On September 15, WhatsApp’s top executive firmly denied recent reports published by the Financial Times, which suggested that the messaging platform, owned by Meta Platforms (formerly known as Facebook), was exploring the possibility of introducing advertisements to boost its revenue. This development comes as WhatsApp continues to be viewed by some analysts as a potentially untapped growth opportunity, even several years after Meta’s significant $19 billion acquisition of the platform in 2014, which remains one of the largest deals in the tech industry to date.
According to the Financial Times report, teams within Meta were purportedly engaged in discussions about the potential inclusion of ads within lists of conversations on the WhatsApp chat screen. However, it is important to note that no final decisions had been reached on this matter. Additionally, the report suggested that Meta was also contemplating the idea of introducing a subscription fee that would allow users to access the app without being subjected to advertisements.
WhatsApp head Will Cathcart swiftly responded to the report via a post on the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), categorically dismissing the claims made by the Financial Times. In his tweet, Cathcart stated, “This @FT story is false. We aren’t doing this,” providing a clear and unequivocal denial of the reported plans.
WhatsApp is currently home to more than 2 billion monthly active users, according to financial data firm Visible Alpha. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of its revenue is generated through its platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses, which boasts around 200 million monthly users. While Meta does not publicly disclose WhatsApp’s specific revenue figures, Visible Alpha estimates that the messaging service contributed approximately $1.06 billion in sales during the last quarter. This amount represents a relatively small fraction, approximately 3%, of Meta’s overall revenue as a social media conglomerate.
Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, had previously indicated that WhatsApp and Messenger would play a crucial role in driving the company’s future sales growth. He specifically highlighted business messaging as a potential major pillar of Meta’s revenue strategy.
Despite the potential financial benefits, any move to include advertisements within the WhatsApp platform could potentially face resistance from its user base. Many users may perceive the introduction of ads as obtrusive and disruptive to their messaging experience. Analyst Danni Hewson from AJ Bell commented on the matter, stating, “Rolling out advertising on the messaging app could be a money maker but it would feel obtrusive and clunky.” She also noted that the swift denial of the report suggests that Meta is keenly aware of the potential backlash such a move could provoke, indicating that it may not be a viable option at this time.