Facebook confirmed in August that it’s going to add subscriptions to Instant Articles.
It is notable that the early tests exclude Apple’s iOS devices, but Recode reports that Apple is balking at Facebook’s desire to hand over all of the money from news subscriptions directly to publishers (in fact, Facebook’s model sends readers to publishers’ websites to actually pay for a subscription), as CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously promised.
Over the next few weeks, Android users who are browsing news on the Facebook app may encounter a paywall prompting them to subscribe for full access to a publisher’s content, Facebook Head of News Partnerships Campbell Brown, Head of News Product Alex Hardiman, and Product Manager Sameera Salari wrote in a blog post. The second is a freemium model where the publishers choose which articles to lock.
Several major publishers have decided not to take part, largely because Facebook will not give access to reader data until they purchase a subscription. It was an apparent bid to keep publishers happy as they were concerned about dwindling subscription revenues.
It will also test a call-to-action subscription unit that might appear in-line in Instant Articles, and a “subscribe” button that would replace the “Like” button on top of an article.
For this reason the feature isn’t launching yet on Apple – only Android, which doesn’t have any restrictions on how subscriptions can be sold.
Included in the test will be Germany’s Bild and Spiegel, France’s Le Parisien, Italy’s La Republicca, the Telegraph and the Economist of Britain and the US-based Boston Globe, Washington Post, and news groups Hearst and Tronc, which includes the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, and San Diego Union-Tribune. Apple typically insists on getting a 30% share of money from subscriptions sold within iOS apps such as the Facebook mobile app. The test is starting in the USA and Europe and will only be visible on Android devices at first.
The company says it’s hearing that “maintaining control over pricing, offers, subscriber relationships, and 100% of the revenue” are critical to publishers’ businesses.