Facebook is clearly bringing in the cash—but what about the users?
The company’s revenue hit $146 billion during the first quarter of 2013, up 38 per cent from the same period a year earlier, but not quite the $158 billion it made in last three months of 2012, it reported Wednesday afternoon.
The results come as Facebook struggles to position itself as a leader in the mobile world—most aggressively with the introduction of Facebook Home—but also by increasing mobile users and mobile ad dollars. It fared pretty well: mobile advertising is now 30 per cent of all revenue, up from 23 per cent in the previous quarter, and mobile users grew 54 per cent from a year ago, and up another 10 per cent from the end of 2012—to 780 million active users a month.
Monthly active users rose to 1.11 billion from 1.06 billion at the end of 2012.
That good news, though, doesn’t jive with two separate analyses making the rounds—one by SocialBakers, which provides insight for Facebook advertisers, and one by Nielsen, an analytics company. Both showed declining Facebook users—by as many as 10 million in U.S. alone in the past year, according to the Nielsen report.
So why don’t the metrics match? SocialBakers quickly backed away from its findings after news reports hit the Internet, saying its figures weren’t meant for general consumption, or even all that reliable. But Nielsen is sticking behind its data.
One explanation could be that Nielsen “cannot count the numbers of people using the Facebook app,” and thus provides a picture of visits to the website alone.
Facebook’s biggest hope for app usage is the Facebook Home experiment—an app that dominates a smartphone home screen and assumes users want to turn their phone into one big (or small) Facebook interface. Though fairly fresh, recent reviews suggest users feel otherwise.
While the company has been moving to optimize the social network for advertisers, it might be hoping it will start to pay off soon because ad revenue overall actually fell in the first quarter of 2013 to $1.25 billion from $1.33 billion in the end of 2012. If overall ad dollars keep falling, that growth in mobile ads look doesn’t look quite as juicy.
Facebook users can expect to see more of these efforts to monetize their online lives. And yet Facebook won’t be able to keep making money if it forgets to whom it owes its first allegiance, and it’s continued success.