Facebook: Now Zuckerberg wants users to pay monthly NOT to be bombarded with ads
For reasons of personal conviction - and a deep-seated dislike of being spied upon whilst being exploited - I do not myself subscribe to Facebook, and I feel all the better for it, but, as a journalist I do keep a weather eye on the antics of that nice, young Mr. Zuckerberg and his staff - I find it pays to do so.
And what do I discover today? Why that as far back as the early summer of 2011, Facebook filed a patent application (US Patent Application 20130030987, if you want to take a look for yourself) to allow users to (sort-of) of opt out of having all those damnably annoying, so-called "contextual" adverts that run, automatically and endlessly, alongside a user's Facebook profile. But freedom comes at a price and Facebook will only confer the editing capability on users who are prepared to stump-up a monthly fee for the privilege of not being constantly bombarded with advertising.
The patent application documents, entitled "Paid Profile Personilization" have just been made publicly available and show that the new wheeze was actually invented by that nice, young Mr. Zuckerberg himself and two of his colleagues, the Advertising Product Director, Gokul Rajaram, who is still at Facebook, and erstwhile Product Management Director, Prashant Fuloria, who has since moved on to pastures new.
According to the patent application, “The user may select one or more social networking objects to replace advertisements or other elements that are normally displayed to visitors of the user’s profile page that are otherwise controlled by the social networking system."
It continues. "In particular embodiments, the user may edit elements on their profile page that are otherwise automatically generated and controlled in design and content by the social networking system. In particular embodiments, the user is billed on a recurring basis for profile personalization.”
And there you have it, pay up or continue being exploited and annoyed.
You will note that the application doesn't actually mention Facebook itself, but refers, generically but amorphously, to social networking in all its myriad glories. However, but I think we can take it as a given that Facebook isn't being altruistic here. After all the company doesn't exhibit socialist tendencies and thus this application pertains very much to Facebook itself, as is evidenced in the schematics accompanying the application, and of course in the identities of those who signed it.
Wall Street wants Facebook to start making some significant income and generate significant profits and dividends, that's why the company is thrashing around trying to find some sort of a monetisation strategy that will stick, and that will stick users to it.
Earlier this week the company was finally forced to admit publicly that it is losing subscribers, especially the all-important youth demographic, in ever increasing numbers as they churn away to newer, fresher, "cooler, less square, less, conformist, less "establishment", less controlling sites. Forcing them to pay a monthly fee not to be battered by a tsunami of unwanted "messages" and ads will simply increase the churn rate and give another twist to the downward spiral, but Facebook is actually starting to get a bit worried and worry can engender panic and short-termism.
Nonetheless, the patent application says, “Permitting such [personalisation editing] functionality improves the overall user experience while maximizing revenue to the social networking system.”
So far, Facebook big-wigs have not responded to questions about the application nor have they issued any statement. However, the spin doctors are already at work and some apologist bloggers are already suggesting the the patent application is a hoax.
If it is, it is a very sophisticated and elaborate one that has fooled the US Patent Office, hook, line and sinker.