- Facebook is giving publishers what the Wall Street Journal described as a “long-requested” feature by allowing users to subscribe to publications in its mobile app. The feature is expected to roll out on the mobile app by the end of the year.
- According to the Journal, the feature will likely be only available on stories published within Facebook’s walled garden Instant Articles and users will be able to read a certain number of free articles each month before being asked to pay.
- Sources familiar with Facebook's plans told the Journal it’s likely Facebook will allow users to read 10 free articles before asking for them to subscribe. That policy matches the New York Times and the Washington Post, but is more generous than the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.
Publishers have been put into a tough spot with the widespread adoption of ad block tech which directly hits the bottom line along with walled gardens for mobile optimized pages like Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News. Publishers are already able to sell subscriptions in-app on Apple News. Google’s AMP technology is open-source and gives publishers more control over how its content is delivered and the ads served on the inventory.
Publishers have pushed for a subscription option in Instant Articles since its launch in 2015, but a more pertinent question might be are people are willing to pay for mobile content. Many details of how Facebook's new feature will work are still up in the air, but the move would be a step towards addressing some publisher concerns.
Facebook's push in recent months has focused primarily on its pivot to a video- and camera-first platform, as evidenced in its Q1 earnings report. The site has nearly 2 billion active users and it continues to look for ways to tweak its monetization strategy. A slowdown in traditional display and other static ad formats has challenged the company.