Despite Facebook continually reducing organic reach, the platform still needs to maintain connection with publishers, and to have them continue to publish their content on the network. In order to facilitate this, Facebook has been working on a subscription option to help publishers maintain direct connection with their audiences, helping them both build their businesses beyond Facebook, and better manage News Feed shifts.
The subscription test was first launched over a year ago, with an expansion announced back in June, and now, Facebook's broadening the subscription program yet again, adding more publications, and some new tools to encourage additional groups to sign up.
First off, on publications - Facebook has announced that it's adding more than 30 new publishers into the subscription program, including Business Insider, The Chicago Tribune and Business Standard. These additional publications will provide more insights to help Facebook improve the offering, and to showcase how beneficial the subscription process can be.
Facebook's also looking to make the option easier for publishers to utilize by upgrading its subscription implementation process - thus far, Facebook says, it's been able to cut the development time by 75%, making it easier for new participants to sign up.
And lastly, Facebook's also looking to provide additional audience building and retention tools - it's testing the ability for a publisher to allow a reader to continue reading an article if they share their email address, while it's also added a “Welcome Screen” to encourage new subscribers to follow the publisher's Page and see more of that publishers' content in News Feed.
According to Facebook, nearly half of all subscribers initially didn't follow the publishers' Page on Facebook.
"The welcome screen has increased the percentage of new subscribers who follow the publisher's page from 54 to 94%. This has also increased the articles read by subscribers on Facebook by 40%."
Facebook's also working on a new option which would enable readers to support publishers by providing payment directly to them on Facebook. The actual details of that process have not been ironed out yet, but again, it would provide another way to help publishers build their business through The Social Network, as opposed to the limited and uncertain options available for publishers in the current Facebook environment.
How successful these new options might be is difficult to say - Facebook's had a rough year, with a range of controversies and issues related to data misuse, anti-competitive behavior and data manipulation. Facebook, of course, still remains the biggest social media platform in the world, at 2.2 billion users, and as such, it also remains a key focus for publishers. But since the major News Feed shift away from Page content in January, there does seem to have also been a broader realization that building on Facebook is not a viable or sustainable practice.
Given this, the subscription offering seems fairly piecemeal, and likely won't be a major enticement to get publishers to put increased focus on Facebook publishing - unless the platform can show significant results in terms of helping to build publisher e-mail lists and subscribers off the platform.
Facebook still has huge capacity to do this, but business trust in the platform has clearly been eroded over time. It'll likely take something more than this to win it back in any relevant way.