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Facebook Introduces Subscription Collaboration with News Publications

Facebook has announced the beginning of a new feature that will merge its Instant Articles program with various news publications. This collaboration will allow readers to sign up for subscriptions with select news publishers.

Credit: James Martin/CNET

Credit: James Martin/CNET

Credit: WSJ

Credit: WSJ

Initial testing of this program will begin through Android devices only, as Apple and Facebook negotiate whether or not Apple will earn a profit from the subscription revenue. Facebook plans to allow publishers to keep the entirety of the subscription revenue earned from the collaboration and will not receive any of the revenue itself. However, Apple is asking for 30 percent of the sales as part of its requirement that the company gains a portion of the revenue generated from apps in the App Store.

This program is a strategy for Facebook that may restore its reputation by strengthening its connections with respected news publications after the spread of fake news stories on the social media site in the months leading up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The collaboration may also alleviate any possible tensions between Facebook and some publishers, who often see their articles shared among Facebook users but cannot translate those views into those of paying subscribers.

Within the program, Facebook mobile users will be able to read 10 free articles per publisher per month, and will then be asked to purchase a subscription on the publication’s website for access to all of its articles. The arrangement will also include models in which the publisher can restrict access to certain articles and only have a selection available for free.

The first test group in this program will include news publications such as the Washington Post, the Economist, the Boston Globe, Bild and Spiegel, Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, Baltimore Sun, the Telegraph in the U.K., and Le Parisien in France.

However, there are also publishers who have opted not to take part in the collaboration for now. These include the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Britain’s Financial Times. These publishers already have digital subscription programs in place, and the partnership with Facebook would conflict with their existing structures. In addition, the social media platform has refused access to reader data unless they purchase a subscription – news publishers will not have any information on who reads their free articles through Facebook.