WhatsApp has this week suggested that ads could start appearing in the Status feature of the chat app.
In an interview with Brazilian media, Head of WhatsApp Will Cathcart said the company isn’t planning to show ads in the main inbox, but it is toying with the idea of showing them in other places.
The news comes a week after Meta announced an ad-free plan for Facebook and Instagram users in the EU, signifying its plans to test ads and subscriptions across all of its platforms.
“No, We Won't Put Ads in Your Inbox”
Back in September, it was reported that Meta was exploring ad placements within lists of conversations on a user’s WhatsApp home screen. At the time Cathcart and his team denied this, stating they were neither testing or working on it.
While this week’s news comes as a u-turn to those reports, Cathcart was very clear that ads would not be featured in the inbox and their placement would be limited to Status, the app’s Stories-like feature.
He said: “The reason I qualified the answer is that there could be ads in other places — channels or status. For example, channels might charge people to subscribe, they might be exclusive to paid members or the owners might want to promote the channel. But, no, we won’t put ads in your inbox”.
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Testing WhatsApp Monetization Rolls On
The saga of ads within WhatsApp is a long-running one, with reports of them appearing in Status first surfacing in 2019. Despite a presentation on the topic at that year’s Facebook Marketing Summit, the ads – or even further plans – never materialized.
Until now, WhatsApp has leaned on its business messaging service and click-to-WhatsApp ads on platforms such as Facebook for revenue income. It’s estimated that in 2022 it generated $906 million, almost all from the WhatsApp for Business app.
What’s clear amongst all the testing and introduction of new features is that the company is continually seeking alternative avenues for monetization. Earlier this year, WhatsApp rolled out a broadcast-based messaging feature called Channels. Designed to allow entities like fact-checking bodies and NGOs broadcast information – as opposed to individual creators – its introduction came with the aim to generate revenue further down the line.
Can WhatsApp Catch up to Instagram Ads?
With a user base of more than 2 billion people globally, analysts have speculated that it’s only a matter of time before Meta brings ads to WhatsApp. Particularly as Meta’s ‘cheaper’ acquisition, Instagram, has made more progress with monetization since it was bought. According to reports, Instagram generated $43.2 billion in ad revenue across 2022.
There’s currently no word yet on when the Status ads could start appearing, or if there will be a testing phase in specific countries first.