Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

Summary: Facebook has finally put ads in your News Feed. These new ads, which are labelled as Featured Stories, are displayed based on actions made by your friends and Pages you have Liked.

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As expected, Facebook has started displaying ads in users' News Feeds. You may not be seeing them yet as the company is rolling them out gradually, like it does for all its changes.

These new ads are marked as "Featured," which could be confusing given that Facebook has always used the word "Sponsored" for its ads. Currently, Facebook uses the verb "feature" for making content on a user's Timeline bigger and more prominent.

Last month, a Facebook spokesperson said the company hoped to "show people no more than one Sponsored Story in their News Feeds per day." This is no longer the case, as Facebook now says you may see more Featured stories "if you visit your News Feed a lot."

At the time, Facebook said it wanted to roll out the ads "thoughtfully and slowly" while also making sure that the stories were "clearly labeled." The ads are indeed labelled, but I would argue they could be marked more clearly. Facebook may have chosen "Featured" over "Sponsored" for these new ads since these stories are not simply paid for by advertisers. The stories must be related to friends and/or Pages which users have previously Liked. In other words, you won't see these ads appearing organically in your News Feed: they need to be linked to you in one or more ways.

You can see an example screenshot above, courtesy of Inside Facebook. For the above ad to appear in your News Feed, two things need to happen. First, you must have already Liked Ben & Jerry's Facebook Page, or one of your friends must have interacted with Ben & Jerry's Page. Second, Ben & Jerry must have chosen to have the ad promoted to users who have Liked its Page.

Alternatively, a story you wrote can also be featured as an ad, but it will only be shown to people you originally shared it with. A business may want to do this in order to get more people to Like its Page by showing off someone important Liking their Page, or underlining interesting content someone posted on their Page. Facebook is likely hoping the fact that since the story is being shared between friends, it will be considered more relevant than a traditional ad would be.

Since these ads are just stories, they cannot be stopped completely (although ad blockers may find a way around this). Users do, however, have three options provided by Facebook to limit the ads: click hide to remove individual stories, limit the volume of stories you see from a specific friend to only important posts, or unfriend the person and/or unlike the Page to stop seeing certain kinds of stories altogether.

Here is the official description of Featured Stories from the Facebook Help Center:

Businesses can pay to feature a post so there's a better chance you'll notice it.

A quick example of how it works

  1. Say you like your gym's Facebook Page.
  2. Some friends see the story in their news feeds, others may miss it.
  3. The owner of the gym can pay to feature the story so your friends are more likely to see it.

Who can see featured stories You decide who can see what you share on Facebook. When a story is featured, it's shown to the same people you originally shared it with.

Featured stories you may see

  • When a Page you like posts something new
  • When a friend likes something (such as a Facebook Page or individual Page post)
  • When a friend checks in somewhere, plays a game or uses an app

Last month, Facebook launched a campaign to explain ads to its users over at facebook.com/about/ads. The goal was to inform its users about how the social networking giant makes money, and why it needs ads to keep the service free for all its users.

I think Facebook is expecting a huge backlash with this change, and rightly so. The social networking giant first put ads into the News Feed before in 2007, but quickly stopped the practice in 2008. Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg called the introduction of Beacon four years ago a mistake. Still, with the company's upcoming IPO, Zuckerberg is looking for as many different revenue sources as he can find.

Despite the limitations set on the ads, this is still a risky move on Facebook's part. Now that we have at least one ad per day in the News Feed, what's stopping the company from showing at least two per day? How about at least three? Where does it end?

I have contacted Facebook for more information and will update you if I hear back.

Update: "Featured Stories are regular stories that people may see in their News Feeds already, but that a marketer has paid to feature on Facebook," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. "We've begun slowly rolling these out in News Feed and are labeling them as 'featured'. These stories respect your and your friends' privacy settings, and people will only see Featured Stories about people and Pages they've already connected to."

