This morning one of my readers sent me a screenshot of the advertisement pictured on the left. I wouldn’t exactly call it an “advertisement” but it appears to replace other ads that would have been placed on the right hand side of the Facebook interface. Currently the ad is titled “Friend Profile Preview” and it shows your friend’s picture, name, and their recent status updates.
Now why on earth would Facebook substitute precious advertising space to alert you to one of your friends? Honestly, I don’t think they would. Instead, I believe (which is as of yet unconfirmed) that Facebook is testing out an ad network for displaying personals. I’ve discussed with a number of friends the opportunity for personals ads on Facebook.
Imagine being able to target potential matches based on their profile. There is tons of data including the schools they went to (for instance if you only want to date Harvard grads), the interests they have, and numerous other data. Rather than having a cost per click (CPC), or cost per thousand impressions (CPM), you can have a cost per date (CPD)!
This is complete speculation though unfortunately. Perhaps Facebook is having inventory issues due to the struggling economy and decided to place other internal advertisements as filler. Typically the company would place advertisements for their own ad platform though and not substitute advertisements for friends.
As such, it’s difficult for me to rationalize any alternative reasons for Facebook to display profile previews of friends without the long-term goal of making it an alternative to the traditional “personals”; the dating ads that used to be popular in newspapers. Can you think of any other reason that Facebook would test this out? Honestly, I think this could be extremely popular.
I just called the New York Times to find out their rates for personals ads, and they quoted $48 for one week, $72 for two weeks, and $96 for four weeks. That’s not a bad business and considering that the advertisements are not targeted, Facebook could be a great substitute.
Update from Facebook
Facebook sent us the following statement:
“Facebook is not offering personal ads on the site. The unit you noticed is a test running to a limited number of users that previews the profiles of a userâ€™s friends. It is not a paid advertisement but surfaces friend information to help enable more sharing in more places on the site. Users are only shown profile previews of their confirmed friends and only see the information if they have access to it on a friendâ€™s profile. Facebook will continue to be testing various versions of this preview and similar units, but it has not launched it widely on the site.”