Facebook, already rich off online ads, gears up for mobile adverts

More than half of Facebook users access the social network through a mobile device. And now Facebook could be close to rolling out a mobile advertising initiative. 

Facebook could soon begin running ads on the mobile version of its site. Here, a user accesses Facebook on his iPhone.

Last week, when Facebook filed its S-1 papers with the SEC – a necessary stepping stone to an IPO – it revealed that more than half its 845 million users access the social network via a mobile device. This is not especially good news for the company, which has thus far failed to capitalize on all that mobile traffic. Facebook runs quite-lucrative advertisements on its website, but has not fully implemented them into phone apps or its mobile site.

But according to a new report, Facebook is already mulling a new mobile advertising strategy, and it could go live as soon as next month. Writing in the Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw offers details on an upcoming Facebook initiative to push "featured stories" – sponsored links or news items, in other words, that would appear in a user's mobile news feed. 

That initiative, in turn, would be followed by other types of advertisements, including – eventually – location-targeted ads, Bradshaw says. (Stuck in New York on a layover? Ads for local pizza parlors might appear on your Facebook feed.) "Featured stories," writes Bradshaw, "is likely to be Facebook’s first mobile marketing format of many, potentially including 'rich media' such as video and potentially exploiting the narrow geographical targeting of its users." 

Of course, mobile marketing has proved tricky in the past – as opposed to a traditional computer screen, there isn't much room on a smartphone display, Flash-based ads won't work on many mobile devices, and banner ads would be itty-bitty. But plenty of pundits think Facebook could make it work. 

"It’s something that’s been talked about for quite some time and is now starting to become more of a reality and more effective," Rob Jonas, of the ad network InMobi, told the FT. "As long as you are creating relevant content, it will be a good user experience." 

Maybe. After all, folks certainly got used to being bombarded by customized advertisements on Google, Gmail, and other Google-operated sites. (Have you seen Microsoft's spoof: the Gmail Man?) But if Facebook does decide to roll out location-specific adverts, it could spook a lot of users, who may not have realized that their smartphone has been tracking their progress all over town. Right? Drop us a line in the comments section. 

And for more tech news, follow us on Twitter @venturenaut

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