No More Sponsored Stories: 6 Big Changes Coming to Facebook Ads

Facebook Sponsored Stories Sunset

On January 9, Facebook made some major changes to its developer roadmap. The change everyone is talking about is regarding the sunset of Sponsored Stories.

However, there’s more to this announcement. It’s catered to developers, so it’s not particularly easy to read. So the purpose of this post is to help decipher what exactly is going to be changing on April 9.

No More Sponsored Stories

Now, this shouldn’t be a major surprise. We were first warned of this back in June of 2013 when Facebook talked of simplifying their ad offerings. I simply hoped it wouldn’t happen.

Well, it will happen. And it may not be that big of a deal.

Facebook says that in an effort to simplify advertising, focus will be shifted from the ad type and towards the promoted object and assets. This actually makes sense given the new Objective flow.

One can imagine that going forward the Objective will be how you choose to create an ad. That will be it. No second step prior to targeting.

As I poke around the Objective flow, this would appear to be the case. If you take away the Sponsored Stories options, all Objectives will have only one or two ad options (most are one).

The only Objectives that remain unclear are Clicks to Website and Website Conversions. In each of these cases, there are two ad options that will survive: Page post ad and domain ad.

Why isn’t this a big deal?

Well, as Facebook said way back in June (and reiterated with this announcement), all ads will continue to include social context, where possible. An example of this is when you currently run page post or page like ads, Facebook will automatically show social context (your friend liked/commented on the post or liked the page).

Here’s a visual example of that simplification from the June announcement:

Facebook Ad Simplification

So nothing really goes away. The power of social context will thrive. You just won’t be able to create an ad with the only purpose of social context now.

If you currently run Sponsored Stories like I do, all Page Post and Page Like Sponsored Stories will continue to deliver. So that’s good.

But here’s the bad news…

All Domain and Open Graph Sponsored Stories are going away. Dead. No replacement.

I’m a big fan of Domain Sponsored Stories. I usually keep one running at all times to drive traffic back to my website. But I’ll need to let it go because it’s going to stop delivering effective April 9.

Ad Image Cropping

This sounds like a very nice little addition. From Facebook:

Facebook has added the option to specify image crops through the Ads API. Image crops are used to describe the way that an image should be displayed in each aspect ratio of the different ad placements. During rendering, the image will be cropped according to the specifications given and if no specification is provided for a certain aspect ratio, the image will be displayed in the default way.

While aspect ratios tend to be the same for mobile and desktop News Feeds, sidebar can throw a monkey wrench into your ad plans. You probably just roll with the resizing Facebook does for you. Or maybe you create a completely separate ad that optimizes for the sidebar’s image dimensions.

Here’s an example of a bunch of ads I created to optimize for placement…

Facebook Ad Optimization

Well, now that won’t be necessary. Based on the passage above, it looks like you’ll be able to use a tool that crops images the way you prefer, based on placement.


Facebook is redefining ad targeting to fall within the following areas:

  • Locations
  • Demographics
  • Interests
  • Behaviors

This is said to create more flexibility in terms of and/or logic. Facebook explains the change as follows:

Example: historically, if you selected “Parents” “Photography” “Photo uploader” within interests, the audience constructed was People who are Parents OR interested in Photography OR people who upload [many] Photos. However, the intended audience was: “Parents, who are interested in photography and upload pictures”. Now, the specific audience will be targeted as intended.

The change makes sense, though the new structure is difficult to envision. Will advertisers now be able to target in the same ways a Graph Search is run? That’s the way this reads, but I don’t believe that portion was to be taken literally.

Unified Interests

This is something many people have had for a while now (though I don’t). Facebook has combined Precise Interests and Broad Category targeting under a single “Interests” field.

What this means is that targeting will be more broad going forward. Previously, you could target Baseball and #Baseball. The first would target any user who mentioned Baseball (including liking the page) while the hashtagged version would target anyone who mentioned anything related to Baseball.

Since I don’t have this change yet, it’s difficult to have an assessment. But I don’t use Broad Category targeting, opting to be more precise.

I’m not a fan of this change, though I guess I’ll have to see if there’s an impact one way or the other on results.

