Facebook’s Rapid Mobilization


In an earnings call on Tuesday, Mark Zuckerberg pounded investors with his mantra that Facebook is a multi-device medium, a premier mobile medium. He led off his remarks noting that monthly mobile users had topped a billion, growing by nearly 30% over last year’s third quarter. He also merrily pointed out that two thirds of the company’s nearly $3 billion in advertising revenue emanated from the mobile sector.

What a difference a few years make, eh? In one of its first earnings calls on October 23, 2012, Facebook reported that mobile accounted for a mere 14% of ad sales. Strolling just a smattering of months down memory lane can seem like an epoch ago here in the Digital Age:

It’s May 2012. Boy Wonder Zuckerberg is prepping for Facebook’s IPO. It’s a hit. He raises $16 billion. Analysts are calling Facebook’s stock the next blue chip. The New York Times writes that “Facebook pulled it off,” and that investors were taking stakes in a unique business opportunity. “But,” the Times cautioned, “they are also exposing themselves to the risks posed by a relatively young company operating in uncharted territory.”

No sooner had charter investors stashed away their stock certificates embossed with the blue-and-white “f” buttons than they were assailing Zuckerberg as a myopic mogul about to miss the mobile revolution. How wrong they turned out to be. Some clips from that bygone era:

Aug 23, 2012, CNN Money: “On Tuesday we visited the company to check out their latest creation: an overhaul of Facebook’s iOS app for iPhones and iPads. It’s intended to fix the complaint heard around the world: the app’s glacially slow loading time.”

June 7, 2012, Forbes.com, from Wes Biggs, CTO of Adfonic: “Poor Facebook. Everyone is commenting on its fortunes post-IPO, but while we leave the lawyers to decide what went wrong, Facebook itself must now address some of the biggest risk factors in its S-1 filing: its reliance on advertising revenue, dependence on competitive platforms, and lack of mobile clarity in a mobile world.”

Dec. 22, 2012, Business Insider’s Henry Blodget in a story headlined “AND THE SURVEY SAYS… “Mobile First” is a dumb strategy”: “The smarter strategy, I think, is ‘Mobile, too.’”

And who could argue with Blodget in 2012? Yet just one year later, under the headline “Facebook’s ‘Mobile First’ Strategy Pays Off on Wall Street,” the San Jose Mercury News writes that “While some say Facebook ads are still relatively new and untested, industry experts say the company has developed a format uniquely suited to the small screens of smartphones and tablets.”

And lovingly suited to the advertising sales department at Facebook, it would seem, here in the Samsung Galaxy of 2014.

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