Facebook: Ads Coming to News Feed

by Jordan Richardson on December 22, 2011

Advertising is about to become a lot more intrusive on Facebook. The social networking site is set to move ads from the column on the right to the news feeds of users, strewing the customary menagerie of status updates and holiday photos with plugs for products and services.

The move is designed to help Facebook generate more revenue ahead of its much-ballyhooed initial public offering. The news feed space will be set at a premium for companies interesting in advertising.

The social networking goliath knows that it needs to walk a fine line between netting advertising dollars and keeping users satisfied, so this advertising move may well be a cautious one.

“Facebook is under a lot of pressure to make money right now,” said Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with the Altimeter Group. “Users have to understand the value exchange of getting what you pay for.”

That “value exchange” really does sit at the core of the experience for Facebook and its users. But what does a free social networking site really owe its users?

For Facebook, the users are the product. Keeping them happy, healthy and updating is crucial for Mark Zuckerberg and Co., but the dough comes from advertising and, theoretically, the imminent IPO. Folding the tents and only focusing on the user experience could send advertisers to more gainful locales.

Much like Twitter went with sponsored tweets, Facebook will be rolling out “Sponsored Stories” that will place advertisements based on user “likes” and comments right in the middle of the news feed. The plan is to make the move measured.

“Our goal is to do this thoughtfully and slowly,” the site said in a statement. “We hope to show people no more than one Sponsored Story in their news feeds per day and the story will be clearly labelled as sponsored.”

Another thought is how a brand will appear in a news feed. If a particular advertisement is walled by a succession of less-than-flattering commentary on a feed, how will that brand appear?

In this regard, it can be said that advertising is becoming more user-driven than ever. Instead of merely and submissively absorbing a rustle of commercials on television or the radio, most people are engaging in advertising on social networking sites and interactive devices in a way that, at least ideally, allows for more thought and criticism.

So while the institution of advertising on news feeds will positively be met with contempt from the usual suspects, the most remarkable thing about all media remains true: it can be disregarded with a humble click.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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