For Indian publishers, Facebook's imminent paywall is about cynicism as well as hope

Facebook is planning to test a paywall for subscription of news stories and will be working with a handful of publishers to introduce a system that would limit free viewing to 10 articles per month

by Ruhail Amin
Published - Jul 21, 2017 8:03 AM Updated: Jul 21, 2017 8:03 AM

Monetisation of news across digital platforms has always been a key concern for news publishers worldwide.

 

However, with reports that Facebook, which now has over two billion users,  planning to test a paywall for subscription of news stories, it seems like with this news publishers have finally got a reason to rejoice.

 

As per reports, this new project by Facebook is still in its early stages and initially Facebook will be working with a handful of publishers to introduce a system that would limit free viewing to 10 articles per month.  After viewing 10 articles from the media company, a user would be promoted to sign up for a subscription to that publication or log into an active one.

 

It is also known that Facebook would allow participating media partners to maintain full control over which stories are locked behind the paywall and which aren’t, add to this full control of their subscriber data, too. 

 




Commenting on this development, BV Rao, Editor, Firspost.com, said, “That's music to the ears. Racing away on the UV-PV highway, it's not easy for news organisations to take their foot off the accelerator. As long as advertising money is tied to reach rather than engagement -- and specifically to the quality of engagement and the engaged – it’s risky for major players to do anything that might jeopardise the numbers. The next best thing is for a platform as big as Facebook to handhold the publications in this rather tricky journey behind a pay wall. Though I'm still not clear about the dynamics and logistics of Facebook's plan and how it will work between Facebook and media houses, it's a welcome move. At the least it will put the concept of paying for content out there in the public space. It's died a million deaths in newsrooms and boardrooms and now needs help from elsewhere.”

 

For news publishers Facebook currently supports a feature called ‘Instant Articles’--a quicker way of loading news stories by hosting them in the Facebook app. However, it does not support paywalls making it difficult for publishers who want to monetise news content.

 

Since Facebook has become a popular platform for news consumption, publishers in the past have resented the fact that they lose revenue when their stories are shared free on Facebook. The proposed paywall project by Facebook might finally iron out these differences.

 




Stating that the proposed project will have no implications on Indian media companies, Nayan Patel, Assistant Vice President, Worldwide Media (WWM), a fully owned subsidiary of Bennett Coleman & Co (BCCL), which publishes 13 magazines such as Femina, Fimfare, Lonely Planet, Top Gear, Good Homes among others and another six B2B titles, said, “The idea of freemium is not something that an Indian subscriber for consuming media stories and content is used to at this point, unlike an avid reader of a leading publication in the US. Even OTT platforms, which are following the freemium model, have seen only limited success in the Indian market so far. Facebook’s decision to introduce a paywall will also need to factor in the revenue share of media giants like Google or Apple, due to their app revenue models. The idea is very much in infancy stage even in the US. It has little or no implications for Indian media companies in the near future.”  

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