Facebook Paywall: May Good for Major Publishers, Not So Good for The Rest of Us

Facebook Paywall: May Good for Major Publishers, Not So Good for The Rest of Us

Facebook offers a feature called Instant Articles which is a mobile publishing format that enables news publishers to distribute articles to Facebook’s app. Publishers can sell and serve their own rich-media and display ads in Instant Articles and keep 100% of that revenue. To monetize unsold inventory, publishers can also display ads from Facebook’s Audience Network, with a 70% share of the revenues going to the publisher. Publications using the Instant Articles feature include The New York Times, Buzzfeed, NBC News and National Geographic.

According Engadget, Facebook will begin offering a way for news publishers to create a paywall for Instant Articles. It will allow people to read up to ten free articles per month. Facebook members will be redirected to a subscription page when they visit a paywalled publisher after the tenth time.

As far as I can tell, it looks like the Instant Articles feature and the paywall feature are only available to major publishers. How exactly Facebook picks winners and losers is unclear, but it looks like smaller news publishers are left out of this opportunity.

A couple of things I would like to see, is that Facebook allows for API developers to utilize the Instant Articles and Paywall feature. It could involve a review process by Facebook to help to ensure that ‘fake news’ sites are not allowed to participate. This of course would take even more time and effort on Facebook’s part, so it might just be easier for them to stick with agreements with major publishers.

Another feature I would like to see is a way to encourage people to actually visit the article before they are able to like, comment or share. One of the big challenges with being an online small publisher is that we depend on social media to promote our stories. But we also depend on traffic to our website to generate revenues, if it be through advertising networks such as Google Adwords or by direct sales. Unfortunately, when people read a headline and nutgraph, most often the next thing they do is comment, like or share without ever visiting the site. Having some way to encourage people to read the article, might help smaller publishers to generate vital revenues.