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Facebook’s Testing a New Way to Help Publishers Maintain Connection with Paying Subscribers



With news organizations looking for more ways to generate revenue from online readers, as the COVID-19 crisis forces more jobs cuts and publication closures across the industry, Facebook is now testing a new option that would enable a publishers’ subscribers to link their Facebook account to the publication, so that they could view the publishers content direct from Facebook, without paywalls or being asked to sign-in to a separate service.

As reported by TechCrunch:

The idea is that when Facebook identifies a subscriber from one of its publisher partners, that subscriber will be invited to link their news account to their Facebook account. Once they’re linked, if they encounter a paywalled article on Facebook, they’ll be able to read it without hitting the paywall or having to log-in again.”

That could provide another way for publishers to maintain connection with their audience, while Facebook says that it would also look to show subscribers more content from the publishers they’re subscribed to, another key incentive for potential partners.

Facebook has been trying for years to develop better tools to help publishers maintain connection with their audience, after criticism that by acting as the middleman, Facebook takes all the benefits of such connection, leaving publishers with limited data and/or connection options to continue to generate revenue from their audience.

Back in 2017, Facebook tested out a new subscription option within Instant Articles to further incentivize use of the option, which sees articles load faster using Facebook’s tools. 

Facebook subscriptions

Facebook expanded that program in 2018, but given limitations in the process, and the lack of direct connection with the audience, Instant Articles haven’t provided the solution that Facebook had hoped when it first launched the option.

The key concern publishers have is that Facebook has a history of changing the rules, and severely impacting their reach and performance. Originally, publishers on Facebook could build an audience, and reach all of them with their content, but Facebook’s continual algorithm shifts have restricted such further and further, which has made many skeptical of the company’s later advances to build stronger ties with publishing groups.

If you rely too much on Facebook, you can lose it all at its whim. Given the history, you can see why publishers are pushing hard to institute more direct connection options before they sign-up.


Will this proposal be any different?

It doesn’t seem like the ultimate solution, but it may be another step in the right direction. Facebook is also working to expand its dedicated News tab, into more regions, which also includes advanced partner deals to share data and connection options. It’s hard to predict how successful that will be, or how beneficial it will be for publishers, but by facilitating new deals like this, Facebook could be getting closer to finding a better arrangement to ensure that news publishers can feel secure in working with the platform, without the risk of losing all that work at the next algorithm tweak.

On the one hand, Facebook offers massive reach, which is enough of a lure to get many interested in its offerings. On the other, significant risk, with respect to audience connection.

Facebook still has some work to do to mend the wounds of the past in this respect, but maybe, through smarter, direct linked options like this, it’s getting closer to a more equitable solution.



Instagram Tests Out New Ad Options, Including Explore Placement and Interactive AR Displays



Instagram Tests Out New Ad Options, Including Explore Placement and Interactive AR Displays

As we head into the holiday shopping push, Instagram has announced that it’s testing out some new ad options, in the hopes of maximizing its revenue intake, while also providing new opportunities for brands.

Though I can’t imagine that these will be entirely popular additions with users.

First off, Instagram’s adding new ads into Explore, with the first page of Explore now set to feature a new ad unit in the content feed.

As you can see in this example, that’s a pretty big ad. Instagram hasn’t clarified if all of these new Explore ads will be featured as prominently as this, but the option will provide another means to reach IG users ‘in the earliest stages of discovering new content they care about’.

It could be a good consideration, with a chance to get your products featured in the main discovery feed in the app.

Instagram’s also testing ads in profile feed – ‘which is the feed experience that people can scroll through after visiting another account’s profile and tapping on a post’.

So now, if you check out someone’s profile, and tap on a post, you’ll also be eligible to be served ads in that dedicated stream of their content, essentially inserting ads into another surface in the app.


Instagram’s also looking into whether this option could also be used as a monetization opportunity for creators, as that activity will be tied back to an individual profile and content.

Instagram’s also testing what it’s calling ‘Multi-Advertiser Ads’, which will display more promotions from similar businesses to users after they’ve engaged with an ad.

Instagram ad updates

As per Instagram:

“When a person expresses commercial intent by engaging with an ad, we deliver more ads from other businesses that may be of interest, powered by machine learning.”

So Instagram’s looking to push even more related businesses at you, stacking ads upon ads. I don’t know how effective that will be, but in theory, it could get your brand in front of interested users based on previous ad engagement.

Finally, Instagram’s also launched an open beta of its AR Ads, which will be available in both feed and Stories in the app.

Instagram ads update

As you can see here, Instagram’s AR ads, built in its Spark AR platform, will invite users to interact with their ad content, which could also include positioning virtual furniture in their home, or test driving a car in the app.

Which Meta also says will help brands align with future engagement shifts:

“By giving businesses tools to create more personalized and immersive experiences today we’ll help them drive performance and prepare for the metaverse.”

I mean, AR and the metaverse, which is largely VR-based (going on the examples we’ve seen thus far) are not the same thing, but the creation of 3D objects will play a part in that next stage, and could help to advance your thinking on ad approaches.


These are some interesting ad considerations, but they’ll also see a lot more promotions being squeezed into your Instagram feeds, which, as noted, likely won’t be welcomed by users.

But with parent company Meta under rising pressure, Instagram has to do its part. And while leaning into further Reels, and forcing in more ads, may not be a great play, long-term, the usage and engagement data will ultimately tell the tale.

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