Facebook will extend its advertising business by distributing ads from its marketers to third-party mobile apps.
Developers will be able to join a new Facebook mobile ad network and make money from the ads their mobile apps carry, benefitting along the way from Facebook's trove of user data.
Facebook has been serving up its own ads inside its mobile app for at least a year now, to great success — that's the way the company now makes most of its money. With the Audience Network, Facebook wants to open up the scope of its mobile ad business.
Facebook has provided tools to developers to help them generate revenue for some time, such as with its payments platform. But the Audience Network is a much bigger play for Facebook.
"This is the first time we're going to help you monetize in a serious way on mobile," said CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in front of an audience of developers at the company's F8 conference in San Francisco.
In early tests of the network, retailer Target said it wanted to reach people who not only "liked" Target on Facebook, but who also liked the movie "Frozen," said Deborah Liu, manager of product marketing at Facebook. Facebook found those people in the Huffington Post app, and delivered Target's ads there.
The mobile ad network could give a massive boost to developers' monetization efforts, given that Facebook's data will better help them target users more precisely.
"It all came together through the Facebook system," Liu said.
Facebook's Audience Network is currently in beta; advertisers can apply to participate online. It will work both on iOS and Android, for a number of different types of ads, including banner ads and "native" ads, which are designed to look more like organic or user-generated content.
A number of other tools were announced at F8 designed to help developers build, grow and monetize their apps, including a way to log in anonymously to other apps.
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