The Outlook for 'Home' Screen Advertising

Yesterday Facebook introduced its homescreen Android makeover-takeover strategy: Facebook Home. It comes both fully integrated into a phone (HTC First) and as an app download. As you know it replaces the standard Android home and lock screen experiences with a proprietary Facebook environment. 

Mark Zuckerberg and others at the press event yesterday confirmed that there would eventually be ads in its "Cover Feed." Cover Feed is the new photo-centric dynamic feed that constitutes much of the experience of Home. It includes Facebook content and select "Open Graph" partner content (e.g., Foursquare, Instagram). 

Facebook stressed that it was working to make sure that any ads that eventually do appear (probably within a year, depending on adoption) would be consistent with the aesthetic experience and of sufficiently high quality. We're starting to see more ads in the mobile news feed that are of, shall we say, uneven quality. 

However Cover Feed ads have the potential to be quite effective. If they're scarce and if Facebook uses strict standards they could become the equivalent of "Super Bowl ads for mobile." That of course will largely depend on how widely Facebook Home is adopted. There's early survey data that suggests limited demand -- but surveys don't always tell the whole story and can be contradicted by actual behavior. 

In the past there have been several startups that sought to offer home or idle screen ads on mobile devices. All failed for various reasons (not enough scale, insufficient ad quality, limited advertiser demand/adoption). Today, to my knowledge, Amazon's Kindle (multiple devices) is the only place where such ads exist at any kind of scale. The picture above, at right is an example of a "Special Offer" on Kindle Fire. 

I could find no data about the general consumer attitude toward these ads -- though there is plenty of online discussion about opting out. I also was unable to find any discussion or data about the efficacy of these ads and whether they perform for advertisers. 

For many of the reasons already cited it's way too early to project how much Facebook could earn from Home ads. But if there are millions of users who adopt Home in the US and around the world, the ads could generate broad exposure (like TV advertising) and significant potential revenue for Facebook. 

An interesting secondary question arises: if the most active mobile users migrate to Home (and use the app less often), do ads on Home then effectively cannibalize ads on the Facebook app in the conventional news feed? 

Image credit: lovemyfire.com