Facebook just opened up Audience Network — the system it built to let advertisers place their ads in apps that aren’t Facebook — to the mobile web.
That means that brands can now extend their Facebook ad campaigns across a network of other mobile apps and mobile websites using the social network’s targeting data.
By the same token, it means that publishers with mobile sites can now make money through these ads.
Brian Boland, Facebook’s VP of ad technology, says that advertisers and publishers already using Audience Network had been clamoring for this expansion.
Although people spend most of their time on their smartphones within apps, digital media consumption through mobile web browsers is still growing, too — increasing 53% from 2013 to 2015, Facebook says.
“Everybody involved knew that they were getting a better deal and a better value through Audience Network than anywhere else,” Boland boasts to Business Insider.
Audience Network’s trump card over competing services from Google, AOL-owned Millennial Media, and other smaller mobile ad networks is that it targets ads based on its enormous trove of data from people’s profiles. With this expansion, Facebook is especially attacking Google’s mobile ad dominance, with products like AdSense and AdMob.
This move, in turn, also gives Facebook’s ad server, Atlas, more reach. Atlas is Facebook’s direct competitor to Google’s DoubleClick platform.
The size of the opportunity
At the beginning of January, Facebook announced that Audience Network had hit a $1B annual run rate for advertising spend in Q4, with “the bulk” of that revenue going to publishers. Although we can’t glean how much revenue Facebook itself pulled in, the company also made it clear that there is a lot of room for growth: apps running on the Audience Network accounted for 6% of all time spent in mobile apps.
Boland also wouldn’t break out how big an opportunity he thinks expanding Audience Network to the mobile web could be for Facebook, but he did drop a hint:
“If you look at the number of sites out there, there’s 3.5 times more sites than there are mobile apps,” he said.
Not only is this announcement a big deal for Facebook’s ads business, it also comes at a great time: The company reports its Q4 earnings on Wednesday, and regardless of how its numbers look, Facebook can point to this announcement as part of its plan for future growth.