Facebook without targeted ads? That would be a “paid product” says COO Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook continues their PR blitz to recover from the dramatic fallout from the Cambridge Analytics revelations from a few weeks ago.

Last week Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg appeared on a number of TV programs, interviewed at Facebook’s HQ.

In one interview with the NBC Today show’s Savannah Guthrie, Sandberg was asked by Guthrie “Could you come up with a tool that said ‘I do not want Facebook to use my personal profile data to target me for advertising’? Do you have an ‘opt out’ button? Please don’t use my profile data for advertising”.

Sandberg’s seven-second answer (shown below — see the full interview in context here) was telling.

It was the first time she stumbled in the whole interview. For most of her responses, she seemed to be replaying a heavily rehearsed set of lines. For the response to this question, she seemed to be sharing thinking that had not yet been made public.

Her response, including the verbal stumble was:

“We have different forms of opt-out. We don’t have an opt-out at the highest level, that would be a..a..a..a paid product.”

Product development on the run? Watch Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg reveal a possible new Facebook paid product offering

This to me seemed very telling. What Sandberg was saying in effect was: allow us to use your data for targeting (you are the product) and you can have Facebook for free. If we can’t target the advertising and have to serve generic advertising (as most TV shows do, as well as print publications), then you have to pay to use Facebook.

I immediately thought of my relationship with other services I already pay for. The £10 per month I pay both Spotify and Netflix ensure that I see no ads. The premium I pay Vimeo for hosting my videos ensures that none of the visitors to my website see any ads either.

Could there be a time when we have an option to pay Facebook? Possibly. I wrote recently about how Facebook’s whole business model was because of their total dependence on advertising.

Having users pay for Facebook AND STILL have to see ads goes against the “pay to remove ads” model that Spotify and Netflix have championed. Sandberg’s hint that they may have to offer a paid product model to appease privacy fears os very interesting, and I am sure that the other “free with ads” platforms (many also owned by Facebook such as Instagram and Whatsapp) will be watching this space very closely.

Would you pay for Facebook if it offered a “no-ads” or “no-targeted ads” option?



Andrew Grill - The Actionable Futurist®

The Actionable Futurist®. Former Global Managing Partner @ IBM. Proud Dad. TEDx & International Keynote Speaker. Aussie in London.