UPDATE: The danger of commenting on a feature when I don’t have it is that there is a level of guessing. I was just granted access by someone who has this feature, and targeting actually isn’t taken away. If you are looking to target a very general term (like “dog” for example) Facebook essentially merges the “dog” and “#dog” interests from before. But if you want to target something precisely (like “Social Media Examiner”), you can still do that.

Geographic Targeting

This is a change that is active for many advertisers. When selecting locations, Facebook has added inclusion/exclusion logic.

First of all, you can select any combination of country, region, city or zip code. This was not previously possible. You could only select countries OR regions OR cities OR zip codes (not a combination).

But you can also exclude specific areas now, too. For example, you may want to target the state of Colorado, but you don’t want to reach anyone within Fort Morgan. You can now do that.

First, click the down arrow at the far right of the area where you’ll want to apply an exclusion…

Facebook Location Exclusion Targeting

Then type in what you want to exclude…

Facebook Location Exclusion Targeting

And it’ll look like this…

Facebook Location Exclusion Targeting

Advanced Demographic and Behaviors Targeting

Facebook provides the least detail here, but it is potentially the most interesting change.

From Facebook:

Key features include better coverage of workplace, education and job title types as well as expanded Relationship status types. There is also the added functionality of selecting the recency of change of a life event (3 months, 6 months, 1 year).

Advanced demographic and behavioral targeting will include purchase behaviors. This is something that seems to be covered in Partner Categories, so it’s not clear what is being added or changed here.

Beta testing for this change will occur in early February with the new UI arriving in the middle or end of the first quarter.

What Do You Think?

Overall, I view the changes with cautious optimism. I don’t believe the loss of Sponsored Stories is going to be as big of a deal as I initially feared, and it may actually make advertising easier for all of us. Most of the remaining planned changes appear positive, though I’m concerned about any loss of control.

What do you think? Are you looking forward to these changes?

Let me know in the comments below!

  • Zara

    Unified interests is one of the worse changes IMO, the same advert I was running CTR dropped from over 7% to 2%(newsfeed) when these changes occurred. I’ve also never got under 1% with a newsfeed ad before doing precise interest, now I struggle to get 0.6%CTR with this merge. I’m not sure of the logic behind this apart from squeezing people for more money. I hope FB goes back to the separate precise and broad interests.

    • Jon Loomer

      I hear ya, Zara. I use only Precise Interests, so I’m not happy about this either. However, as when any change that’s made, we can’t keep doing what we’re doing. We need to adjust for it. It’s very possible that the new method is more effective, but you can’t use it effectively with your old methods.

      • Amy Jo Neal

        I’m loathing this unified interests feature. I had the same experience as Zara. I had a few precise keywords that worked like gangbusters for me and now they are useless. :-( I have had this unified thing for several weeks now and don’t see any way to precisely target other than scraping UIDs and uploading custom audiences. Fingers crossed for something that maybe I’m missing…?

        • Jon Loomer

          Hey, Amy. What were you targeting previously that you can’t target now? I actually was granted access to this today, and I can still access the specific brands I previously targeted. It seems where the true merger happened was with the more general keywords.

          • Zara

            Jon, For example I was targeting a dog breed, target audience 60K or so CTR of 8%, then after the changes with the same advert, audience of over 400K CTR dropped to 2-3%.
            I’ve tried various sports teams, all with awful CTR. The ability to not target specific FB pages have hurt this a lot. You’re lucky you still have the precise interests.

          • adilabrar

            I’m hating this feature too. Before you could target by a specific fan page e.g. London college of fashion (25K fans), now you only get the option to target ‘pages like London College of Fashion’ (200K+ fans). Our cost per registration has just increased 10x!

  • Eric Leszkowicz

    I am going to take some time to digest this but just wanted to say thanks for being a great resource and cutting through the fluff of panic and misinformation that often surrounds Facebook announcements.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Jon Loomer

      Thanks, Eric!

  • A. Belkowski

    These changes somehow feel right, interests really needed to be easier to understand. Same goes for the geographic targeting.

    We can outline that these changes are all made to make Facebook Ads accessible to more people. Will that happen at the expense of the precision? Time will tell.

    • Jon Loomer

      That’s the question I ask as well. I hope not!

