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Facebook’s biggest problem? It’s a media company

Facebook’s advertising isn’t exactly setting the world on fire – and its social nature may be to blame, writes GigaOm's Mathew Ingram.

There’s been a lot of attention paid to Facebook’s business model recently, especially with the news that General Motors has killed a $10-million advertising campaign devoted to the giant social network — not exactly a great sign of confidence in advance of the world’s most eagerly anticipated IPO.

And GM’s move is only the latest indication of discontent, as other advertisers are also questioning their spending. What all of these moves reinforce is that while Facebook may look like and function like a social network for the majority of its users, on the business side it looks almost exactly like a traditional media company, and that is both good and bad.

Like Twitter, the content within Facebook may be generated entirely by users, but the business model is all about advertising, just like any other media entity. According to the social network’s latest S-1 securities filing, advertising accounted for more than 80 percent of its $1 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter.

And while some of that represents experiments with “social advertising” such as Sponsored Stories and other features, much of it is essentially run-of-the-mill banner and display advertising — not all that different from what you would find on a newspaper or magazine website, or any blog network.

In some ways, Facebook ads are actually worse than regular ads.

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