Facebook extended subscriptions in Instant Articles to all eligible publishers and introduced a News Funding product it is testing for local and niche publishers interested in adopting the social network’s membership model.
The social network has been testing subscriptions in Instant Articles with over 40 publishers worldwide over the past 18 months, incorporating their feedback into improvements to the functionality of the offering.
Product manager Sameera Salari provided one example in the blog post, saying that Facebook is making implementation easier for publishers by working with third-party paywall providers, including its integration with global subscription commerce and customer experience provider Piano.
Several of the media properties in the test group are owned by Tribune Publishing, and its chief marketing officer, Mark Campbell, said in a blog post, “Innovation—including Facebook’s subscriptions in Instant Articles product—has been key to our growth in digital subscriptions and revenue. Audiences enjoy Instant Articles’ speedy platform, and we have realized monetization gains by using it with this new paywall. Broadly speaking, we at Tribune have benefited from coaching and collaboration on multiple Facebook projects like the (Local News Digital Subscriptions Accelerator Program), and will continue working with them to increase the number of people engaged with our journalism.”
Other improvements to the offering over the past months included the addition of a welcome screen last December to encourage new subscribers to follow publishers’ pages and allowing publishers to create posts that are only available to subscribers, the latter of which will soon be available to all publishers.
Salari said the welcome screen boosted the percentage of new subscribers who follow publishers’ pages to 94% from 54% and led to a 40% jump in articles read by subscribers.
Salari added that Facebook distributes news content free-of-charge and provides all revenue from subscriptions directly to publishers, and the social network gives those publishers full control over their relationships with readers.
She noted that subscription transactions occur directly on the publishers’ websites, enabling them to manage subscriber data, payments and pricing, adding, “We recognize that no two publishers share the same business model. Publishers vary in the audiences they’re trying to reach, the types of journalism they produce and their areas of expertise. This diversity means that when we build products, we can’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. As a result, we’re committed to building a portfolio of both on- and off-platform products and programs that publishers can use depending on their specific needs and goals.”
Salari also discussed how Facebook Analytics can be used by publishers to measure audience behavior and prevent duplicated users across Facebook, Instagram and publishers’ mobile applications and websites, writing, “We’ve worked with partners to build out a series of templates within Facebook Analytics that make this type of analysis simpler. If publishers prefer, they can also use a third-party analytics service.”
Business-focused Indian newspaper Business Standard’s experiment with an online user-funded business model was powered by subscriptions in Instant Articles, and its executive vice president, Shivendra Gupta, said in the blog post, “The Facebook teams, both local and international, have been more than forthcoming in technically hand-holding us through the product-integration phase and are now actively assisting us by providing useful marketing insights. We have witnessed an improvement in traffic and engagement through our Facebook feeds since this partnership, and we look forward to it contributing significantly to our subscription numbers in the future.”
Finally, Salari provided details on its test of News Funding, which is aimed at local and niche publishers looking to adopt the social network’s membership model.
Supporters of those publishers pay recurring fees to help back their newsgathering efforts in exchange for supporter-only exclusive content or other benefits, and Salari said some publishers have experimented with making access to local cultural events one of those benefits.
Animal Político, an investigative news outlet from Mexico, is one of the publishers testing News Funding, and its director, Daniel Moreno, said in the blog post, “The ideal business model for media must be through the collaboration with its audience. News Funding is a fundamental door to get closer to our readers and involve them in the collaborative development of our journalistic work.”