Sadly, Facebook has not backtracked on their decision to introduce autoplay, television-style ads into the social networking site, but, at the very least, the company is delaying the process and taking care to accommodate concerns. Founder Mark Zuckerberg is reportedly taking precautions to ensure that the new type of advertising disrupts Facebook users as little as possible, while still making the company $2.5 million per day per advertising spot.
Facebook’s original plan was to take advantage of the massive traffic the website gets during prime time television hours. 88 to 100 million users, especially between the ages of 18 to 24, log onto Facebook, and sit on the site, between 8pm and 11pm on weekdays, a coveted time slot for TV advertisers. The company plans to introduce short, 15 second television style video ads into Facebook, and into your newsfeed, to capitalize on the traffic. However, now it seems that the company has some worries about how users might react to the autoplay ads, especially on cell phones.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Zuckerburg is working closely with engineers to ensure the advertisements will not bother users. Currently, it appears that the company is prioritizing fast loading on the videos so that they do not disrupt the user’s time on Facebook longer than they have to. Fortunately for cell phone users and those of you trying to sneak a peek at your feed during work or school, the company is also exploring muting the ads when they initially autoplay. Another option Zuckerberg and his employees have considered is the inclusion of a feature to turn off the autoplay on the ads. Hopefully, one or both of these measures will mitigate the power of the autoplay ads to announce to the room at large that Facebook believes you should purchase Hanes underwear and watch The Big Bang Theory.
It seems that the method for sizing up a user will remain the same as was initially reported. Facebook will use a simpler system than is generally employed by internet advertisers to determine only the age and gender of an individual, not the area in which they live or their interests. However, there will be some choice introduced into the ads themselves, according to WSJ. Facebook apparently plans to give more space to advertisers without adding more videos to a news feed by using “carousels,” which would allow Facebook users to scroll over to one or two related ads after the initial ad finishes. Obviously, this is more advantageous for advertisers than Facebook users, but it’s no more disruptive than the original, one-video plan.
Part of Facebook’s desire to cram in as many advertisements as possible stems from the fact that the company must compete with ads on television networks. The planned 15 second ads are not nearly as long as normal television commercials, after all, and 2.5 million dollars is quite a lot of money advertisers must pay to Facebook for a very short, possibly audio-less spot. Overall, however, Facebook employees are confident they can balance the needs of users and advertisers. In February, Facebook VP of Business David Fischer seemed quite sure the company could pull it off, saying,
I believe there are ways we could do it. There are ways that could be destructive and distracting to the user experience. But there are ways that could potentially balance user experience with advertiser experience.
Still, for many Facebook users, any autoplay ads at all are a disruption, regardless of how careful the company is to accomodate user concerns. Ad-blocker is still looking like a pretty good option.
(via The Wall Street Journal)
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