Facebook to launch news subscription service, which will definitely save the news industry
It’s taken about 20 years of online journalism and digital content creation to finally come around to the idea that someone needs to pay for the damn thing. The New York Times and the Washington Post have seen record subscription numbers in the wake of the election. Now publishers are trying to find a way around one of the last barriers to not giving away their content for free: Facebook.
The social media behemoth announced plans Wednesday to launch a subscription-based news product, which would allow publishers to create a paywall for access to content, CNET reports. The plan would work like the paywall on the New York Times: You get 10 free articles a month before you’re forced to subscribe. Right now, Facebook’s Instant Articles feature (which loads pages much more quickly directly on Facebook instead of directing you to the publishers’ site) lets you skip around some paywalls.
“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,'” Campbell Brown, the head of news partnerships at Facebook, said Tuesday at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit in New York, according to CNET. “And that is something we’re doing now. We are launching a subscription product.”
Few details of the plan have been made public yet, but the company plans to test the service as early as October. The idea has apparently been kicking around Facebook for awhile, as they talked about how to appease newspapers and other media organizations who threatened to pull their content off the site.
It is, of course, still hard to get people to pay for news, especially when they’re used to getting it for free online all the time. But one can hope that with the cosmic shifting of priorities that happened after the election, at least some people have started to see journalism (like actual journalism, not just partisan screeching on teevee) as a public good they’re willing to financially support.
The move is also likely somewhat related to Facebook’s attempts to fight fake news (again, actual fake news, the opposite of journalism), which have so far been failing. A theory has been going around that Mark Zuckerberg has been barnstorming the country not because he’s running for president, but because he wants to understand Facebook’s role in duping Trump voters into believing stories that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refused to ever have her picture taken with uniformed military members (easily debunked, obviously!) and the like.
So creating a subscription service could also be a way to give credibility to actual news sites that provide actual information, while financially supporting those news gathering efforts. Or, instead, everyone on Facebook could just refuse to pay, keep getting their news from RealPatriotViralNewz.biz, and we just complete our country’s full descent into post-truth nonsense.
Let’s hope this helps, because right now the future of news revenue seems to be focused on just putting autoplay videos on every square inch of every goddamn news stories and website so you have to play a five-minute game of Whack-a-Mole trying to turn them off before you get frustrated and just close the tab.