Facebook has announced that news sites which rely on paid subscriptions, limiting readers to a certain number of articles per week, will now be able to do so through Instant Articles. The company has spent the last two years promoting these Facebook-hosted versions of articles, which unfortunately lacked this rather critical ability. Google’s AMP and Apple News have supported it for a while.
News organizations, which have been asking Facebook for this for some time, will get to keep 100 percent of the revenue generated by subscriptions originating from Instant Articles. Anything less wouldn’t be competitive and would only drive participants away. You’ll be directed to the news site’s own subscription process, not some Facebook thing.
“Quality journalism costs money to produce, and we want to make sure it can thrive on Facebook,” read a statement from Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships. On Facebook is right: Instant Articles, like AMP and Apple News, are a great way for internet heavyweights to throw their weight around.
The ability to serve content faster than where it originated is the privilege of the platform on which people find it. Facebook, Google, and Apple have all been exploiting this privilege, which, while it does lower load times, is not conducive to a single, standardized web. And it deepens content providers’ dependence on those platforms — which in turn increases the latter’s leverage. Not good.
It’s nice that Facebook is adding this feature, since without it Instant Articles were essentially back doors to paywalled content (okay, we all used the old “google the headline” trick, but still). But ultimately these programs are pretty much just a bad idea — a long game to exert more control over the web at the cost of competitors and content providers. But they’re a reality, so we just have to deal with it.
That said, if you want to support “quality journalism,” your best bet is to cut out the middle man and go directly to the source: the news sites themselves.