Facebook Develops Metered Paywall, Debuts Analytics Tool

Facebook is developing a metered paywall to drive viewers to subscribe to source publications of stories posted on Instant Articles. The move is in response to the social media platform’s tense relationship with publishers, who are losing viewership of stories on their own websites, as well as revenue. While sources say that discussions about the paywall are in the early stages, and testing won’t begin until October, Facebook is currently introducing a new analytics tool for publishers. Meanwhile, Amazon is now paying publishers and digital influencers to post to its new commerce-centric social network Spark.

The New York Times reports that Facebook head of news partnerships Campbell Brown said the company is “in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook.” For their part, a group of publishers have organized to obtain collective bargaining rights to negotiate better with Facebook and other social media platforms.

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Publishers are concerned about “losing valuable ties to their readers, particularly subscriber data and payment connections,” especially with “readers … accustomed to staying in Facebook to consume news, instead of, say, navigating directly to publishers’ sites.” A metered paywall, however, might “create a bundling effect, allowing readers to read potentially hundreds of free articles a month.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Facebook is also debuting an analytics tool for Instant Articles in collaboration with Nielsen, “that will give news outlets more data on how their stories perform on the platform.” Previously, Facebook “has made available performance data aggregated across the 10,000 or so publishers who have tried the program,” and the new tool will let publishers “see how their specific news organizations’ stories perform on Instant Articles collectively, enabling them to compare against those posted using traditional links sending readers to a mobile webpage.”

The tool will initially only provide publishers “a very basic overview of the performance of their own content,” and will not “provide information on each individual story posted to Instant Articles.” But Facebook and Nielsen have “plans to add layers of detail.”

Other online companies have made efforts to respond to publishers’ concerns. Last year, Google unveiled its AMP tool, “a way to expedite the delivery of partners’ articles in search results.” Now, says The Wall Street Journal, Amazon is paying publishers and online influencers to post to its just-launched social network Spark. Described as “a cross between Facebook-owned Instagram and social bookmarking site Pinterest,” Spark allows users to tag products for sale via Amazon and then easily buy them.

When debuted, Spark was already “pre-populated with posts by various publishers and social media influencers,” such as Apartment Therapy, tagged with IKEA products. Publishers are “paid a flat fee for a specific number of posts,” and retain creative control.