Video ads are inevitably coming to Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), but it may be the moment that the popular website operator jumps the shark.
David Fischer -- Facebook's VP of marketing -- spoke at The Future of Media conference at Stanford last week, offering a glimpse on ways that the leading social networking site can build on its monetizing opportunities.
Fischer was discussing video ads when TechCrunch's Josh Constine asked a meaty question.
"Right now the Facebook home page is pretty static," Constine started. "No auto-play videos. No animated GIFs. Could Facebook run auto-play video ads without overly distracting users from their friends' content?"
It's at this point where Fischer could've pounded the table, arguing that Facebook will never disrupt newsfeeds with auto-play videos or animated ads.
"I believe there are ways we could do it," he responded. "There are ways that could be destructive and distracting to the user experience. But there are ways that could potentially balance user experience with advertiser experience. We haven't put a product out yet because we haven't had one we're comfortable with. But if we could, then we would do it."
Clearly there's a home for video ads on Facebook. A lot of people are uploading short clips on the site, and Facebook could easily slap a brief ad either before or after the clip streams. This is the way that Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) YouTube does it, and Fischer was even talking about YouTube's TrueView platform where an ad rolls before a selected video that the viewer can skip after a few seconds.
However, folks are on YouTube because they come to expect videos. They know it's a free site. Ads come with the territory, and visitors expect the multimedia candy. However, Constine specifically singled out auto-play video ads. These are the annoying marketing spots that blare away the moment you open a website page. There's no way that Facebook would go this route, yet Fischer didn't rule it out in his response. He should have. Facebook doesn't survive if site visitors don't know when they will be bombarded with audio and video.
Facebook users will put up with site redesigns and even having static ads inserted into their feeds through Sponsored Stories. They won't put up with auto-play ads. It's not just on principle. Folks will simply stop checking the site as they are in a medical waiting room or waiting for a movie to start if there's a chance that they'll get called out with an video ad.
Google must be loving this, especially since it has Google Plus angling to be the next big thing the moment that consumers tire of Facebook.
The world doesn't have to necessarily tire of Facebook. Cynics like to point out that Friendster and MySpace had their fleeting moments, but Facebook's different. MySpace peaked with 100 million global users, largely teens and young adults. Facebook has surpassed 1 billion active users across all age groups and nationalities.
The only website that can put an end to Facebook's runaway success is Facebook itself. For the sake of its survival, it better hope that auto-play video ads never wind up on the site.