Three months after Facebook said it would begin testing the ability for advertisers to target ads on third-party mobile apps and sites using its rich data supply, the social network is ending that experiment.
AllThingsD first reported the news on Wednesday, with its sources claiming that Facebook and its partners weren’t sure how valuable the mobile ad network could be. When Facebook announced the initiative in September, the company stressed that it was a “really small test of just a few advertisers.”
Facebook has already begun the process of letting its test partners know about the network's closure. Said a company spokesperson: “We are pausing our mobile ads test off of Facebook. While the results we have seen and the feedback from partners has been positive, our focus is on scaling ads in mobile news feed before ads off of Facebook. We have learned a lot from this test that will be useful in the future.”
The mobile ad network’s quick demise is likely a bummer for mobile app developers since it would stand to reason that advertisers were salivating over the idea of using Facebook data to target mobile ads (since Facebook knows a lot more about most users than the average app company). Facebook’s mobile ad net would mean that a mobile banner promoting an Italian restaurant, for example, is being shown to someone whose Facebook profile states they like Italian food. That’s about as good as targeting someone touring Little Italy and way better than running it just because someone’s playing Fruit Ninja.
For the time being however, it seems that Facebook is focused on building, and improving upon, ads on its own platform—for both desktop and mobile devices.
Though the mobile ad network is no longer, its test still offers a hint at how Facebook could erect an online ad net, as has long been rumored. Facebook was able to use its data to target ads so long as users were signed in to Facebook's mobile app or site. Given that Facebook is arguably the one tab most Web surfers keep open no matter how many other sites they surf, it's likely that's one way a Facebook online ad network could work.
Today’s news may renew the idea that Facebook has trouble monetizing mobile, which shadowed the social net for much of 2012. But the company’s most recent earnings report suggests otherwise. During the third quarter, mobile represented 14 percent of Facebook’s $1.09 billion in total ad revenue, with the company reaping roughly $3 million a day from ads shown in the mobile News Feed. And according to eMarketer, Facebook's mobile business is growing rapidly.