Users want Facebook, but don’t want their personal data bandied about by everyone in town -- including proper Facebook advertisers that use anonymous data.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, says be ready to pay for it. Like a pay service. Think HBO. Think Netflix.
Now, one might think at around $10 a month -- the going price for HBO and Netflix -- that’s not a problem. Millions of people already pony up. In Netflix's case, it counts 55 million U.S customers.
It wouldn’t match up to the 240 million Facebook users in the U.S. -- or the 2 billion globally. There is always business math juggling to consider.
Facebook is free. Media consumers may feel -- up to a point -- that this is similar to broadcast TV networks and stations. It’s free as well, if you are not getting those networks/stations via a pay TV service.
In either case, advertisers pay.
Mind you, Netflix doesn’t have your deep personal data (maybe, a credit card) like Facebook. But it does know what kind of TV shows you like and produces TV shows catering to its audiences. HBO and HBO Now do as well.
Starting a social-media platform from scratch -- as a pay service -- would be catastrophic. However, Facebook may be a different media animal. Consumer usage in social media is massively embedded into daily behavior for many -- it's the big attraction from marketers to buy in.
Free media platforms? Not really. Remember the transition broadcast networks went through in the 1980s and 1990s -- with cable networks -- by pay TV providers, cable operators, satellite and telco operators? Now they get big retransmission fees, via pay TV operators, via consumers monthly fees.
But the difference during those years -- and now -- is that consumers haven’t sent a check each month to CBS, NBC, Fox, or The CW. It went to another party.
For argument's sake, it would be a different matter if Facebook started invoicing its users. If Facebook charged $1 a month, that would mean $240 million a month -- just under $3 billon a year -- from 240 million U.S. users.
This might be a starting point -- but not an end point: Facebook pulled in around $40 billion a year in advertising revenues in 2017.
Does Facebook want to be a TV network, after all -- even after its big non-TV advertising success? After all, what do broadcast and cable networks do now? They get a fee from pay TV providers (via subscribers) and from selling advertising.