Facebook publishes results of News Subscription linking for users

Facebook has started a pilot program that allows users to link their news subscriptions to avoid multiple logins while reading news articles on the app.

Social media giant Facebook has been testing a new news subscription feature that allows users to link their accounts to their news subscriptions in order to avoid repetitive logins while reading news articles on Facebook.

The pilot program has been running since last year. Publications such as The Winnipeg Free Press, The Athletic, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution are part of the program. The feature will support article links to news outlets’ websites along with those posted on the Facebook app through the Instant Articles feature.

Instant Articles feature

Facebook’s Instant Articles feature allows publications to collaborate with the company to post complete articles on the app. When a publication chooses an article under the feature, the user will be able to see the entire article on the Facebook app. The new subscription feature allows all articles to load completely within the app.

Major news websites now have their own subscription model for users to access articles. This trend started due to falling revenues and increasing the cost of news production. However, users who access articles through the new feature on Facebook’s app won’t meet paywalls.

Facebook’s goal

“The goal is to help publishers deepen their relationships with subscribers and to provide a better news consumption experience on Facebook for those subscribers. One significant update is a persistent login. Once implemented, linked subscribers will not meet paywalls when accessing articles from Facebook, and won’t be asked to sign-in repeatedly—a common pain point many subscribers and publishers face today,” wrote Facebook product marketing manager Stephen Largen in a blog post.

Largen further added that the early results of the pilot program are promising both for increased subscriber engagement and content distribution. Publications that participated under the test program saw 111 percent more clicks on articles from subscribed users.

Facebook subscribers will now see more news stories from their subscribed publications in the Facebook News experience. The company is working on additional subscriber features for publications to expand the model later on.

The process

The linking of the news subscription feature has been convoluted as of now. First, publishers have to upload a list of their subscribers, then match them to their Facebook accounts. Once the matching is done, subscribers will receive a notification on their Facebook page that they can link their accounts.

A Facebook spokesperson said that at present that’s the only way to link users’ accounts. However, Facebook is working on developing a new way where subscribers can initiate the account-linking process through websites of publications.

“People have account and password fatigue and so it is not surprising that one of our most common reader complaints is that they have to log in too often, and of course when it happens they do not remember their user name or password.”

Christian Panson, VP of digital at Winnipeg Free Press, one of the publications taking part in the test program

“We’re testing new places for subscribers to link their accounts within the Facebook app, such as within Facebook News.” Facebook launched the ‘News Tab’ in June along with other features such as ‘Instant Articles’, News Feed algorithm to help publishers generate more revenue. However, the track record of the company with news and its relation with publications isn’t great.

Facebook’s news feature will be expanding to the UK, Germany, India, France, and Brazil. Many publications are now focusing on the News tab to increase their viewership, but not all publications can join the feature. Facebook has set a variety of rules such as that of minimum viewership. This may hurt local news players with decreased readership, but Facebook has also launched a ‘Local News Subscription Accelerator’. 

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