Monday afternoon the WSJ reported that Facebook is building a tool to help users subscribe to news publications directly within the mobile app. This was happy news after recent news of Safari and Google’s Chrome entering the ad-blocking game.
The new feature is expected at the end of 2017. Little is known about the product so far. Poynter pointed out this new feature was similar to Apple News, allowing publishers to sell subscriptions in app.
Overall, this sounds like an encouraging move by Facebook, but by now we’ve learned to take their overtures about helping the news industry with a grain of salt. According to initial reports, this new feature will only be available on content posted through Instant Articles. Other discussions have mentioned a metered, micro-payment model. We’re interested to see what develops and how altruistic the feature is.
“We’re 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,” Facebook said in a statement.
Currently Facebook reaps 90 percent of its revenue from advertising. Between Facebook and Google, they are expected to receive more than 60 percent of digital ad spend this year, according to eMarketer. This makes subscriptions vital to maintaining quality news.
Having Facebook encourage people pay for news would be groundbreaking and I hope that’s exactly what happens, but in the meantime, count me as skeptical.
Michael is former Vice President of Innovation & Communications at the News Media Alliance.