Facebook’s ad revenue will hit $5B in 2012, but growth rates have peaked

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Facebook is set for a record-shattering initial public offering and, according to a new report, it will bring in more than $5 billion in advertising revenue this year. But Facebook’s financial future may not be as bright as the eye-popping figure would at first suggest.

2011 was a banner year for Facebook in terms of advertising revenue. The social network saw 68.2 percent growth and took home $3.1 billion in ad revenue for year. In 2012, market research firm eMarketer predicts that Facebook’s ad revenue will balloon to $5.06 billion, but the figure represents just 60 percent growth over 2011 and points to a downward spiral in growth rates.

Ad revenue growth will be nearly sliced in half by 2013 and inching closer to zero by 2014, eMarketer estimates. Facebook will make $6.72 billion from ad revenue in 2013 (32.8 percent growth over 2012) and $7.64 billion in 2014 (13.7 percent growth over 2013), the firm predicts.

The dramatic decline in growth rates means that Facebook will need to radically grow its payments business to please future shareholders and continue to post strong annual revenue gains.

In 2011, just $557 million of Facebook’s revenue came from payments, and eMarketer pegged the company’s ad business as generating 85 percent of total revenue. The payments figure is, however, up fivefold over the previous year and suggests that the alternative money-maker could eventually grow to be a big and important business for Facebook.

And while Facebook’s ad revenue growth seems to have peaked, one other thing to consider is that the company is taking an even larger chunk of the overall online ad revenue market with each passing year. Facebook will account for 6.5 percent of online ad revenue in the U.S. in 2012, according to eMarketer, and will increase its share to 7.1 percent by 2013.


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