By Campbell Brown, Head of News Partnerships, Alex Hardiman, Head of News Product, and Sameera Salari, Product Manager

Over the next few weeks, we’re launching a test to support news subscription models in Instant Articles in partnership with a small group of publishers across the U.S. and Europe. This initial test will roll out on Android devices, and we hope to expand it soon.

This is a direct result of the work we’re doing through the Facebook Journalism Project. We’re listening to news publishers all over the world to better understand their needs and goals, and collaborating more closely on the development of new products from the beginning of the process.

Earlier this year, many publishers identified subscriptions as a top priority, so we worked with a diverse group of partners to design, refine, and develop a test suited for a variety of premium news models. We also heard from publishers that maintaining control over pricing, offers, subscriber relationships, and 100% of the revenue are critical to their businesses, and this test is designed to do that.

The following partners have been integral to building this product and we look forward to learning more together as the test gets underway: Bild, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Hearst (The Houston Chronicle and The San Francisco Chronicle), La Repubblica, Le Parisien, Spiegel, The Telegraph, tronc (The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Times, and The San Diego Union-Tribune), and The Washington Post.

 

Here’s how the test will work:

  • We’ll support a paywall in Instant Articles for both metered models (we’ll start with a uniform meter at 10 articles and test variations from there) and freemium models (the publisher controls which articles are locked).
  • When someone who isn’t yet a subscriber to a publication encounters a paywall within Instant Articles, they will be prompted to subscribe for full access to that publisher’s content.
  • If that person subscribes, the transaction will take place on the publisher’s website. The publisher will process the payment directly and keep 100% of the revenue.
  • The publisher and subscriber relationship will work the same way it does on their own sites today where the publisher has direct access and full control, including setting pricing and owning subscriber data.
  • These subscriptions include full access to a publisher’s site and apps.
  • Similarly, someone who is already a subscriber to a publication in the test can authenticate that subscription within Instant Articles in order to get full access to that publisher’s articles.

Furthermore, we’ll be testing other units to help publishers drive additional subscriptions before a person might hit the paywall. These units include a Subscribe Call-to-Action Unit (CTA), which will appear in-line in Instant Articles similar to other CTAs like Email Sign-Up or App Install. We’ll also test a “Subscribe” button that will replace the “Like” button on the top right corner of an article. We’ll continue to collaborate with publishers to refine these units and build out new ones.

As with many products we build at Facebook, we’ll observe how people respond to this new experience, and we’ll be working with these partners to analyze, learn, and iterate over time. We hope to expand the test to additional partners in the future.

Looking Ahead

We’re continuing to invest in Instant Articles because data has shown that people prefer the faster-loading mobile reading experience, and that translates to more traffic and engagement for publishers.

For over a year, we’ve been developing tools in Instant Articles to help publishers build deeper relationships with their audiences, including Email Sign-Up and App Install CTAs. For many publishers, the goal is that this ultimately leads to a paid subscription, and we want to help facilitate that relationship within Instant Articles and on Facebook. Publishers not using Instant Articles already have the ability to implement paywalls and subscription models on the mobile web.

Concurrently, we’ll remain focused on driving continual improvements in ad performance in Instant Articles. This year alone, the average revenue per page view has increased over 50%, and Instant Articles pays out more than $1 million per day to publishers via Audience Network.

Over time, we’ll continue investing in new ways to enable publishers’ subscription businesses — including working with publishers to remove friction from the conversion flow to subscribe, leveraging data to better target content and offers to likely and existing subscribers, and improving our marketing tools to make them better suited for publishers’ needs. We’re looking forward to working with our partners to help support an important business model for the news industry.