BUSINESS

Facebook hits new low, plans new ads; can Ryan Seacrest save Zynga?

TAGs: Facebook, Indonesia, Nokia, ryan seacrest, social gaming, Zynga

facebook-zynga-seacrestShares in social network Facebook lost over 6% on Thursday as the lock-up period on early investors and top execs shifting some 271m shares expired. After briefly touching a new record low of $19.69, the stock closed out the day at $19.88: not great, but it could have been much worse, and it stayed above the psychological $19 marker, which represents 50% of the share’s IPO value. But given Facebook’s relatively young tenure as a public company, fresh dangers lurk around every corner. Another group of shares belonging to current and former Facebook employees will clear lockup between Oct. 15 and Nov. 13, and another 1.22b shares emerge from lockup on Nov. 14 – one third of which belong to CEO Mark Zuckerberg – followed by another lockup expiration in December, and another on the one-year anniversary of Facebook’s IPO in May 2013. About 1.9b shares in total.

With analysts badgering Zuckerberg to uncover fresh revenue streams, Facebook is pressing ahead with plans to fill users’ news feeds with even more unsolicited advertising. These ads will appear regardless of whether the user or one of their friends has ever ‘liked’ or interacted with the product being promoted. The trick will be determining the precise number of ads a user is prepared to sift through before starting to consider other social media options with better wheat-to-chaff ratios. What are the odds that Aaron Sorkin is penning a sequel dubbed The Asocial Network?

Shares in social gamers Zynga were also down on the day, but only 2%, closing at an even $3. Zynga is also looking to add new revenue streams, including a loudly proclaimed intent to launch a real-money online gambling product in 2013 (which won’t involve Bwin.party’s surplus poker network Ongame). Zynga is also teaming with Monopoly-maker Hasbro on a trio of board games fusing the themes of the two companies’ more popular titles. Plus there’s a Ryan Seacrest Productions television series on CBS in the works based on Draw Something, the once-viral hit game Zynga picked up in March when it acquired developers OMGPop for $180m. Even better, Finnish phone maker Nokia just announced it’s taking its existing relationship with Zynga to the next level by bringing Draw Something and Zynga Poker to Asha Touch devices this autumn. Nokia estimates this will boost Zynga’s reach by “over 100 million” consumers.

Since Nokia has a healthy presence in Asia, we hope none of these 100m users are in Indonesia. Remember those seven guys who were arrested in North Sumatra earlier this month for playing poker on Facebook? (The name Zynga never made it into the reports, but it’s a reasonable assumption.) On Wednesday, the Jakarta Post reported that each player had been sentenced to four months and 10 days in prison — no picnic, to be sure, but less than the seven months prosecutors had been seeking. Four other men who ran the operation and converted the men’s virtual chips into cold hard cash received similar sentences. Considering the total amount of cash seized from this crime of the century was a whopping US$735, the length of the sentence may seem a tad out of proportion, but this is the same country that in June sentenced a man to two-and-a-half years for publicly declaring himself an atheist … on Facebook.

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