In the past few days, Facebook users may have noticed a big change in the format of ads tacked onto their personal photos. We first caught glimpse of it next to photos of a colleague and her adorable baby baby whose sweet face was suddenly juxtaposed next to a sponsored post about VOD distribution. Startin’ ’em off early!
While the new photo viewer, which moves comments and ads from below the photo to a more prominent placement on the side, started showing up earlier this month, this week Facebook began implementing the Google+-esque format more heavily. Ads tend to show up—and how!—next to photos without many comments.
“Put it this way,” says Peter Kafka at AllThingsD, “I look at Facebook a lot, and I didn’t even realize that Facebook had been showing me ads when I clicked on photos. Now I can’t avoid them.” Mr. Kafka then proceeds to engage in a conversation with an imaginary drunk Facebook employee who lets it slip that, “If this format works, it means we’ll have opened up a huge slug of real estate we weren’t using. Boom! Instant revenue stream!”
“Boom” is one word for the jarring new ad format; “Ehhh” is another. We’re not naive enough to think Facebook is a benevolent keeper of our cherished memories. Especially not when the now mandatory Timeline was designed to integrate brands into your identity, overall advertising revenue accounted for $3.15 billion in 2011 and failure to bring display ads in mobile was listed under “Risk Factors” in its S-1 filing. But the MySpacification of Facebook does remind of us another line in the “Risks” section: “if our users decrease their level of engagement with Facebook . . .”