Short answer? It doesn't. The service is squarely targeted at pleasing Wall Street investors ahead of next month's initial public offering of Facebook shares. If the ploy succeeds, the new initiative could give Facebook the revenue wiggle room to keep investors happy while experimenting with new features. If it fails, it could dilute Facebook's focus.
"The problem is that Facebook's current revenue stream isn't yet on auto-pilot, wringing every cent out of every ad opportunity, the way Google does," said Jonathan Rick, a director at Levick Strategic Communications LLC in Washington. "Google generates 96% of its revenue from ads. Sure, it's tried to diversify with Google Apps, Google Checkout, Android and other offerings, but as long the AdWords and AdSense cash cows continue to bear fruit, Mountain View remains on solid footing."
In the long-term, Facebook is going to have to diversify its revenue stream beyond simple display advertising to justify its expected valuation of more than $100 billion. Under Offers, Facebook users will be offered coupons and discounts directly in their news stream from companies they have liked. Users print out or bring the offer on their mobile phone to the merchant to redeem it. As soon as the offer is used, a message is automatically put on the customer's timeline.
The feature is being launched eight months after Facebook shuttered Deals, a Groupon-like service. Since going public last year, Groupon has struggled to maintain the momentum of its early success.
"Upon initial viewing, it looks like Offers is not a complicated service, so I don't think much, if any, tinkering will be needed," said Jonny Rosemont, head of social media at DBD Media, a search and social media agency. "I suspect this latest move by Facebook signifies a greater push for wider f-commerce capabilities. Facebook has a culture of continued innovation, and all the reports I'm seeing suggest this is unlikely to change, even with the IPO."
The question for some investors is whether Offers is truly innovative and truly a new revenue stream, or just new packaging for the existing revenue stream of display advertising.
Rick, however, says the answer to that question may not matter.
"Ideally, investors would like to see another revenue stream - Microsoft, for example, has both Windows and Office. But Google never rests," he said. "Its biggest efforts - Android, Chrome, YouTube, and Google+ - are directed at making the web safe for ads.
"The bottom line: While overwhelming dependence on a single source of revenue does not a healthy [profit and loss] statement make, Google makes it work, wringing every cent out of every ad," he said.
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