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'Facebook Audience Network' will deliver ads to mobile apps -- report

Social network is expected to give app makers a way to feature banner and custom Facebook ads. It's part of company's ongoing effort to help developers monetize, and to boost its own sales.

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A desk at Facebook's Menlo Park campus. Facebook

Facebook will call its mobile ad network the "Facebook Audience Network" (FAN) and will soon let advertisers reach people off Facebook with highly targeted banner ads or custom units, according to a report from TechCrunch.

The social network is, at its f8 developer conference, expected to take the wraps off its mobile ad network, which it began actively testing in January. If rolled out more broadly, the ad network could boost sales by giving advertisers a way to distribute their Facebook ads beyond the News Feed to third-party mobile applications.

According to TechCrunch, FAN will let app developers use a snippet of code to replace their existing ad network, be it Google's AdMob or Twitter's MoPub, with Facebook's solution to run standard but possibly better-targeted banner ads and monetize their apps. The social network also reportedly plans to go the custom route and match an ad to its hosting app for select advertisers. On the targeting side, FAN can also reportedly identify the viewer to show the person an ad that matches personal information and interests gleaned from his or her Facebook profile.

Facebook declined to comment on its mobile ad network plans.

Though the fruits of such a network sound promising, especially given that the company is already successful at selling ads in its own application, Wall Street was cautioned Wednesday against getting carried away with expectations -- at least for the immediate future. On a post-earnings call with analysts, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg downplayed the prospect of meaningful revenue from the mobile ad network.

"We are in very early testing for a mobile ad network," Sandberg said, referring to the service as being in its "early days."

"We do see big opportunity here. We think, because we are people-based, we have an opportunity both to provide greater reach for marketers and developers who are working with Facebook...but also improve the relevance of ads people see both on and off Facebook."

Sandberg's early-days caveat may fall on deaf ears, as analysts have been salivating over the prospect of a mobile ad network. The social network pulled in $2.27 billion in revenue from ad sales, with 59 percent coming from its mobile products. Putting ads into others' apps, developers willing, gives Facebook an exponentially larger space to sell ads and do so in an environment it has already mastered.

Though the social network is fresh off handing in a stellar first-quarter report card, Facebook's shares are currently trading down around 5 percent Friday at $57.91.