You’re probably thinking this is all about mobile, and that’s partly why most investors are suddenly buying in, too. As last week’s earnings report made clear, what Facebook has done most effectively in the last year – from a top-line standpoint – is crack the code on mobile, which now accounts for 41% of ad revenue. It was a mere rounding error a year ago. According to this story in The New York Times, “The catalyst for the rise was the company’s surprisingly strong second-quarter earnings report last Wednesday [July 24], which quelled many investors’ doubts about Facebook’s ability to make money from its legions of mobile users and suggested that the company’s profit stream would continue growing.”
But it’s the plethora of those potential profit streams that should really catch investors’ attention. It’s no coincidence that Facebook inched above $38 for the first time the day after Bloomberg reported – though Ad Age appears to have been first on this story for months now – that Facebook was going to start offering advertisers 15-second spots, for as much as $2.5 million per day. (Disclosure: my husband is a reporter for Bloomberg, in unrelated areas.)
Of course, since we’re still in a world where the biggest budgets are reserved for TV, investors should respond.
But the sudden belief in Facebook shouldn‘t just be about video, either. It should be about the realization that Facebook has so many levers to pull to monetize itself. Having more than one billion users should make that obvious. It isn’t just about mobile, or 15-second ads, or Facebook Exchange, or hashtags, or social commerce, or even, data. (In fact, one of the striking things about Facebook’s video ads offering is how crudely targeted it will reportedly be in the early stages – limited to age and gender.) The thing about Facebook is that it can dabble in any or all of those. Some will resonate with its user base, and some will not, but ahh! the possibilities!
The elephant in the room is how much commercialization users will put up with. My guess – no, educated opinion – is that Facebook is discovering it’s more than you might think. Yes, users will no doubt grouse about video ads, but Facebook’s inherent stickiness will probably make the issue passé quickly. Sure, you could swear off Facebook, but are your friends really going to come with you?