  • Jean O’Toole

    So, my question is, will the changes in sponsored stories effect seeing who and how many people like, share and comment thus possibly removing the peer advocacy/referral aspect? If so, this could be detrimental to advertisers as well as millennial consumers who rely of peer interests to make decisions.

    • Jon Loomer

      I’m not following how the two are related, Jean.

  • TimHoyt

    Total bummer that domain stories are going away with no replacement. Domain sponsored stories are powerful but were always confusing to run. Because of that they probably didn’t drive much revenue from them….

    • Jon Loomer

      They were confusing all around, if we’re going to be honest with ourselves. It was especially confusing to users, who weren’t sure where the promotion was coming from.

  • Mike Herman

    The “Googleification” of Facebook advertising continues! Facebook has really done a 180 in the last 6-7 months and improved its product dramatically. It has provided the market a product that it has craved for a long time. The product has finally caught up with the market, and Facebook has used Google’s lead to figure out how to get there. And that is a good thing!

    Really excited for the new changes! Thanks for the breakdown, Jon! Would love to hear your thoughts on whether or not you feel the “Insights” will get another fresh makeover to be more Google Analytics like?

    • Jon Loomer

      Hey, Mike! Since Insights received a makeover already recently, I don’t expect anything there for a while. But what I do know is that more detailed video metrics are coming.

      • Mike Herman

        You’re almost certainly right, though I wish that you weren’t. The insights interface is nice, but a little more ability to drill down into more hardcore data like Google Analytics would be really nice. I think I’m just spoiled from Google :)

        Thanks for your hard work. Really enjoy all of the updates and interaction with the community. It’s awesome.

        Go T-Wolves!

  • Barry Tubwell

    These changes are cool. I am most excited about the targeting changes. If I truly get to target….. Monster truck (that like) surfing (that like) Marketing… Instead of all 3 combined together, THAT will be awesome.

    Also, I will be dancing on the roof tops if they EVER let you target by location as in where the person is located NOW, instead of where they live. For example, if I can target people visiting San Francisco in REAL TIME, when they are THERE visiting, that would be a game changer (go ahead and fast track that one facebook team :)

    • Jon Loomer

      Yep, hear you on the location targeting, Barry!

      • Clara.Freder

        for those who have some free time use it to earn some extra cash online… look at the link lìsted on my profile for more info

  • James Hahn II

    Really appreciate the breakdown, Jon. I can’t tell you how much time you’ve saved me in the last 6 months!

    • Jon Loomer

      Love it, James!

  • Brian Carbajal

    Thank you!! Appreciate the breakdown of the upcoming changes!

  • Jason Curlee

    Thanks so much for the breakdown Jon. Super helpful.

  • Antonio Calero

    I think that with every change in life, there’s always an opportunity for improvement. At the beginning it may be a bit confusing and many of us may miss some of the removed features. But in the long term I see some great things – like the advanced demographics or locations. Can’t wait to test these.

    • Jon Loomer

      Agreed, Antonio. My only concern is an over simplification, which I hope doesn’t happen. But I think all of these changes should result in a positive.

  • Scott Ayres

    Great breakdown. I think many are confused by all the supposed changes.

  • Celina Johnson

    Thanks Jon informative as always!

  • CITE / John

    Thanks! As always this is a great breakdown.

  • tiffagegale

    Hi Jon, is there another way to connect a Facebook ad to a website/domain, or will we lose that capability once Domain ads are gone?

    • Jon Loomer

      Just to clarify here — That’s a Domain Sponsored Story. So that is an ad that promotes the interaction of friends with your domain. You can continue to run Domain ads, and you can continue to create published or unpublished posts from your page that lead to your website.

      • tiffagegale

        phewww…thanks for clarifying that!

  • Simon

    Hey Jon,

    Wrote this on Facebook as well.
    Thank you for a great website with great ressources.
    Have been searching all over the web and cant find a answer.
    Can Google Analytics for Mobile Apps track user engagement coming from Facebook Mobile App Install ads? Or do you have to use a third party tracking software like HasOffers?
    I can’t seem to find Facebook as a referrel for mobile downloads in Google Analytics


  • Heidi Kenyon

    Hi Jon, thanks so much for the information. I don’t want to be obtuse, but I’m having a tough time understanding the implications of the elimination of Sponsored Stories. For the page I manage, I don’t specifically create ads; I just “boost” posts. Is that what’s going away? Without “boosted” posts, will I need to create ads in order to share content with more users? And, am I correct in assuming those ads won’t show up in users’ newsfeeds any longer? Thanks so much for any clarification you can provide. We all appreciate your expertise!

