Facebook to test subscription news service -- with paywall

The social media giant plans to test a paywall that would cut off nonsubscribers after they access 10 articles.

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Steven Musil
2 min read

News on Facebook may soon cost you.

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If you're used to getting the bulk of your news from Facebook , your news consumption habits may be about to change.

The world's largest social media platform is testing the waters for a subscription-based news product, Campbell Brown, the head of news partnerships at Facebook, said Tuesday at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit in New York. Plans for the service, including erecting a paywall that would cut off nonsubscribers after they had accessed 10 articles, were first reported by TheStreet, which was in attendance at the industry conference.

"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. "And that is something we're doing now. We are launching a subscription product."

As readers have increasingly gone online for their news, newspapers have suffered declining subscriber numbers and lower advertising revenue, resulting in a dramatic industry contraction. Newspaper publishers and the Associated Press have long blamed Google and other news aggregation sites for their woes, leading to threats that they will delist their content and begin charging online readers.

Facebook plans to begin testing the metered approach later this year, built on top of its Instant Articles feature, a source familiar with the proposal told CNET. The payment process is still being worked out, but If publishers are pleased with test results, the program could be expanded in 2018, the source said.

Facebook confirmed it's in "early talks" with several news publishers about subscription news models.

"As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we are taking the time to work closely together with our partners and understand their needs," Brown said in a statement.

The idea of a paywall has been in the works for a while and is aimed at appeasing news organizations that complain they have little control over their articles on Facebook, Brown reportedly said at the conference.

The plan doesn't sound too different from the approach many US newspapers have taken in regard to digital content. Major newspapers such as The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have instituted metered pay plans in which readers have access to a limited number of free articles before being invited to subscribe.

Updated at 8:15 p.m. PT with Facebook statement.

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