Analyst: Facebook Will Make $1.2 Billion Annually From Mobile Ads

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No, Facebook is not advertising yet on mobile devices. Yes, that hasn’t stopped people from speculating on what it will mean when it does. The latest: an estimate of how much the social network stands to make from mobile advertising: more than $1.2 billion a year in the U.S. and its five biggest markets in Europe — the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The numbers come from UK-based analyst firm Mobile Squared, which has worked out that Facebook will be making an average revenue per mobile user of around $6.50 per year — some $2 more than Facebook currently makes per users online, using figures supplied in its S-1 earlier this month. The caveat here is that the modelling appears to be hinged on mobile display-style ads, while in truth it’s not known what Facebook will do when it comes to formats; and several reports have pointed to them first opting for something altogether different — sponsored stories.

This is how Nick Lane, chief strategy analyst, arrived at these figures:

He estimates that across these six markets, there are a total of 185.3 million users of Facebook on mobile. (That’s something worth noting in itself: Facebook has something of a long tail when it comes to mobile users it seems, with the top six markets still accounting for less than half its 425 million mobile users.)

Within this, the average user spends 12 hours per month on the site, he writes. Here, he notes that comScore puts the average monthly usage at 24 hours.

The average amount of time, he tells me, that a mobile app serves up a new ad is around every 20 seconds, and he puts a CPM on Facebook of $0.25 — calculated, he says, partly based on what other social networking sites are generating on mobile. CPMs, it should be noted, vary wildly — Lane says as low as $0.10 and as high as $50. (Which app brings in that, I wonder?)

The U.S. will account for roughly half of that revenue, at $653.7 million in 12 months, with the UK bringing in $166.6 million, $100 million in France, Germany and Italy, and $70 million in Spain.

He tells me other markets — particularly emerging ones like Turkey, Brazil, and Indonesia — will also add more to the pile, but those CPMs are less stable and were therefore not included in these calculations. He estimates that Indonesia currently has 30 million Facebook mobile users, with another 20 million in Turkey, and 26 million in Brazil.

While it’s worth pondering how much money Facebook could make from mobile ads, there are some big caveats to this kind of number crunching. One thing Lane does not cover are ad formats: the rumors have been that Facebook will first present ads as sponsored stories, rather than traditional display ads, that appear in a user’s timeline. Would these take a different kind of metric other than a traditional CPM and if so, what?

Lane tells me that separate research his firm did for a mobile marketing company found that only 10 percent of respondents said they would be comfortable with brands reaching out and engaging with them through Facebook. Ninety percent said the opposite. If click-through-rates on mobiles is currently 0.5 percent, “expect that figure to drop significantly on Facebook Mobile,” he writes.

There are also still some question marks over what, exactly, the value is of “liking” a brand on Facebook. “Thirty-six million follows, but what does that mean in relation to a brand like Coke?” Lane asks.