Facebook Tests Online Subs, Paywalls

As promised, Facebook has begun testing a new system that will allow publishers to sell subscriptions and enforce their paywalls in coordination with the network, extending an olive branch to publishers that have seen their audiences fluctuate and displeased by poor monetization on its platform.


The new subscription sales tool, developed under the aegis of Facebook’s Journalism Project and announced in a blog post on Thursday, is integrated with Facebook’s Instant Articles. It allows publishers to direct users to their own Web sites, off the Facebook platform, in order to sign up.

Facebook users who already have a subscription can access content by signing into their account via Instant Articles.

Facebook is offering publishers two paywall options, one which allows users to read up to 10 free articles per month before requiring them to subscribe, and another that allows publishers to choose which articles are free to view and which will be behind the paywall.



At launch, the new subscription sales system will only be compatible with Android devices, due to Facebook’s inability to come to an agreement with Apple over sharing revenue from the sales.

Facebook had previously indicated it would give all the revenue from subscription sales to publishers, which conflicted with Apple’s own demand for 30% of publisher sales.

Facebook is testing the subscription sales system with a number of publisher partners, including Hearst, Tronc, The Economist, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Telegraph in the UK, as well as other big European newspapers and magazines, such as Bild, Spiegel and Le Parisien. It should expand to include other publishers in the near future.

Looking ahead, Facebook also promised to share more user data to help publishers target and tailor both content and sales offers to current and potential subscribers.

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