellphone Bill Just Took a Hit
Arguably, the consequences of the repeal will be felt on mobile first– where broadband companies are likely to zero in on streaming services. You will likely start to see the end of ‘unlimited’ data packages in favor of pay-by-play data packages of varying sizes. For influencers on Instagram and Snapchat, it’s likely that you’ll see a reduction in the streaming content they produce, in an effort to monitor their data use and spending.
The Rapid Rise of the Micro-Influencer
It’s likely that as it becomes increasingly expensive for brands to work with high-tier influencers, they’ll instead shift their focus to leverage multiple micro-influencers across a campaign vs. a celebrity influencer to help spread their message. Similarly, agencies may feel pressure to squeeze more out of an individual micro-influencer for less.
PR in Focus
As it becomes more expensive for brands to simple pay for media attention, they’ll place more importance on earned media coverage over traditionally paid methods, including influencer marketing. Increasingly, the “PR-ability” of an influencer will come into play when choosing a potential partner.
The above hypothetical scenarios all have one common outcome – which is – higher prices for the end user. While these effects may not be felt immediately across the board, over time, these costs may well exponentially increase.
While some ISPs have made very public pledges to maintain neutrality, and provided unfettered service to all, only time will tell the exact repercussions for users and across the advertising and marketing industries.