NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Us Weekly has sold sponsorship of its new Facebook profile to State Farm in what appears to be a first for a media company on the social network website, as well as a first for a company's fan page.
The magazine's old, basically static Facebook page, which tucked news updates away in a news feed under a tab marked "boxes," attracted only 2,918 fans. Us hopes that crowd grows once its new page, created using a technology platform called Involver, adds prominent news updates, more accessible video, a tab to view the magazine's tweets, a print subscription offering five issues free and other elements.
And if the approach takes hold, imagine what sponsorships could mean for Facebook pages belonging to The New York Times page, with 447,749 fans so far; National Geographic, with 453,013 fans; or even ABC's "Lost," with 785,093 fans.
The State Farm sponsorship on Us Weekly's Facebook page, which is now live, extends a campaign State Farm is already running with the celeb magazine. But Us Weekly plans to use Facebook page sponsorships as added value or independent ad inventory for other advertisers after that.
"We do anticipate that this becomes another tool in our tool chest, among meaningful ways to let brands reach our audience in a very credible, differentiated environment," said Steven Schwartz, the chief digital officer at Us Weekly's parent, Wenner Media, since January. Jann Wenner hired Mr. Schwartz to help the company get more aggressive in digital media.
The State Farm sponsorship is only the latest example of outsiders leveraging Facebook for commercial purposes without paying Facebook a penny. But it's still perhaps just the beginning.
"Facebook doesn't want to be biggest social network on the internet," said Joe Marchese, president of Social Vibe, a company that brings brands into social environments such as Facebook. "They want to be the internet."
"I would think they would prefer that media companies place content there in exchange for a right to sell ads against it in order to keep people on Facebook," he added.
A Facebook spokeswoman was unable to provide comment about the deal by press time.