Mobile Ads Help Rocket Facebook Revs 63%

Mobile advertising made up the majority of Facebook’s ad sales in the fourth quarter of 2013, propelling overall revenue growth of 63% in the period.

Facebook on Wednesday reported an adjusted profit of $780 million, or 31 cents a share -- compared to $426 million, or 17 cents per share, a year ago. Revenue increased to $2.59 billion from $1.59 billion. Wall Street analysts, on average, had expected Facebook to report an adjusted profit of 27 cents a share on revenue of $2.33 billion.

"It was a great end to the year for Facebook. We're looking forward to our next decade and to helping connect the rest of the world,” said company CEO Mark Zuckerberg in the earnings release.

Facebook’s $1.8 billion in advertising sales, which accounted for 89% of total revenue, surged 76% in the quarter -- up from 66% growth in the prior quarter. Mobile advertising, for the first time, accounted for more than half the company’s ad revenue in a quarter: at 53%. That’s nearly double the 23% it made up in the year-earlier period.

The company last week said it had also begun testing a long-rumored ad network that would show ads in mobile apps outside Facebook. The company, per usual, did not provide any revenue or earnings guidance for the current quarter of full year in its quarterly report.

Growth of Facebook’s user base has come under increasing scrutiny in recent months, especially with indications that the social network is losing teenage users to competing social media and messaging apps, including Vine, Snapchat and WhatsApp.

Payments and other fees contributed $241 million, down from $256 million a year ago. That portion of Facebook’s business continues to contract, with Zynga shifting away from the social network and making a rocky transition to mobile games.

Facebook said monthly active users (MAUs) as of December increased to 1.23 billion -- up 16% from a year ago, but less than the 18% growth in the third quarter. The number of mobile MAUs continued to grow much faster, at 39% to 945 million, underscoring why Facebook has shifted its focus to mobile advertising over the last year and a half.

Daily active users (DAUs) -- the most dedicated Facebook users -- overall increased 22% to 728 million, while mobile DAUs totaled 556 million, reflecting a 49% increase.

While mobile expansion has been the driving force of Facebook’s sales growth over the last year, the company in December began testing video advertising, providing a potentially lucrative new revenue stream. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal just after its earnings announcement, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the company would continue to move slowly this year in expanding video advertising.

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