Facebook began placing ads in users' news feeds yesterday, a move that reverberated around the web when the company announced it last month as users fretted about how their experience on the social network would be sullied. Though not back-pedaling on the plan, Facebook is rebranding the units and has announced that news-feed advertising will be labeled "featured" instead of "sponsored."
The "featured" stories are another incarnation of "sponsored stories" ad units that crop up on the right margin of the page and indicate when a Facebook friend has "liked" a brand or engaged with it in some other way. They were introduced in January 2011 and are thought to be Facebook's most effective advertising product because they're built around friends' endorsements. They're also present in the "ticker" in the upper-right corner of the page, a running tally of all actions taken by Facebook friends. Running the units in the news feed itself is thought to signal Facebook's upcoming first foray into mobile advertising, though they won't be viewable on mobile devices during the current rollout.
Facebook is clearly wary of users sniffing out ads and has pledged that only one "featured" story at most will appear in news feeds daily during the rollout.
The thinking behind the name change is that users can already potentially see content from marketers that their friends had liked or commented on, as activity by Facebook friends is fodder for the news feed."We are using the term 'featured' because we want to make it clear to people that they're seeing content from a page or person they have chosen to connect to," a Facebook spokeswoman said in an email.