It's been a good summer for Facebook.
The increase in investor interest is due to a report that the social media juggernaut plans to introduce 15-second television-style ads to its Newsfeed, opening the door to a potentially crazy-lucrative new advertising option. Bloomberg reports that Facebook will sell the ad space for up to $2.5 million a commercial, and that commercial spots will initially run for a full day. The commercials will be targeted, so advertisers will run ads specific to age and gender.
This is going to be The Worst, but you can't really blame Facebook for going for the gold.
Now, don't get me wrong, having 15-second video ads pop up while I'm trying to creep on my exes sounds like a total nightmare. If Facebook implements video ads – and it really seems like it's headed in that direction, YouTube-style – it's going to suck, no matter how clean they try to make the design or how smoothly they try to integrate them. Watching ads just sucks. 15-second ads suck 15 seconds less than 30-second ads, but there's no way this won't make using Facebook just that much more infuriating.
The only thing I'm looking forward to less than having to suffer through some bogus commercials is the obnoxious "I'm quitting Facebook" backlash that will inevitably spring up. No, you're not.
It's not like YouTube suddenly suffered when it introduced ads at the beginning of videos. Or like Facebook suffered when it introduced ads to the format in the first place. The social network is more widely used than ever, and unless someone comes up with a viable alternative, the website could probably send a message to your inbox every day insulting your mother and you'd still log on to make sure you didn't miss anything. OK, maybe not you, person who is reading this and is indignantly thinking "NOT ME!" while opening a second tab specifically to delete Facebook this very moment just to prove a digital point to me. You have gumption. But most Facebook users aren't going to jump ship when these ads hit. They'll grumble. They'll post outraged statuses. They may even temporarily deactivate their accounts. But I seriously doubt this foray into video ads will cause more than an infinitesimal hiccup in the user base, because most people (myself included) will still want to use the services Facebook provides us for free.
Of course, I could be wrong, if some of the shade people are throwing Facebook on Twitter is any indication:
Then again, people have been freaking out over every change Facebook makes, ever, yet the user engagement remains extremely high.
There may be a remedy to the impending commercial-palooza about to hit Facebook, but it might end up making people even more mad than the ads themselves. Twitter founder Biz Stone recently suggested that Facebook offer a premium ads-free experience to users willing to pay $10 a month, and since research suggests that 15 percent of Facebook users would be willing to pay for this kind of service, it may be in Facebook's best interest to introduce a tiered system. That said, $10 a month is a little steep – I can watch all of "Orange is the New Black" thanks to a Netflix subscription cheaper than that, and "Orange is the New Black" is PRICELESS ENTERTAINMENT.
It would be a major bummer if we had to pay money to use a service that we used to get to use for free in the same way we used to use it, but Facebook isn't a philanthropic mission. It doesn't matter how many times Mark Zuckerberg gets up on stage with his aw-shucks hoodie and his earnest freckly face and tries to convince us that Facebook is about making the world a better, more connected place. It's simply not the company's primary mission. This is a gigantic, publicly traded business, and it needs to do what all businesses need to do to survive – get those dollar bills.
To do that, Facebook wants to keep its users happy enough to keep coming back — which is why it is rumored that Zuckerberg pushed back the release date for this feature until it was as inoffensive as possible. But a potential revenue stream this sizable would be absolutely blockheaded to ignore. According to the Bloomberg report, Facebook will initially limit the ads to no more than three a day on your News Feed, so at least they're not going overboard. Forty-five seconds of video ads in exchange for sweet, sweet Facebook creeping isn't a horrible deal.
Facebook is a business, and putting these ads up will be a very shrewd business decision. If you have a problem with that then you should probably come up with a different social network with a more pure, not-for-profit mission that only focuses on user experience without regard for the bottom line.
And I'm not being snarky. You should seriously invent it, because if I see that freaking Geico lizard while I'm trying to "like" pictures of my friends' wedding I'm going to lose it.