Turning Facebook Into a Massive Ad-Sales Platform

Tech Firm Involver Hopes Publishers Pull an Us Weekly

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Last week Ad Age reported on Us Weekly's selling a sponsorship on its Facebook page -- and that isn't the last you'll hear of this concept. Involver, the company whose technology powers the Us Weekly page, today is announcing that it will market the concept to a swath of media companies and brands.

"Us Weekly might have thousands of fans, but once you have a fan page, it's like 'Then what?'" said Rahim Fazal, CEO of Involver. So his company created tools to try to make it easy for media companies to syndicate their content into fan pages in an automated way.

"When we started to expose this to some brands and media companies there was a lot of interest, but they were saying, 'If we're going to take our content and start bringing it into social networks, we think there will be interest in bringing our sponsors who are offering their content on our website into Facebook or other social networks,'" Mr. Fazal said.

Simply put, media companies are recognizing they've got compelling content and enthusiastic audiences but those audiences are distributed. So the content is going to live not just in the publication or on the website, but anywhere -- whether that's on Facebook or the mobile phone.

Involver said there's an important clarification about what media companies on Facebook are selling to advertisers: They're not selling their advertisers' display ads but rather sponsorships that look more like integrated content. For example, a media company can have on its Facebook page a video player in which it can offer a sponsor's video content. Other sponsored on-page elements could be polls or coupons.

"We're trying to create some standardization around new formats for pages," Mr. Fazal said. Involver can measure how many people took a sponsored poll, clicked on a coupon or watched a video.

Of course, at first blush it certainly seems perplexing that Facebook isn't charging some sort of revenue-sharing fee for the media companies that are using its platform to sell ads. But the social network can make money other ways: from selling vanity URLs or virtual gifts to "Engagement Ads" that help media companies develop audiences for their fan pages. And every additional page view a media company's fan page generates is another opportunity for Facebook to serve a display ad alongside the page.

Right now Involver gets a share of revenue when a company using its Facebook fa- page technology sells a sponsorship. It's still trying to figure out the business model for non-sponsored pages.

"Our goal is to offer these apps to as many brands as possible, because there's so much value to opening this up to every fan page," Mr. Fazal said.

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