Scrolling through an ad-free Instagram is now a distant memory, much like the once ad-free Facebook itself. Soon, users of its Messenger app will begin to see advertisements, too — and WhatsApp may not be too far behind.
Welcome to the Facebook ad creep.
The world’s biggest social media company has squeezed about as many ads onto its main platform as it can. The fancy term for this is “ad load,” and Facebook warned investors back in 2016 that it has pretty much maxed it out. Put any more ads in front of users and they might start complaining — or worse, just leave.
As such, Facebook, a free service that relies almost completely on ads to make money, has to keep finding new and creative ways to let businesses hawk their stuff on its properties.
One solution is to spread ads beyond Facebook itself, onto the other popular messaging and photo-sharing apps it owns.
So far, it’s working. On Wednesday, Facebook posted a 71 percent increase in net income to $3.89 billion, or $1.32 per share, from $2.28 billion, or 78 cents a share, a year ago.
Revenue for the three months that ended on June 30 rose 45 percent to $9.32 billion from $6.44 billion. The Menlo Park, Calif.-based company’s monthly active user base grew 17 percent to 2.01 billion.
Ads began arriving on Instagram, which Facebook bought in 2012 for $1 billion, in 2013. It was a slow and careful rollout, and tells us a lot about Facebook’s subsequent ad strategy.
The company didn’t want to upset Instagram’s loyal fans, who were used to scrolling through beautiful landscapes, stylized breakfast shots and well-groomed kittens in their feed. An ad for headache pills would have interrupted the flow. So Instagram started off with just a few ads it considered “beautiful,” selected from hand-picked businesses. For a while, CEO Kevin Systrom reviewed every ad before it went live.
Four years later, things have changed a bit, although to Instagram’s credit, not so much as to alienate…