Is Facebook embracing subscriptions?

In April publishers have made it clear to Facebook that they’re fed up with Instant Articles. Monetizating on Facebook’s news platform hasn’t been working and big publishers like the Guardian and the New York Times have pulled out entirely.

Facebook has finally listened (or given in) to publishers’ complaints and may soon help its users pay for news; something completely new for the platform. Facebook is working on integrating selling subscriptions directly via its platform. A lot of talk has been that this feature will revolve around Facebook’s Instant Articles in the form of a metered-payment model. This would allow users to read some articles for free each month before having to pay. It remains uncertain if Facebook would take a share of the revenue.

After Apple and Amazon, this is the next tech giant embracing the power of CRM. It is possible that Facebook is mostly interested in capturing payment data to emulate what Apple has done with users’ credit card details through iTunes and the App Store. 

Facebook vaguely stated,

“We’re working with partners to understand their business and explore ways we can help them drive more value from Facebook. We are taking the time to deeply understand their different goals and needs.” 

Digital subscriptions drive revenue also for small publishers

The new feature could be a clear benefit for publishers who have been emphasizing digital subscription in their business models to increase revenues.

“If Facebook truly creates a successful platform for the sale of news subscriptions at scale it will be a powerful and historic game changer for the news industry,” says Jim Friedlich

Friedlich, CEO of the foundation behind the Philadelphia Inquirer, has lobbied hard at Facebook for this. A change like this can be hugely beneficial to local and regional publishers that don’t have the digital platform bigger publishers have in building revenue beyond print.

Frustration with Facebook

This new initiative to better deal with paid content on Facebook has come after months of growing frustration on the side of publishers. In April, it also added a new tool that encourages readers to sign up for publishers’ newsletters. And this week, it has been announced that there will be more advertising integration into Instant Articles. Facebook is trying to tackle that disscontempt as it is facing growing competition from Apple News and Google Accelerated Mobile Pages. Apple News has shown to be a successful revenue driver for publishers like the Telegraph and already allows publishers to sell their subscriptions. Facebook now also supports both Apple News and Google AMP, so publishers only have to build content once for all three formats.

Wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Is this new step Facebook’s attempt to take over the precious relationships publishers have with their readers or could this change actually be beneficial to local and regional publishers that don’t have the digital platform in building revenue beyond print? Time will tell, but caution is imperative.