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Facebook pokes devs' wallets: Mobile app ad beta launches

You will download Angry Birds... bitch

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Desperate to squeeze money from its mobile users, Facebook is trialling mobile-app advertising, auctioning news-feed slots to the mobile developer who bids highest.

The adverts for the devs' creations will appear in news feeds of mobile users and link directly to the relative app stores, iTunes or Google Play. Facebook reckons that it already sends 146 million people in that direction every month – via the news feeds of users 'Friends' as well as by way of the social network's App Center, so Zuck's firm might as well try to make some money from the process.

Mobile developers are being invited to register for the beta, which will allow them to bid something in the region of half a dollar per click. It will also let them specify their daily budget – along with the gender and even the region (creepily sourced from those who have location services switched on in their mobes) of those to whom they wish to advertise.

Facebook users are increasingly going mobile, putting them beyond the reach of traditional advertisers, so the company has been struggling to find a way to "monetise" them. Advertising mobile applications must seem like easy money, but one has to wonder how much money there is in that particular pot.

Mobile app advertising has, hitherto, largely been funded by developers made misty-eyed by breathless media reports of execution stacks paved with gold, each hoping to embody the American dream with their own variation on Space Invaders.

These days we all know that vast majority of mobile apps don't make any money, selling in insignificant numbers, and those few that do are based on brands which drive adoption. Facebook's best hope is probably apps tied into services, like Barclays PingIt or Amazon's Kindle, though such apps have largely limited themselves to traditional advertising.

It seems that even Rovio isn't even bothering to push mobile ads out to its Angry Birds titles anymore, though the occasional ad pushing the company's paid titles will appear.

Making punters pay for stuff seems to have returned to fashion.

But not for Facebook, which has to provide its services for free, and thus needs advertising revenue to pay for it. Ads for mobile apps might do it, but hopefully Zuckerberg has another strategy or two to make Facebook pay. ®

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