"We are using the term 'featured' because we want to make it clear to people that they're seeing content from a Page or person they have chosen to connect to. Since people can see marketing messages from both Pages they have and have not Liked, we want to make it clear that marketers can only pay for stories to be featured in your News Feed if you have explicitly liked the Page. And because you are always connected to your friends, we are also labelling stories from your friends that have been paid to be featured in your News Feed as 'featured' to keep things consistent."

See also:

Topic: Social Enterprise

Emil Protalinski

About Emil Protalinski

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years,
he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars
Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

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12 comments
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  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    nt
    mike2k
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    I'll stop visiting facebook like I stopped watching tv.

    I don't even know what I pay to watch anymore, shows or the ads that are on the screen every 3 minutes that seem to scream really loud as soon as the 3 minute clip of show I was watching gets cut off by another AD screaming at me about their not so fresh feelings.

    Now I'll have to wade through virtual cows, find a date ads because I'm male and other useless garbage to see what my friends have to say in a news feed? Really? Time to stop using facebook. Ads are not News. Just a better means of viral propagation.
    Nate_K
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Wow, Facebook, is going further downhill.....I see why so many of my friends have been moving over to Google Circles.
    cmwade1977
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Yet another great example of why I left facebook.
    guitarest
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Sometimes you have to wonder if Zuckerberg ever ponders, even if just for a minute or two, whether he should've charged to have people use Facebook. $10/year or something like that, he would've had an $8 billion company by now... I mention this because it's always been said he absolutely hates ads in FB and does it only because he has to. I wonder how he feels now... *Huge* ads, right in the newsfeed... Ug. Very ugly, and talk about making FB look commercialized... It's just nasty.
    aglanz
    • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

      @aglanz@... When FB goes public this year, it will be valued at $100 Billion, so I am sure he is just fine passing up on the $8 Billion company.
      alathan
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    The more ads that clutter Facebook, the less likely people will continue to use it. I go on there to see what my friends are up to and what companies I want to follow. If Facebook is going to shove ads where I don't want them, then it will be time to move on.
    fldbryan
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Nate_K- The FCC has permission from Congress to force advertisers to run their ads at no higher a volume than the programs themselves; like you, I'm tired of ads that literally scream from the television. I also don't like the idea of FB putting ads in the newsfeed but I don't object to them running ads the way they've been doing it- in the sidebar. Any ad can simply be blocked with a single click on the "X" that's on the top right corner of the ad, and ads from any advertiser can be permanently blocked from displaying for you. On the other hand, I don't think people realize the huge cost of not only keeping up the thousands of FB servers but also the cost of sending tens of thousands of notifications and emails every minute of every day 365 days a year. A classic example of 24/7 year round. With FB approaching one billion users, nearly one seventh of the entire world population. The only advantage I've seen with Google+ is the group video chat feature so I won't be switching to that anytime soon; Google indexes everything thing about you that they can, including your gmail messages, and they actually allow advertisers to market to you based on your email activity and any other interaction on the internet.
    xplorer1959
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Sounds like I have to go through and 'UnLike' any companies I've liked, so I can actually use Facebook as a *social network.* I don't mind the ads on the side, but putting something deceptive like that in my or my friends' timelines? No thank you. Good-bye company Pages.

    For everyone who doesn't realize that should take care of this new tactic:
    Considering brands already equate "Likes" to currency (they're worth anywhere from $1 to $3 a piece depending on who you ask) imagine what this will do for marketing pushes in the future. Now the only way they can bombard you with these new intrusive ads is if you "Like" their page. Looks like we're going to see even more incentives to "Like" a brand page than before; as if it weren't already more than enough.
    Johnny5k
  • RE: Facebook starts displaying ads in the News Feed

    Boo. I thought fb was supposed to be "cool". And I thought Zuckerburg hated ads because "ads aren't cool". Looks like this could be the beginning of fb devolving into another MySpace.
    Big Daddy D
  • facebook ads managment

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    medibird
  • facebook ads

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    medibird