Facebook to Start Selling Video Ads

Facebook, becoming more like the mass-media outlets it was once an alternative to, will soon begin hosting video ads.

Facebook will soon begin including video ads in users' News Feed.

In September, Facebook changed the way many users see friends' videos in their feeds—videos begin playing automatically, though silently, only adding sound when they're tapped or pushed to full screen. The new video ads will work the same way.

"Marketers will be able to use this new format to tell their stories to a large number of people on Facebook in a short amount of time—with high-quality sight, sound and motion," Facebook said in a Dec. 17 blog post. "This approach will continue to improve the quality of ads that you see in News Feed."

The feature will begin rolling out in the coming days to a limited group of users who will see a single video ad—a trailer for the film Divergent.

At the end of a video ad, a video carousel will appear, offering a user the option to scroll horizontally, for additional content.

On mobile devices, all videos will download in advance when the device is connected to a WiFi network so that the ads never contribute to a user's data plan, "even if you're not connected to WiFi at the time of playback," said Facebook.

The ad format used for the Divergent clips, which have been created by Summit Entertainment and Mindshare, Facebook added in a statement, "isn't intended for every video ad or Page post video on Facebook; it meets specific needs for certain marketers with certain objectives. We'll continue to refine this new way for brands to tell stories on Facebook to ensure the best experience for people and marketers."

Facebook didn't disclose what it will charge advertisers for the video service, but it's expected to be more than it charges for current ads—which is $2 million a day for the full reach to all of Facebook's users, The Wall Street Journal reported Dec. 17.

Gartner analyst Andrew Frank says the launch of video ads by Facebook is a bit ironic.

"Facebook has sort of always positioned itself as an alternative to mass media ... and now it's looking a lot more like a mass-media vehicle," Frank told eWEEK.

"Even the use of the 'sight, sound and motion' phrasing is kind of shocking, since that's the classic, old TV-selling language."

Still, economically, it's sure to be beneficial to Facebook and its shareholders Frank added, and Facebook will no doubt be "extremely sensitive" to whether the videos are annoying to users.

"I would be surprised if it really moves the needle on Facebook [user numbers falling]. But if Facebook sees that people are swiping the ads away quickly, that will be an issue."

In November, Facebook reportedly made a $3 billion offer to buy Snapchat, an app that deletes messages shortly after they're received—and that has a user base of primarily teenagers.

During its third-quarter earnings call, Facebook executives admitted to a decrease in daily visits by teenage users. The admission was in sync with an October report from Piper Jaffray, which found more teens citing Twitter as their preferred social network than Facebook.

During the quarter, user growth was up 18 percent year-over-year, down from 21 percent the quarter before.