Online Facebook Solicits New Ads

With expansion in full swing, owners say site is not for sale

Thefacebook.com is soliciting national advertising for its quickly expanding online network, but the site’s owners said they have no plans to sell their company in the near future.

An information packet for prospective advertisers shows that the social networking site offers targeted advertising options for companies.

“We’re not out there to make money from advertising,” site spokesperson Chris R. Hughes ’06 said. “We are out there to support ourselves. We don’t want to lose money, but it does cost quite a bit of money to run the site. That’s not something we can continue to do internally.”

According to the info packet, the site plans to expand to more than 200 universities or colleges by this September, and eventually expand to “most of the schools in the United States.”

The Friendster clone is currently available on 32 college campuses, including all eight Ivy League schools. Nineteen schools were added in April alone.

Hughes said several national advertisers had contacted the company, and that thefacebook.com Chief Financial Officer Eduardo L. Saverin ’05 had spoken with “a handful of groups he thought might be interested.”

In April, thefacebook.com allowed several companies to post temporary advertisements on the site. Promotions for AT&T Wireless, America Online and Monster.com were displayed, but Hughes said the students did not receive any payment for the ads.

“We did give [the companies] permission to put up some temporary ads to test out the site, the usage, the click-throughs, that type of thing,” Hughes said. “We decided not to end up going with them.”

Hughes described the ads, which appeared for “a handful” of days in April, as a “test phase” for companies with which thefacebook.com was considering an advertising relationship.

Though the company is attracting national advertising, students involved said they were not entertaining the possibility of selling the site.

“We have no plans to do so at this point,” Hughes said.

AD NAUSEAM

The website’s info packet offers advertisers the chance to “expose your product, service, or recruitment effort to thousands of college students, alumni, faculty, and staff throughout the country.”

The packet also offers the option of targeted advertising. For a higher fee, advertisers would be able to target ads to certain members based on 16 different parameters, including college, age, political views, sexual orientation and others.

Hughes noted that no targeted advertising has yet run on the website, though it is possible for advertisers to choose the option.

“Some sites do targeted advertising, so it’s not uncommon,” he said. He added later that targeted advertising was not the central selling point of the site.

The packet also offers tracking of ad performance and consultation on “effective placements to reach the goals of your campaign.”

The rate card includes laudatory quotes about the website from various college newspapers, including The Stanford Daily, The Daily Pennsylvanian and The Harvard Independent.

Currently, only internal Harvard groups are advertising.

Last week, the Seneca Club placed ads promoting last Thursday’s Red Party. The Harvard College Democrats, the Harvard Bartending Course and Veritas Records followed suit shortly after.

The College Dems are paying $30 a day to promote their upcoming trip to New Hampshire, according to President Andrew J. Frank ’05.

“I thought it was a relatively cheap way to reach a lot of people at Harvard,” Frank said.

Inquiries to Veritas Records and the Seneca were not returned yesterday.

By early yesterday evening, thefacebook.com had 118,553 enrolled members, but Hughes noted that the figure changes hourly.

“We’re adding thousands of people to the site daily on average,” he said.

Thefacebook.com has also solicited applicants for summer jobs working on further development of the website. Hughes said two Harvard students have been hired for the positions, which will be based out of the San Francisco Bay area.

“They’re going to be a handful of people who will be spending a significant amount of their summer working on thefacebook,” Hughes said. “It’s a fairly informal affair. … [Site Creator] Mark [E. Zuckerberg ’06] and [Executive Vice President of Team Management] Dustin [A. Moskovitz ’06] and the new hires will share a place in California, do some programming, do some relaxing.”

He declined to comment on what changes and new features the website’s creators are planning.

An applicant for the summer position, who decided not to pursue the job, was told in an e-mail that the position would pay $8,000. Hughes refused to confirm that figure.

—Staff writer Michael M. Grynbaum can be reached at grynbaum@fas.harvard.edu.