Friday, September 25, 2015
Alex Hern - Facebook is making more and more money from you. Should you be paid for it?
If you’ve been using Facebook recently, it may be time to ask for a raise. According to new figures from market-research website eMarketer, you’ve made the company over 20% more this year than you did in 2014. The average Facebook user now generates $12.76 in advertising revenue every year, according to the analytics firm, up from $10.03 the year before. That figure is expected to rise still further, to $17.50 in 2017.
If you don’t use Facebook, you may be earning Twitter money instead. The company makes $7.75 per user, up from $5.48 last year, and its average revenue per user (ARPU) is expected to almost double over the next few years, to $12.56 in 2017.
Where you are matters an awful lot to how valuable you are to social networks, however. Break down the difference between Americans and the rest of the world, and it becomes immediately obvious why the US receives the bulk of the attention from Facebook and Twitter. While one Facebook user outside the US will make the site $7.71 this year, an American on the same site will earn it a whopping $48.76. A similar discrepancy exists for Twitter: ARPU is $3.51 everywhere but America, and $24.48 there.
Where will that extra money come from? Two places: advertisers paying more to sell products on social networks, and social networks working out more ways to show you adverts. It may seem like Facebook and Twitter have reached saturation point on the number of adverts they display, but with both sites constantly developing new products, there will always be new places to put ads.
As for advertisers paying more, that too can come for two reasons: supply and demand. As the opportunities for advertising directly to consumers shrink, with the death of print, the decline of broadcast media, and the rise of adblockers. Conversely, social networks are offering better and better deals to advertisers. The more information a site has on a specific user, the more valuable the ad space on their screen, and new and innovative styles of adverts also encourage advertisers to spend more (see, for instance, video adverts on both Facebook and Twitter for one example).
Of course, Facebook doesn’t actually pay you for all the money you make it. But some have argued that it should: musician and internet theorist Jaron Lanier argues that for every piece of data we hand over to “spy agencies”, as he calls Facebook and Google, we should be compensated.
“The reason that monetising information is crucial, is that it’s the only path that creates moderation. People talk about rights and regulation. My concern is that those things can never keep up with computer programmers. Programmers move faster than the law. But monetising will do it,” he told Channel 4 in 2013.