Facebook will begin allowing news publishers to run paywalls inside Facebook’s iOS app starting March 1st. Faceobok first started testing paywalls on Android in October, but at the time it couldn’t come to an agreement with Apple about how subscription revenue would be taxed. Today on stage at Code Media, Facebook’s head of news partnerships Campbell Brown said that publishers wanted to give away five free articles, not ten, so Facebook is switching to that lower threshold before asking users to pay, and that includes bringing the test to iOS.
“We’re working now on a subscription product that we’re moving forward with on iOS on Mrach 1st, which is a breakthough. We had a hold-up there.” Asked to clarify what changed with Apple, Brown said “It’s resolved.”
On Android, Facebook directs users to the publishers’ website to complete the subscription transaction, and publishers keep 100% of the revenue. That’s despite the fact that Android’s general rule is that subscriptions should go through Google Payments, with Google getting 30% for the first 12 months and then 15%. It’s unclear exactly how revenue will be split on iOS. Presumably either Apple will get its 30% and the publisher will get the rest, or the publisher will get to keep it all.
“This was something that Facebook wouldn’t even consider for a long time so it’s an important step” Brown said. “We’ve made some changes. We’ve lowered the meter to five articles before you hit the paywall. I’m super excited about the potential here.”
Backing up that claim that this is a serious strategy shift, Digital Content Next CEO Jason Kint said Facebook told him paywalls would interfere with Facebook’s data and ads business.
Brown also announced that Facebook is creating a dedicated section for news on Facebook’s original video programming hub Watch. She explained that it’s strange that there’s no dedicated place to go for news on Facebook, and this will fill that gap, giving Facebook a place to highlight breaking news when important things happen. Meanwhile, she says that Facebook could have better communicated ahead of its terrifying test that removed all news from the News Feed in six countries.
When asked about whether Facebook would consider paying publishers directly for their content like television channels, as suggested by News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch, Brown laughed, but concluded that she’d “never say never”. She also mentioned that her job is to get accurate and informative news on Facebook, not to make every publisher on Facebook happy.
Let’s block ads! (Why?)