Facebook Ads Hit News Feeds in 2012

Soon you will see ads showing up in your News Feed, among posts from your friends. Facebook says these "sponsored stories" ads are necessary, but won't be intrusive.

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Starting in January, your Facebook friends' activity isn't the only thing you'll see in your News Feed—the social network will start integrating a type of ad, called "sponsored stories," into your News Feed mix.

The new ads will look a lot like other posts that currently appear in your News Feed, but will include a "Sponsored" tag next to the information about likes, comments and shares.

In an effort to alert users about ads, Facebook started running a banner notification at the top of News Feeds with more information about how Facebook advertising works, and the differences between sponsored stories and its traditional ads.

According to the page, "About Advertising on Facebook," sponsored stories are ads that include existing posts and activity that mention the business. Such sponsored stories could include information about page likes, page posts, page post likes, check-ins, app shares, apps used, games played and domain stories.

Facebook ads, on the other hand, contain custom messages from advertisers that are sometimes paired with news about social actions your friends have taken, such as liking a page. If you've liked that business's page, the story about you liking the page—including your name or profile photo—may be paired with the ad your friends see.

Sponsored stories already appear in Facebook's Ticker, and have done so since the Fall with little pushback from users. Adding sponsored stories to the News Feed—while larger in size than Ticker ads—won't likely overwhelm users. TechCrunch reports that a rate limit will ensure that users see no more than one sponsored story per day.

A few more details on sponsored stories:

-Facebook friends who will see sponsored stories about you will depend entirely on your privacy settings. For example, if you allow your friends to see News Feed stories about Facebook pages you like, those friends may see stories in their News Feeds about you liking the page, as well as that same story on the right side of pages on Facebook.

-You cannot opt out of seeing or being featured in sponsored News Feed stories. You can, however, remove specific stories by clicking the X in the upper right side of a story and choosing the appropriate option.

Facebook says that this new ad implementation is necessary for keeping Facebook free for users. "It now costs over a billion dollars a year to run Facebook, and delivering ads is how Facebook pays for this," it says.

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