As part of their ongoing efforts to develop stronger connections with publishers, Facebook’s testing out a new subscription model with Instant Articles which will enable publishers to better monetize their efforts, and maintain direct connection with their audience.
Instant Articles – Facebook’s fast-loading option designed for optimal mobile consumption – have long been an uncertain area of publishers. On one hand, they provide a better reader experience, as the articles load immediately and are able to utilize various Facebook-specific features, including 360 photos.
Facebook says that Instant Articles also drive 20% more clicks, and 30% more shares than regular link posts, so there’s a lot to like - there are various reasons why publishers are interested in the option.
But the catch is that Instant Articles are hosted within Facebook – rather than driving traffic back to your owned properties, you’re reliant on Facebook for monetization and data purposes, which gives publishers less control. And that – especially given Facebook’s gradual reduction in organic reach for Pages – has many concerned about investing too much into their Facebook efforts.
This option aims to ease some of those concerns – Facebook outlines how the subscription process will work as follows:
- We’ll support a paywall in Instant Articles for both metered models (we’ll start with a uniform meter at 10 articles and test variations from there) and freemium models (the publisher controls which articles are locked).
- When someone who isn’t yet a subscriber to a publication encounters a paywall within Instant Articles, they will be prompted to subscribe for full access to that publisher’s content.
- If that person subscribes, the transaction will take place on the publisher’s website. The publisher will process the payment directly and keep 100% of the revenue.
- The publisher and subscriber relationship will work the same way it does on their own sites today where the publisher has direct access and full control, including setting pricing and owning subscriber data.
- These subscriptions include full access to a publisher’s site and apps.
- Similarly, someone who is already a subscriber to a publication in the test can authenticate that subscription within Instant Articles in order to get full access to that publisher’s articles.
The key elements in this process are that the readers will subscribe directly to the publisher, enabling them to manage the data, and 100% of any revenue will also go to the publisher.
Interestingly, the approach of giving all the revenue back to the publisher has become a source of contention with Apple. As reported by Recode, Apple sees any subscription sold inside any app on iOS as an in-app purchase, for which Apple takes a 30% cut. Facebook, which wants 100% of the revenue to go to publishers, disagrees, as the subscription itself would take place on the publishers’ site.
That misalignment in interpretation has lead to Facebook only testing out their new subscription model on Android, where they’ve been able to arrange an agreement on the process with Google.
Process disagreements aside, the new option aligns more closely with what publishers are looking for from the option, and may make more of them feel comfortable with the process. This also adds to the additional subscription options added to IA earlier this year, again aimed at providing direct connection between publishers and their audiences.
Publishers are looking for assurance, and these options should help provide that – but will the subscription-based model be as attractive for consumers? It’ll be interesting to see what the response is to the test.