Update (06/20/2018): A Messenger spokesperson sent over the following statement in response to the article:
“As we shared with advertisers at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, we are now expanding the availability of video ads to Messenger. We will be rolling out video ads gradually and thoughtfully. People that use Messenger each month are our top priority and they will remain in control of their experience.”
Original article: “How do you sustain a business model which users don’t pay for your service?”
“Senator, we run ads.”
Senator Orrin Hatch should have probably done a bit more research, but the fact remains that Facebook makes money through advertisements. That is why today’s news that Facebook will feature autoplay video ads inside of Messenger is both expected and depressing.
Facebook did not say where the autoplay video ads will be or whether there will be an option to turn off autoplay to save data, reported Recode. With a limited amount of space in the main Facebook app, however, this was an inevitable move that Facebook foreshadowed about a year and a half ago.
Back then, Facebook tested static ads inside of Messenger in a handful of countries. The static ads appear as a News Feed-style carousel, though users need to scroll down to see them.
With static and autoplay ads sharing space with your private messages, however, the ads might feel intrusive. According to Stefanos Loukakos, director of Messenger’s business arm, Facebook will monitor user feedback and behavior to see how people react to them.
“Top priority for us is user experience, so we don’t know yet [if these will work],” said Loukakos.
“However, signs until now, until we tested basic ads, didn’t show any changes with how people used the platform or how many messages they send. Video might be a bit different, but we don’t believe so.”
From a business point of view, placing video ads in Messenger makes sense. Facebook needs to make money somehow, and almost all of the company’s revenue comes from advertising.
As we learned from the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, however, perception plays as much of a part as what actually happens. People don’t like ads. People correctly assume that their private messages are private. There is nothing private about ads.
People might either not like this at all or not care enough to say something. Regardless, Facebook was under a microscope for months and is ready to move on from the scrutiny. If it does not want to find itself in the same position, Facebook has to tread carefully.