Facebook Is Making Its Ads Less Spammy

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JOEL SAGET / AFP / Getty Images

Annoyed by the crass dating ads on Facebook and the dubious pitches for six-pack abs?

Facebook said Friday that it has heard your complaints and will try to do something about it. The company plans to tweak its formula for choosing ads to make those that show up more relevant.

Many Facebook users have long complained about the quality of ads on the social networking site. Although some ads seem tailored to individual tastes, all too many are the equivalent of spam.

Facebook’s change involves giving greater weight in its ad algorithm to the feedback it gets from users. People who like an ad may click on it or share it with a friend. Those who find an ad annoying report it or go out of their way to hide it. Both actions tell Facebook about a users personal tastes and the kind of marketing pitch that is best suits them.

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Hong Ge, engineering manager for Facebook’s news feed ads, said in a blog post that “people should see ads that are increasingly relevant to them, and fewer ads that they might not be interested in.” Someone who always hides ads for electronics, he said, will see fewer ads in the future for them.

Facebook must walk a fine line, however, or risk alienating advertisers. It must also consider the potential impact of any changes to its ad system on its revenue.

The company’s advertising business has bloomed since its troubled IPO last year. In the most recent quarter, Facebook’s total advertising revenue grew to $1.6 billion, a 61% jump from the year-ago quarter. The U.S. and Canada accounted for $721 million, or 45% of all ad revenue. Investors have cheered the numbers; the company’s stock passed $50 for the first time this week.

In the end, Ge said that some marketers may see an impact on their ads in the coming weeks. But he tried to address any concerns by adding that “this is ultimately better for them “because it means their messages are reaching the people most interested in what they have to offer.”