This article was published on March 8, 2012

Facebook’s Interest Lists will make advertisers extremely happy. Users? Not so much

Facebook’s Interest Lists will make advertisers extremely happy.  Users? Not so much
Drew Olanoff
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Drew Olanoff

Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for onlin Drew Olanoff was The Next Web's West Coast Editor. He coined the phrase "Social Good" and invented the "donation by action" model for online charitable movements. He founded #BlameDrewsCancer. You can follow him on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, or email [email protected]

As we reported last week, Facebook has been tinkering with letting its users create curated lists based on their interests, and today it has officially announced the new feature called Interest Lists.

The feature is extremely similar to Twitter Lists and Google+ Circles, in that you can create a list of people and brands who fit into a category of your choosing. It certainly does seem to be the year of curation, so it’s not surprising to see Facebook launch this.

Here’s how the company describes the feature:

Interest lists can help you turn Facebook into your own personalized newspaper, with special sections—or feeds—for topics that matter to you. You can find traditional news sections like Business, Sports and Style or get much more personalized—like Tech News, NBA Players, and Art Critics.

Will this feature see massive adoption? I’m thinking not so much, but advertisers will sure like it a lot.

Great for advertisers

Getting a user in the mode of “buying” is a difficult proposition. When they’re hanging out on their Facebook Newsfeed, they’re looking for bits of information that interest them, and they’re not really open to advertising. The Newsfeed is like a personal inbox, and nobody pays attention to ads in their email.

However, when people are checking out a special curated list that they’ve taken the extra step of subscribing to, say one with all 32 NFL teams, they’re more open to see advertising based on the content they’re reading. It’s not a mis-mash anymore like the Newsfeed is. During a list-reading experience, advertisers could sell tickets, gear, or anything having to do with what’s being curated.

Facebook is basically letting its users help advertisers advertise to them more efficiently. I say it’s an extremely smart move, but if users don’t use it, then advertisers won’t be all that happy.

When it comes to advertising, it’s all about real-estate. And on any website or app there’s only so much to go around before users start revolting. Ask MySpace about that problem. Facebook needed more real-estate for advertisers, especially since it’s about to become a publicly traded company. This new advertising opportunity captures users in a more engaged state, so it’s a win.

Just another thing to check for users

Lists are just that, lists. It’s another thing to check, another thing that will have a little number next to it as it grows and grows with content. The best usage would be for Facebook users to create their own personalized lists, but it seems like Facebook will be promoting some of its own curated lists as well, like the NFL one.

When it comes to following information in real-time, curation is definitely a nice feature to have. But we’re talking about Facebook here. Facebook is still a destination to keep up with your friends, even though brands have taken to it in droves. Sure, some musicians have millions of likes but lets not kid ourselves, Facebook is all about your friends.

What this list experience does is take you away from the personal experience in which Facebook was intended for. If you were to add three new “inboxes” of information to keep up with, that’s less time you’re focusing on and interacting with your friends. That’s good for Facebook since it can’t make money off of you if you’re just using its site to chat and say happy birthday.

At the end of the day, this feature is something some users will love. Information hounds will love Interest Lists. But it’s not the type of curation that has captured the imagination of users on sites like Pinterest. It’s not a separate experience at all, it’s more of the same with just another name.

Interest Lists are the equivalent of signing up for five more Facebook accounts and calling one of them your “sports account” and another your “fashion account” and so on.

Advertisers are stoked, but users? We’ll see.

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