From the NYT (yes, that link is a nofollow and no, it’s not by accident) comes news that Montreal company (I love our city!) Weblo is helping users sell advertising on their Facebook profile pages. That’s not all though. Weblo is also empowering users to sell ads on their Youtube, Blogger, Myspace, Orkut and other web profiles.
Facebook, naturally, is none too pleased. For one, they’ve got the competition to sell ads on their own site now. For another, these ads directly integrated into users’ profiles are likely to feel very spammy. Or to use a Facebook rep’s words, “cluttered.”
Will they stay or will they go? Well, Facebook could easily boot Weblo off their site. But chances are you’d just see other people come up with similar apps and it would get very laborious to ban all of them. Besides, how do you tell your users that some content isn’t allowed on your site? Unfair as it may be to Facebook, people will bitch about censorship and all that jazz. So Facebook needs to come up with a plausible answer to the problem of profile advertising, asap.
Ironically, they could probably solve the problem by collaborating with their big advertisers on it. Have them spend some dough to test it out, offer a rebate on Facebook advertising in exchange, and see if it works. I’m betting it won’t. And this being the web, advertisers will eventually stop using the platform as word spreads that the ROI sucks. Theoretically, at least.
If the ads do work out and Facebook directed its big advertisers to it, then there could be some competition between Facebook and Weblo. But Facebook could ultimately win that fight by booting Weblo and encouraging users to add an official copycat app to their profiles. The best part of it, for Facebook, is that they get an unknown company to take the heat if the idea doesn’t work out. After the stiff reception Beacon got, the last thing Facebook wants is more negative publicity for their ads. So they can see with advertisers whether this is finally the solution and then boot Weblo (or just buy them out entirely?).
Perhaps that’s what Facebook planned all along…
(Or perhaps Facebook planned for their users to get naked on camera? Kidding, but seriously, you’ll want to read that poll on Facebook users.)