Facebook is trying to boost the relevancy of ads shown in news feeds by tailoring them more to each user's interests, the company announced yesterday.
Advertising provides the financial fuel Facebook needs to thrive as a publicly traded company, one whose shares only recently clawed their way back up to the initial offering price from last year's stock market debut.
Facebook has long shown ads in the right sidebar on desktop screens, where they mostly get ignored by users. More recently, the social network started inserting them directly into the main news feed, annoying a lot of people who complained they don't like seeing ads for panty hose or bathroom products mixed in with status updates from their pals. Facebook said this past summer that ads now account for five percent (one in 20) of all items in people's news feeds.
In a blog post yesterday, Hong Ge, engineering manager for Facebook's news feed ads, said the company is trying to make these ads more useful by tweaking the algorithm governing which ads get shown and when. The new formula gives greater weight to feedback (both explicit and implicit) that people provide about ads they're shown. "For example," Ge wrote, "if someone always hides ads for electronics, we will reduce the number of those types of ads that we show to them."
It remains to be seen, of course, whether Facebook really can crack the relevancy nut and deliver ads of value to users. Regardless, don't look for ads to disappear or be reduced in volume any time soon on the network.