Facebook to Debut Feature for Enabling Media Subscriptions

According to sources, Facebook is readying the launch a feature that will allow users to subscribe to The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications, directly from the mobile app. The feature, which is expected to debut by the end of the year, is still under discussion internally. Among the unresolved issues are whether Facebook will limit stories to those published natively to Facebook via Instant Articles, the payment model and whether Facebook would get a percentage of revenue.

The Wall Street Journal reports that sources say Facebook is “leaning toward a metered-payment model, which would allow users to read some articles for free each month before prompting them to pay.” With regard to its arrangement with publishers, Facebook is reportedly considering a model whereby it would gather payment information but let the publishers keep all the revenue.

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A Facebook statement said the company is “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.”

According to WSJ, sources say that the likely model will allow users to read 10 articles free before lowering the paywall. Although that’s exactly what NYT and The Washington Post do, WSJ and the Financial Times have stricter paywalls. The new feature, however, is likely to be a boon to publishers who “have long been frustrated by Facebook’s outsized role in news dissemination and commanding presence in the digital advertising market.”

According to eMarketer, Google and Facebook garner more than 60 percent of U.S. digital ad spending.

In 2015, when Instant Articles launched, the nation’s top publishers urged Facebook to include a subscription option, but the idea didn’t take off “partly because Facebook didn’t want to introduce barriers between its users and content.”

A January report from Digital Content Next showed that publishers who loaded content onto Instant Articles were making less money than on their own sites; publishers also began to experiment with placing their content on Apple and Google’s offerings. In response, Facebook “eased some of its ad restrictions” and added a tool “so publishers could encourage readers to sign up for their newsletters.”