Campbell Brown, the head of Facebook’s news partnerships, said that the social networking giant will launch a subscription-based news product and initial testing for this product will begin in October. According to The Street, “the feature appears to be built on top of Facebook's Instant Articles, which aggregates stories from hundreds of publishers based on a reader's interests and preferences. In addition to steering readers to a publisher's home page to consider taking out a digital subscription, Facebook plans to erect a paywall which would require readers to become subscribers of the platform after they'd accessed 10 articles.”
At the Digital Publication Innovation Summit, Brown said, “One of the things we heard in our initial meetings from many newspapers and digital publishers is that 'we want a subscription product -- we want to be able to see a paywall in Facebook,' and that is something we're doing now. We are launching a subscription product.”
If you are wondering how the subscription based service will work, a reader will be able to read 10 articles from a publisher before being asked to subscribe. Facebook will also give publications access to all subscriber data through which they can understand their audience better.
Google and Facebook control nearly two-third of the digital advertising industry. According to a media report, newspaper revenue from advertisements declined to $16 billion in 2016, down from about $50 billion 10 years earlier.
Facebook and Google have redefined the way people consume content and publishers are fighting on these platforms to get maximum eyeballs. How the audience in a country like India reacts to a paid subscription on Facebook will be interesting to see. Even a company like Reliance Jio achieved market leadership by giving away SIM cards and data for free for some time before asking for money for its services.
The biggest source of revenue for any publication has been advertising. Circulation has never been the big source of revenue. Could this fremium or paid subscription program help publishers make money or will there be enough sources of free content on the internet to keep readers happy for years to come? Only time will tell.