Facebook Distorts Financials with Bad Visualizations

If you glance at these charts, you might quickly take away the insight that Average Revenue per User (ARPU) is fairly consistent across all regions. That’s pretty interesting.

However, you would be wrong — very wrong.

Facebook Multi Bars

I’m not suggesting Facebook was trying to be misleading.  But for a company whose business revolves around data, this is certainly a disappointing showing.  The analyst likely created each chart individually, allowing the scale to be maximum height, then combined them as you see here.

If you look at the actual figures, then you can begin to form a better picture of what’s happening. But, it’s a lot of work to compare performance across the regions and see a clear story.

Check out the entire earnings slides. You will see this same mistake over and over.

Facebook, please hire my company and we will help you make better investor presentations.

Here’s one starter idea that makes it easy to see the total and the trends…


Happy to hear your comments…


Check out this Andy James track for some guitar distortion — only brilliance here.

  • josh says:

    Nice finding Lee, clear, strong impact, I love it.

  • Ken says:

    Nice make over – I like the marks on separate rows.

  • Arricksite says:

    Extraordinary. One of my 2014 clients demanded usage of stacked bars in this exact manner. Despite my making a similar best practice visualization recommendation in three separate meetings to a novice, “the client is always right” rule mandated I yield to their judgment.

    • leefeinberg says:

      Yes, these are the kinds of challenges to be faced around best practices. Have courage to not argue over the visual, but to understand the reasons behind the client’s opinion or needs. Often they will begin to better understand the best practices your have proposed and you may find some middle ground.

  • John Chew says:

    The bottom line chart might yield even more interesting findings if both measures were worked into a single % measure, given how small payments are as a % of advertising.

  • Ulrich says:

    Gabriel, yes, you can create this type of chart using Excel, or better an add-on called Chart-me (www.hi-chart.com)

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