Mark Zuckerberg: Internet.org Is Not About Profitability, Ads

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke extensively about the Internet.org initiative in an interview with Bloomberg Television's Emily Chang, which will air on Studio 1.0 Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

BloombergTVEmilyChangMarkZuckerbergFacebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke extensively about the Internet.org initiative in an interview with Bloomberg Television‘s Emily Chang, which will air on Studio 1.0 Thursday at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT.

When Chang asked Zuckerberg if he had a better sense of when Internet.org would become profitable, he replied:

No, I don’t have a better idea. The reality is just that a lot people can’t afford to pay for data access in some of these areas; then they probably aren’t ad markets, and it’s probably not going to be a place where it’s going to be particularly profitable in the near term. In fact, we’ll probably lose a bunch of money just because supporting Facebook as a service, and storing the photos and content that people want to share, costs money. We probably won’t offset it by making much. But there’s this mission belief that connecting the world is really important, and that is something that we want to do. That is why Facebook is here on this planet.

And then there is this longer-term belief that this is going to be good for these countries if people have access to these tools, and over time, if you do good things, then some of that comes back to you. But you just have to be patient, and you can’t always know what the plan is going to be upfront.

And on the potential for advertising on Internet.org in the future, Zuckerberg said:

I’m not sure it’s a big part of the solution in the near term, to be honest. What we need to do is work out a model with operators and governments and local partners that is profitable for them so we can continue growing the Internet. What we have found in some of these early countries that we have worked in — Indonesia, the Philippines, Zambia, Kenya — is you offer a little bit of the Internet free, and more people start using data, and more people can access the Internet and access these tools, but also more people start paying for data once they understand what they would use the Internet for. The people understand why they would want to pay for data, and these operators end up making more money, and it ends up being more profitable, and it ends up taking that money and reinvesting that in better Internet and infrastructure for everyone in their country. So that ends up being very important, and a lot of what we have focused on for the past couple of years is just: How do you build a model that is sustainable for everyone and delivers free Internet to people?

Originally, we thought that maybe working with other kinds of partners would be important, but at this point, we think we have a sustainable model that is working in multiple countries now, and there’s a lot of momentum and a lot of countries coming online now, and a lot of other countries are coming to us to roll out the Internet.org model. So I expect to see a lot more over the next year.

In a lot of these countries, there isn’t a very big ad market yet. So it’s not that we won’t do it eventually, but for right now and our business, the main thing that we need to continue to do is focus on the quality of the ads and doing that in the developed world — in the U.S. and Europe and Asia and a lot of places that are actually going to be the driver of our own profitability and revenue — not trying to make ad markets out of countries that are just coming online.

Thursday night’s episode of Studio 1.0 can be live-streamed here, and the following preview videos are currently online:

Readers: What did you think of Zuckerberg’s latest comments on Internet.org?