Facebook will soon put up paywalls and free limits for certain articles

19 Jul 2017

Image: Noci/Shutterstock

After somewhat failing to monetise Facebook Instant Articles, the social network is now offering a potentially more profitable answer.

Back in 2015, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a service that would allow publishers to post directly to the social network with the promise that it would offer new revenue streams for all.

However, as time went on, major publishers such as The Washington Post and The Guardian were unhappy with Facebook’s prioritising of video, as well as friends and family posts, in news feeds over articles, finding their relevance rapidly in decline on the platform.

Future Human

After much speculation, it would appear that Facebook is taking action. According to TheStreet, Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said the company will begin testing subscription models for users to sign up to, rather than just being able to read an unlimited amount of articles shared either by you or someone else.

The eventual plan is that – much like a growing number of news organisations – Facebook will limit the number of free views of articles to 10 from that publisher, after which a paywall will be enforced.

While it brings a major change to the Instant Articles platform, the technology behind it will remain largely the same.

Appeasing publishers

“One of the things we heard in our initial meetings from many newspapers and digital publishers is that ‘we want a subscription product, we want to be able to see a paywall in Facebook’,” Brown said at a recent industry conference. “And that is something we’re doing now. We are launching a subscription product.”

In a subsequent statement, Brown confirmed that the subscription model is on the way and has begun early talks with a number of publishers under its Facebook Journalism Project.

The expectation is to launch the service provisionally this October and then expand it in 2018.

It will now be a matter of waiting to see how Facebook’s news platform fares against Google’s newly announced Google Feed, which aims to compete with the social network in giving people a scroll feed of content, including articles.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic