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Facebook Is Expanding Its Burgeoning Ad Network to the Mobile Web

Makes it available outside of native apps

With its Facebook Audience Network, the social giant looks to build on its marketing empire. Getty Images

Facebook is expanding its ad network from just third-party apps to the mobile Web.

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company will begin making its Facebook Audience Network available for publishers and advertisers outside of publishers' native apps. The Audience Network for the mobile Web will include the same kind of targeting data it does through apps.

"When I think about what we've been learning in the time spent with advertisers and publishers, it's that the importance of reaching people and not cookies is really starting to become something that people are seeing true value around," said Brian Boland, Facebook's vp of ad tech. "So, the success that we've seen on mobile is beginning to solve the problems of how you can make sure that the right person receives the right message."

Ad inventory will include banner and native ads on publishers' websites. According to Facebook, native formats now make up more than 80 percent of impressions through the Audience Network and perform as much as seven times better than standard banner formats. Boland said Facebook has seen a fivefold increase in the number of publishers offering native ads year over year.

Facebook's Audience Network is massive. Earlier this month, the company revealed it had a $1 billion annual run rate during the fourth quarter for advertising spending, with the majority of that money going to publishers. According to its third-quarter earnings report, Facebook's mobile ad revenue totaled $3.4 billion. (Its fourth-quarter earnings for 2015 are expected to be released tomorrow.)

There are now 2.5 million advertisers utilizing the Facebook Audience Network, per the company. Publishers also continue to pile in—Boland said Facebook has seen the number of publishers using the network grow tenfold year over year.

The expansion comes a few weeks after Facebook announced plans to shutter the ads server business it runs through LiveRail in order to focus more on LiveRail's private marketplaces and mediation services.

Over the past few weeks, Facebook has been working in beta with a group of 10 publishers including Slate, Elite Daily and Hearst. Boland said early returns for publishers, while not disclosed, were promising. (There's an obvious incentive for Facebook, too, since it gets to keep an undisclosed percentage of the revenue from publishers utilizing the network.)

And as popular as apps are, mobile Web browsing isn't going anywhere anytime soon. According to a comScore report last year, digital media consumption in mobile Web browsers increased 53 percent from 2013 to 2015. Between 35 percent and 40 percent of traffic to news sites comes from mobile devices, with 93 percent of mobile audiences coming from the mobile Web.

Boland said the mobile Web question is one that has come up and again and again in conversations with publishers, which makes sense considering that there are 3.5 times more Web properties than mobile apps.

"For us, we wanted to make sure that what we were building in the app ecosystem was providing the value that we knew it should be able to provide," Boland said.

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