On Facebook and their IPO

Some of this discussion shows a fundamental misunderstanding of online advertising and data collection. I’ll explain shortly, but first, my thoughts on the IPO.

I’m actually fairly bullish on FB stock, just not at this price level. 100x earnings and 100 billion dollars? Essentially the stock offering priced out at least 2 or 3 years of growth. Good for those that already had options, but there is a ceiling on what the stock can do for a while. IMO they could triple their revenue/earnings and the stock might not move at all. If it gets down to 23-25 or so I’ll be buying as much as I can.

Anyway, the discussion about paying for the service or charging for business pages is silly. Similarly silly are all of the recent articles about people not seeing any return from FB ads. This should come as a surprise to no one – for ads to work, the person viewing them has to be complicit in receiving the message. Ads work on Google because when people go to Google they are almost always LOOKING FOR SOMETHING. Google’s ad platform monetizes them finding what they need. Facebook does no such thing. Visitors to FB do not go to FB to shop, they go to stalk ex-girlfriends and post pictures of their pets or whatever.

I don’t think anyone (including the FB people) think that their on-site ad platform is ever going to generate much revenue. But the point of the on-site ad platform may not be to generate revenue but rather to dial in the ad platform itself. The FB-based ad platform is a testbed/sandbox for FB to match ads to people and test algorithms and such….

…which leads to how FB is going to make a zillion dollars.

Recently, FB changed their ToS to allow FB to track you when you are not on the FB site. THis means that when you go to another browser window or a different site, FB has the ability to follow you. So everywhere you go on the internet, FB is able to go with you and the treasure trove of data they have is with them. Which is why they will be launching an AdWords/AdSense competitor in the not too distant future. They don’t care about making money off of you while you’re on FB (outside of teenagers buying virtual goods in games). Rather, they give you the FB platform to use for FREE so they can collect scores of information about you. Eventually they will have a platform for publishers that delivers on site revenue to publishers like Google does, only the ads they serve will have higher conversion rates because they are REALLY atuned to you and your likes and dislikes, more so than Google.

The challenge FB faces is time of engagement on the site, not so you might click on an ad but so they have time to collect more info about you. They need “horizontal” engagement….right now that average FB user is on the site less than 4 minutes a day IIRC. The longer you are on FB, the longer your friends are on, the more data they can collect about what ads to serve you on their new ad platform. By creating the app store a couple weeks ago, they are opening the door up for the same creative types that made the Apple app store so successful to come in and make the FB ecostystem full of new games and business services and tools and other stuff…..all things intended to make you come to facebook more often so they can collect more data and thus make more money when you leave FB.

People talk about their challenge in mobile being about monetizing a mobile site, which is silly. They don’t need to run ads on a FB app…they just need to make it full featured enough that you interact with it the same way you interact with FB on the desktop. They bought Instragram for this reason. They will continue buying properties that people engage with. Not so they can run ads on those properties, but so they can get more info about you.

The stock will slowly slide for the next 6-18 months. And when the ad platform is announced the stock will double in a week. Black dot it, put it ink.


One Response

  1. Colin, this is an EXCELLENT article! FB should be interesting to follow, indeed.

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