Facebook’s Zuckerberg on mobile ads: What’s the hurry?

November 4, 2010

Apple and Google may be battling for a piece of the nascent mobile ad market, but Facebook is happy to sit on the sidelines.FACEBOOK/

Despite the fact that more than one-third of Facebook’s 500 million users sometimes access the social networking service from a cell phone, Facebook does not currently show any ads to its mobile users.

And Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not in any hurry to begin generating mobile advertising revenue.

“We only want to launch stuff that we think is really good and that can be a stable building block for us in the future. And I think we just need to see what makes sense for mobile advertising. But in the short term there’s no pressing need for us to monetize that immediately,” Zuckerberg said during a 30-minute interview with Reuters and the tech blog Mashable on Wednesday, after the launch of Facebook’s new Deals program.

Facebook mobile head Erick Tseng, who was also present, added that he didn’t think anyone has cracked the code on mobile advertising yet. “Slapping on a banner ad or some display ad on to a UI (user interface) especially when it a 3.7-inch display…it’s not really the greatest experience,” he said.

Fair enough. But is there a risk that a competitor, like Google which now generates mobile revenue at an annual run rate of $1 billion, could lock-up the market while Facebook figures things out?

“I think actually in a lot of ways we benefit from waiting and seeing what more people do in this space,” Zuckerberg said. “Ultimately if all these people are using Facebook and there’s a good solution that we can plug into that, then that will be fine when we do it.”

Zuck continued: “There are 200 million people using Facebook on phones – that’s cool, it’s up three times from last year at this time. Another way to look at that is there’s only 200 million people using Facebook on phones. We have more the latter view. Our goal is going to be to expand that and deliver more value for more people before focusing on how we can reap that,” he said.

Just for kicks, we asked Zuckerberg if Facebook would ever use Apple’s iAd mobile advertising service to run ads on the Facebook iPhone app:

“I think if we were going to do something in advertising, we’d do it. We have a pretty good competence in the company in advertising.”

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