While the right rail itself won't get bigger, ad images will
soon span most of the width of it to be more visually impactful,
while previously they had taken up less than half. Where current
users see seven right-rail ads (at the higher end of the range),
they will soon see about three. Where they see three of them, they
will see one or two.
Global rollout of the new design to users will begin in late
April and should be complete by the end of the summer, according to
a Facebook spokesman. Rollout to advertisers will also begin later
Until early 2012, the right rail was the only place to advertise
on Facebook, but the launch of news-feed ads on desktop and mobile
have driven revenue growth ever since. They fetch higher prices,
are clicked on at a much higher rate, and are much more difficult
for users to ignore. One of Facebook's most popular ad formats --
mobile app installs -- is only available in news feed.
During the company's fourth-quarter earnings call, Chief
Financial Officer David Ebersman observed that the average
effective price per ad had
increased by 92% over the previous year, driven by news feed
Data from the Facebook ads partner company AdParlor bears out the swift migration
of ad dollars from right rail to news feed over the last three
quarters. Right rail-specific placement accounted for 27.2% of
Facebook spend managed by the company in the third quarter of 2013;
that had dwindled to 8.1% during the first quarter of 2014.
Right rail-specific placement was still accounting for 68.5% of
AdParlor's impressions in the first quarter, however.
There's currently a glut of inventory in the right rail, but
it's not nearly as lucrative as the news feed. So Facebook is
apparently fixing to have less of it but to make what it does have
Early tests of the new design have seen three times more
engagement, according to a Facebook blog post. If the new ads are
clicked on more, they'll presumably have a lower effective cost per
click for advertisers and fetch higher CPMs for Facebook. Whether
users mind having more conspicuous ads on their desktop screens
remains to be seen.