Facebook will soon let people subscribe to publications through its Instant Articles, a mobile publishing format that enables new publishers to distribute their content to Facebook’s app, which is much faster in loading and displaying than the standard mobile web. It works for any type of article – from daily coverage to long-form, in-depth features. Things are unclear at this point, but the current plan says the subscription will be done using paywalls and freemium models.
Through this, all subscriber data will be accessible to publishers to help them better understand their viewers. Facebook has made concessions to publishers by giving access to all subscriber data.
Facebook believes in creating a uniform user experience for all publishers, though each publisher has their own model and wants to replicate the same on Facebook.
There is no light yet thrown on the subscription details, such as how payments will be handled, and if Facebook will have its share of subscription sales.
Payments are typically processed through smartphones app stores, which is complicated as the app store usually takes a 30 percent cut. Facebook is working to phase out these cuts.
The company is letting the publisher have more control over payment through the mobile web by eliminating a layer of complexity and the app stores cut, and also giving the publisher access to more data. However, it is not clear if publishers will get data on users’ reading history to help them customize the offer the way they can do on their own sites.
Facebook hasn’t revealed any time frame in rolling out the subscription utility. It aims to test the system with a small group of publishers with a diverse mix, representing U.S. and international publishers, including big and small titles, at the end of the year, and then expand them to others in 2018.
Facebook has had one-on-one meetings with the New York Times, the UK’s Telegraph, The Economist and other media houses to understand the business model and requirement prior to rolling out the test environment.