Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

Summary: Next month, Facebook will start including ads in the main News Feed. Do the advantages of a new revenue source outweigh the disadvantages of further annoyed users?

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In January 2012, Facebook will start displaying Sponsored Stories ads in the main News Feed. The company will start with the desktop version of the website, but if successful, we could see ads appear on the mobile side as well.

"Our goal is to do this thoughtfully and slowly," a Facebook spokesperson 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 labeled."

Although Facebook plans to ensure users see no more than one Sponsored Story in the News feed per day, the ads will be marked as "Sponsored," the stories will only feature friends or Pages which users already Like, it's still a very risky move. Where does it end? As my colleague Charlie Osborne writes, Facebook News Feed ads: How many is too many?

Just because Facebook is starting with one ad doesn't mean it will stop there. Facebook says users will be able to delete individual ads by clicking on the "x" (just like current ads on the right-hand side), but they will not be able to completely opt-out of seeing Sponsored Stories in the News Feed.

Facebook has shown ads in the News Feed before, but in 2008 it stopped the practice. Clearly the social networking giant wants to try again, but it better have a seriously good game plan if it's going to avoid annoying its massive user base.

I understand that Facebook needs as many different revenue sources as possible with its upcoming IPO, but I'm not sure ads in the News Feed are the best move here. The social networking giant is not exactly desperate for money, so unless Facebook expects this to result in its biggest money-printing operation to date, I don't see why the company is doing it.

Facebook does offer a unique approach to advertising, but the fact is that ads are still hated. The social network should be focusing on improving the quality, not the quantity of ads. Most users already skip the majority of stories they see in the News Feed. Adding more content that most will make a point to avoid will only further devalue the feature.

My biggest concern is not that Facebook will flood the News Feed with ads, but that it will eventually move on to the profile. That is one area that I absolutely do not want to see ads, because I see it as my personal page. I think if Facebook ever puts advertisements in the Timeline, the social network will have a very hard time recovering from the backlash.

As for the upcoming News Feed ad backlash, I think it will come regardless of how well Facebook implements this new source of revenue. No amount of campaigning or explaining will be able to prevent that. I think users won't like it, and I think they'll threaten to leave, but as always the Facebook addiction will keep them around.

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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.

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6 comments
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  • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

    Thank God for adblock Plus
    Randalllind
    • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

      @Randalllind Thank god for Google +
      bingolds
  • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

    I don't know if adblock plus will weed them out. It does work for promoted tweets in twitter yet there is a gap in the feed. <br><br>I always unsubscribe from my friends "likes" and "comments" so I wonder if the sponsored ads will still show up. <br><br>I have confidence that ffixer will find a way to get rid of them.
    mike2k
  • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

    Well that f'n suxazz! A simple hosts file will block most ads, like every add on this page is just a blank area to me but it can slow down browsing a bit. You can get a good one from winhelp2002 DOT mvps DOT org. But some of the facebook feces in the right pane slip through from time to time.
    Sqrly
  • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

    "and I think they???ll threaten to leave, but as always the Facebook addiction will keep them around."

    Nah, they'll just switch to Google+.
    CobraA1
    • RE: Why is Facebook putting ads in the News Feed next month?

      @CobraA1 My thoughts exactly. I haven't really used my G+ that much because most of my friends are just on facebook, but after this I may see a lot of them moving to G+
      SpiderTech