    • Jon Loomer

      This doesn’t really impact you at all. It impacts people who specifically choose to create Sponsored Stories. This does not impact placement, but only an ad type.

      • Heidi Kenyon

        That is great to hear. Thanks for the clarification. Facebook changes its terminology so often, it’s hard to keep up. I greatly appreciate your prompt reply!

  • Jane

    Hi Jon,

    Such a great and useful resource for everything. Thanks for putting it up. I also noticed the new ads admin panel and honestly, it was a fresh breeze of air vs the older, cluttered one.

    I need to ask you something. With all the new targeting options, is it possible to target your ads to people who like one particular facebook page? So far I can find the targeting is limited to one of YOUR pages/apps or events.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Jon Loomer

      If you use Interest targeting, you can reach anyone who mentioned SOME pages. Most of the people you end up targeting in this case are their fans.

  • Morningside Mktg

    Did they also remove the ability to upload a bulk list of zip codes for location? I feel sure that this used to be possible but I just can’t seem to find how to do it now. . . (I have a file of around 1,000 zips I want to target)

    • Jon Loomer

      I don’t know where uploading zip codes would come into play within Power Editor or the self-serve ad tool.

      • Morningside Mktg

        Perhaps I am remembering it wrong as it has been a while since I worked on a campaign that only has limited reach.
        It would certainly be a useful feature, as I can’t be the only one trying to reach a designated region. . .

  • Gaynor Parke-Social Media Mamm

    I like the idea of increased behavior targeting Jon. The more targeted the better. As always great info Jon that’s so much

    • Jon Loomer


  • Bill

    The change in ads targeting is a real pain so far. Precise interests that used to auto-suggest are not even select-able for me now. I do have some logic build into the category search (see pic from PE) but it is limited and does not allow logic statements.

    This has made my niche specific targeting very difficult.

    • Jon Loomer

      I’ve heard this from a few people. It’s strange because I still have no such issues. It seems that anything that was brand specific before is the same now for me. The issues are the general topics that are even broader now.

  • Boris Isaic

    Hi Jon, Thank You for the info, may I ask you one specific question. What will happen with app shared sponsored stories? Are they will be sunset too? Regards, Boris

    • Jon Loomer

      All sponsored stories. But any promotion of apps will continue to include social context.

      • Boris Isaic

        Thank You for the answer – so it means that I will be able to promote facebook apps through people who actually engaged the app and to create an ad like a word of mouth?

  • Ashish

    Hey Jon,

    Any idea if we will we be able to use any of the Facebook Ad units as ghost posts? I often used Sponsored Stories that were not displayed on my wall. Wondering if I will still be able to do such ads.

  • Joel Rowdy

    I am doing an add to promote an Facebook event. Since facebook did this new update on ads, I simply do not get any event RSVP’s any more.

    Also it seems like my sponsored stories can only be displayed in the right side, no longer in the news feed, is this correct?

    According to facebooks help page, it should be possible to get your add displayed in the news feed by going to Text & Links -> advanced settings. But it seems like this option has now disappeared.

    Because of this change, it no longer makes sense for me to have ads on Facebook. So it seems odd to me, if this is correct. Can not be right, can it?

    I had a sponsored story running, with big succes. But now this story can only be in the right column. Since this change, i get almost no clicks. Its money out the window! :-(

  • Sophie

    Hi Jon, I think the changes have been made already. It definitely looks different and unfortunately my ads dropped from an average of 350,000 impressions a week to 200,000 two weeks ago and only 25,000 last week! Number of clicks decreased a lot like this as well. Any idea what happened??

  • Tom Sweetlove

    Sorry, I’m late to join in but I am desperately looking for an answer. As special interest merged into interests, is there still a way to add specific pages (which are not the pages you manage) in a saved target group ?