Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Your Fingers Are Fatter in the Morning

Facebook’s mobile ad business has grown so much, so quickly — it was at zero six months ago, and last quarter it generated $153 million for Mark Zuckerberg — that it immediately has people wondering how real it is.

More specifically: Are people clicking on Facebook’s phone ads because they want to? Or because they meant to click on something else?

This isn’t the first time that the mobile ad business has grappled with the “fat finger” question — the notion that the smaller a screen gets, the more likely accidental clicks become. And there’s probably some truth to it.

For instance: GoldSpot, a mobile ad network, guesses that nearly four in 10 clicks on the conventional banner ads it serves on smartphones may be accidental.

But it thinks that number drops down to 13 percent for the “rich media” ads it serves — ads that dance, sing, do headstands, etc. — because it’s much more obvious that its ads are ads. Not coincidentally, GoldSpot really pushes its rich media ads.

Just as interesting: GoldSpot figures that accidental clicks are much more likely to happen in the morning than during the middle of the day. And it thinks the likelihood of a mistake picks up again in the evening.

Two guesses here:

  • You’re more likely to make a mistake on your phone when you’re in motion, distracted, headed to/or from work/school, etc.
  • You’re probably using your phone less during daytime hours, anyway. Because you’re at work/school, etc.

Meanwhile, as we’re assessing the girth of your fingers, keep in mind that engagement rates for all sorts of digital advertising fall over time.

Because at first we’re likely to click on this stuff because we haven’t seen it before — like the original banner ads in the mid-’90s — and then we get used to it.

And then it won’t matter how big these things are, and how much they shimmy. Unless there’s something really compelling there, you’re going to learn to ignore it.

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle