Facebook ads could hit smartphones, tablets as soon as March

Get ready for advertising to hit the mobile version of Facebook in early March as the company looks to generate more revenue leading up to its forthcoming initial public offering, according to an online report.<br)
Nearly half of the social network’s 845 million monthly active userslog onto Facebook from a mobile device. ButFacebook last Wednesdaysaid in its IPO filing that it isn’tmaking any “meaningful revenue”from its mobile apps or the mobile version of its site. Facebook’sdearth of mobile advertising appears about to change, however,according to the Financial Times.

The first round of ads to hit Facebook on your smartphone and tabletwill reportedly be Sponsored Stories, which launched on the desktopversion of Facebook in early 2011. Sponsored stories let advertiserspay Facebook to notify you if a friend reports some action that impliesendorsement of a product, such as liking Coca-Cola‘s brand page,checking in at a retail store, or making plans to visit a localrestaurant. Sponsored stories started on the right hand side of yourFacebook home page, but the company in December said Sponsored Storieswill make the jump to your regular News Feed.

Sponsored Stories will reportedly make another move onto your mobiledevices by March, according to the FT. Facebook also hinted in its IPOfiling that it is considering such a move. “We believe that we may havepotential future monetization opportunities [for Facebook mobileproducts] such as the inclusion of sponsored stories in users’ mobileNews Feeds,” the company says.
 
When reached for comment by PCWorld, Facebook declined to discuss theFT’s report.
 
Will ads be too intrusive?
But will users tolerate social ads while on the go? Mobile devices havefar less screen real estate than a desktop computer, so sponsoredstories are sure to take up more space when they scroll by on your3.5-inch iPhone screen or even the 5.3-inch display on the new SamsungGalaxy Note.

The challenge for the world’s largest social network will be to ensureits mobile ads aren’t too intrusivefor its users while still being auseful channel for advertisers. Twitter tried to extract revenuebypasting sponsored ads into its mobile product in early March 2011 withits “Quick Bar,” a persistent strip of text that displayed a promotedTwitter topic whenever you refreshed your tweet stream. The concept soannoyed users it quickly became known as the “Dickbar,” and Twitterkilled the concept soon after.

So far, Facebook has avoided Quick Bar-like user outrage on the desktopversion of Sponsored Stories; partly because the stories look like anyother newsfeed item except they have a “Sponsored” tag at the bottom ofthe post. Mobile versions would also likely blend in with the rest ofFacebook.
 
Smartphones vs PCs
Whether or not Sponsored Stories on mobile devices pay off, you can betFacebook will be trying other ways to make money off your smartphone inthe coming months. A recent report by market research firm Canalys saysthat in 2011 smartphone shipments overtook those of PCs for the firsttime. And, as The New York Times points out, mobile phones are morepopular than PCs for getting online in emerging markets such as Chile,Venezuela, and Brazil. With such a large and growing mobile audienceand profit-hungry investors soon to be watching the company’s bottomline, Facebook can no longer afford to offer ad-free mobile apps.Especially when it will soon have a lot of new stockholders to satisfy.

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