Sources have said teams at Meta are deliberating on including ads in WhatsApp as Facebook’s parent company looks to monetise the world’s most popular messaging service.
These conversations have revolved around showing ads in lists of chats with contacts on the WhatsApp chat screen.
No final decisions have been made, they said.
Company head denies
On Friday, WhatsApp head Will Cathcart wrote,“This @FT story is false. We aren’t doing this.”
“We can’t account for every conversation someone had in our company but we are not testing this, working on it and it’s not our plan at all,” WhatsApp said along the same lines.
Paid subscription to avoid ads?
The matter has been a source of triggered debates at a high level inside, with
the main concern being that the move would alienate users.
Two people said that Meta is also exploring charging a subscription fee to use the app ad-free but many insiders are against the move.
“No ads! No games! No gimmicks!”
Before WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19bn in 2014, its co-founder Brian Acton had made “No ads! No games! No gimmicks!” a company mantra.
Now it appears that although the company has denied that it is deviating from this philosophy, it is definitely ideal for it to take advantage of the platform and monetise it.
It’s just difficult to justify it or find a roundabout way to go about it which would not frustrate its customers either.
Is it the right call?
“There is certainly plenty of opportunity when it comes to advertising on WhatsApp,” said Ed East, chief executive of ad agency Billion Dollar Boy.
He said it was an “appealing prospect” for marketers but risks being seen as “intrusive” by users.
Is it worth it?
Loss of users is a real concern, with senior executives worrying that going pro-ad would degrade the experience on WhatsApp and force users to leave.
This would be a far bigger loss than any revenue it could potentially make by monetising yet another free product- similar to what Elon Musk achieved with his takeover of Twitter (now X).