Facebook plans subscription service for news articles

July 19 (UPI) — Facebook plans to launch a subscription service for news stories, possibly testing the change as early as October.

Campbell Brown, the head of the social media giant’s news partnerships, said Facebook is working on the news product, which would have a paywall.

“We are in early talks with several news publishers about how we might better support subscription business models on Facebook,” Brown told TechCrunch in a statement. “As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs.”

In January, Facebook launched the Facebook Journalism Project to establish stronger ties between company and the news industry.

The new service will be built on Facebook’s Instant Articles, which was launched in 2015 and aggregates stories from hundreds of publishers based on a reader’s interests and preferences. Besides directing readers to a publisher’s homepage to consider taking out a digital subscription, Facebook will erect a paywall, which would require readers to become subscribers of the platform after accessing 10 free articles, Brown said.

This is similar to a paywall with initial free access currently in place with media organizations, including The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Facebook hasn’t disclosed how payments will be handled and if the company will take a cut of subscription sales.

“One of the things we heard in our initial meetings from many newspapers and digital publishers is that ‘we want a subscription product — we want to be able to see a paywall in Facebook,’ ” Brown said Tuesday, according to The Street, at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, an industry conference, in New York City. “And that is something we’re doing now. We are launching a subscription product.”

Facebook has briefed several media outlets.

“We’ve been briefed and are continuing to evaluate if we’re going to participate,” a senior executive at The New York Times told Digiday, which reports on media and marketing industries. “So far, we don’t see any great upside.”

The New York Times is absent from Instant Articles, and several other sites are running little to no content there — including Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, NPR, Financial Times, Hearst, ESPN and CBS News.

“They’re trying to create a [system] that keeps everyone happy, which is a pretty tough brief,” Karl Wells, general manager of WSJ Membership at The Wall Street Journal, told Digiday.

Last week the News Media Alliance petitioned Congress that Facebook and Google benefit from the work of hundreds of newspapers without fairly compensating publishers.

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