Facebook offers newspaper subscriptions for Instant Articles, publishers remain skeptical

Facebook continues to develop new programs and initiatives in order to increase their standing among the newspaper community. Most recently, it announced that publishers will be allowed to have metered and premium paywalls around their Instant Articles. The Instant Articles program was introduced by Facebook in 2015 as an attempt to establish a newspaper presence on the platform and gain a commanding control of the mobile news market.

Despite the promise of the program, newspapers have remained skeptical. Even though publishers are expected to have full control over pricing, the metered paywall model is still unrefined. Publishers have long struggled with pricing models as print advertising and newspaper subscriptions revenue have declined with online advertising, a cheaper alternative, becoming more popular. In addition, the increasing amount of web users who utilize ad blocking software has already cut into publisher’s existing profits. Publications have shown the digital subscription model can be profitable, but Facebook will be withholding a cut of subscription sales. Plus, Facebook prioritizes video over text, leaving publishers less willing to hand over some of the control of their publishing power.

Referral Traffic



Transparency has been an issue for Facebook as well, leaving publishers questioning to what extent they’ll be able to access reader data and other vital analytics metrics. In addition, Facebook has long suffered an identity crisis as the company shifts and finds balance between its platform roots and its resemblance as a modern media empire. At its current state, Facebook Instant Articles’s barrier to entry is high, which has driven some publishers to use the service as a source of referral traffic, referring users back to the publisher’s main website. Facebook is currently the largest source of referral traffic, according to Business Insider Intelligence.

Publishers are also presented with what they consider better alternatives. For instance, Google has begun offering Accelerated Mobile Pages,in which publishers can manage fast-loading mobile web pages without having to acquire large development teams or staff members with certain specialized skill sets. Opting into Apple News has also become a popular option for many publishers, as it takes advantage of the app’s high-priority placement on iOS devices.

Newspapers and publishers of all sizes have looked to regain control over their revenue streams in order to compensate for the transition period toward a more digital-orientated publication. Local publications have also begun to support their own CMS sites as well as third-party e-Editions. The latter are digital replicas of the print product, built from PDFs and turned into an interactive format that lives on the newspaper’s website. Dirxion allows customers to lock their e-Editions behind a subscription login, allowing only subscribers to access the print pages. Widgets can also be added to e-Editions, giving Dirxion customers the tools to independently sell advertising space to businesses within their local market.

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