Facebook reported its financial results for the fourth quarter of 2019 and the full year earlier this week, and we broke out the highlights, financial and otherwise.
The financial numbers
The company reported $21.802 billion in revenue for the fourth quarter of 2019, up 25% from the same period in 2018, and $70.697 billion for the full year, up 27% from $55,838 billion.
Advertising, as always, was behind nearly all of Facebook’s revenue, accounting for $20.736 billion in the fourth quarter and $69.655 billion in the full year.
Facebook’s net income for the fourth quarter was $7.349 billion, up 7% from $6.882 billion in the prior-year quarter, and it slipped 16% for the full year, to $18.485 billion from $22.112 billion.
The company said its headcount was 44,942 as of Dec. 31, up 26% year-over-year, and chief financial officer David Wehner said in his opening remarks during Facebook’s earnings call that the over 9,300 new hires in 2019 were primarily in technical functions.
Wehner added that the total number of ad impressions served across Facebook’s services jumped 31% year-over-year in the fourth quarter, while the average price per ad slipped 5%, drive primarily by News Feed, Instagram Stories and Instagram feed.
He said, “Facebook News Feed impression growth benefited largely from community growth and engagement trends on the Facebook application. The year-over-year decline in average price per ad was primarily driven by the ongoing mix shift toward ads on Stories and in geographies that monetize at lower rates.”
The non-financial numbers
Facebook reported an average of 1.66 billion daily active users in December 2019, up 9% year-over-year, and 2.5 billion monthly active users as of Dec. 31, up 8% compared with the previous year. Wehner said in his opening remarks that the growth in DAUs was fueled by gains in India, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The company also explained its new family metrics: “Our family metrics represent our estimates of the underlying number of unique people using one or more of Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and/or WhatsApp (collectively, our ‘family’ of products). We define a daily active person as a registered and logged-in user of one or more family products who visited at least one of these products through a mobile device app or using a web or mobile browser on a given day. We define a monthly active person as a registered and logged-in user of one or more family products who visited at least one of these products through a mobile device app or using a web or mobile browser in the last 30 days as of the date of measurement.”
Facebook reported average family DAP of 2.26 billion in December 2019, up 11% compared with December 2018, and average family MAP of 2.89 billion as of Dec. 31, up 9% year-over-year.
Likewise, chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg said during her opening remarks that Facebook recently revealed that 4 million advertisers are using Stories, up from 2 million at the same time in 2018.
Zuckerberg conceded during his opening remarks that controversies such as Facebook’s decision to not ban political advertising or fact-check content from politicians have negatively impacted his popularity and the company’s.
He said, “My goal for this next decade isn’t to be liked, but to be understood. In order to be trusted, people need to know what you stand for. So, we’re going to focus more on communicating our principles—whether that’s standing up for giving people a voice against those who would censor people who don’t agree with them, standing up for letting people build their own communities against those who say that new types of communities forming on social media is dividing us, standing up for encryption against those who say privacy mostly helps bad people, standing up for giving small businesses more opportunity and sophisticated tools against those who say targeted advertising is a problem, or standing up for serving every person in the world against those who say you have to pay a premium in order to really be served.”
Zuckerberg continued, “These positions aren’t always going to be popular, but I think it’s important for us to take these debates head-on. I know that there are a lot of people who agree with these principles, and there are whole a lot more who are open to them and want to see these arguments get made. So, expect more of that this year.”
What’s up with WhatsApp Payments?
Zuckerberg said during his opening remarks, “Commerce and payments is another area that will be important for the private social platform, but also across all of our apps, including Facebook and Instagram. Our goal here is to make sure every individual small business entrepreneur out there has the same opportunity and access to the same type of sophisticated tools that historically only the big companies have had access to. That’s what we stand for: putting power in individuals’ hands.”
He cited WhatsApp Payments as an example, saying that it began testing the feature with roughly 1 million people in India in 2018, and those people kept using it, and adding, “I’m really excited about this and I expect this to start rolling this out in a number of countries and for us to make a lot of progress here in the next six months.”
Zuckerberg discussed payments further in response to a question from JPMorgan Chase analyst Douglas Anmuth, saying, “On the payment side, WhatsApp payments will be a part of Facebook Pay. We announced this program last year that basically will make it so if you pay for something in any of our apps, you only need to enter your credit card once, and then you can use that to have a more frictionless checkout experience across the other apps.”
He continued, “Bigger companies are going to find ways to sell their things and measure the effectiveness of their ads and all that. A lot of the work that we end up doing goes toward making it easier for small businesses to be able to—without a big technology shop—be able to use the same tools, get access to payments, set up storefronts easily, to be able to measure the effectiveness of ads … A lot of the concerns that we have with some of the potential changes to the ecosystem we think will disproportionately hurt small businesses’ ability to compete with larger companies.”
Facebook Watch and other non-News Feed destinations
Squali asked for more color on Facebook Dating, and Zuckerberg responded, “The way Dating fits into the strategy here is within the Facebook app, we think that News Feed is really central and that it’s one of the only things that we think everyone who uses the app is really going to use on a daily basis. But there are different social utilities that, even if not everyone wants to use them, hundreds of millions of people might find value in, whether that’s Marketplace for buying and selling things. Groups and communities we think is increasingly ubiquitous, but the tab there isn’t going to be used by everyone. It’s going to be used by hundreds of millions of people. Things like Watch or the News tab that we have started rolling out are not things that we expect everyone to use, but even if tens or hundreds of millions of people use them, then we’re adding unique value that other folks might not be able to build, and we’re making the app more valuable.”
He continued, “So, I kind of expect that in a year or two, the world that we’re going to be in is people use Facebook, they’re going to use News Feed, and then they’re probably each going to have two or three other of these social utilities that they find valuable. And as we start building those, I think that that’s some part of the story that you’re seeing on why the Facebook app engagement has been strong recently, especially as we build more of these things. That certainly is showing up in how people use the app.”
When pressed by Blackledge for more details on Facebook Watch users and engagement, Zuckerberg said, “The video strategy is … consistent with the rest of what we’re trying to do on creating these other tabs and social utilities as well. People watch a lot of video as part of News Feed. But what we also found was that just straight consuming a lot of video on News Feed was displacing some of the social interactions and connecting with people. That was the real core of what people came to our services for. So, basically, in order … to fully meet the needs that people have for video, we started creating a separate tab, Watch, and that’s been growing quickly, as well.”
He continued, “You can think about the content acquisition that we do there as more along the lines of either marketing or bringing new people into the experience. We’re not building out a subscription service or anything like that around this. That’s more just some good examples of content and anchor content to help create the community and get people into that experience.”