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Facebook To Start Charging Users For Published Content

Facebook’s head of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said Wednesday (July 19) the social media giant will soon start charging users for accessing published content on its platforms.

According to an interview with TheStreet.com, Brown said the company will start testing a subscription-based news product in October. The feature will reportedly be built on Instant Articles with its users given access to 10 free stories before facing a paywall. The feature would also steer users to the publisher’s website to start a subscription.

“One of the things we heard in our initial meetings from many newspapers and digital publishers is ‘We want a subscription product — we want to be able to see a paywall in Facebook,'” Brown said at the Digital Publishing Innovation Summit, an industry conference covered by TheStreet.com. “And that is something we’re doing now. We are launching a subscription product.”

Brown also noted the paywall has been in the works for some time and will include metered plans. It is designed to keep publishers happy — especially those who have recently complained about the lack of money they are making off of Facebook.

Earlier this month, newspaper companies announced via an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal they are gearing up to seek permission from Congress to collectively negotiate with the internet giants when it comes to how their content is used on social media sites. Antitrust laws on the books currently prevent companies from banding together to negotiate, but in this case, they are hoping lawmakers will overlook the rules given the dominance of both Google and Facebook in online advertising.  

“Google and Facebook dominate web traffic and online ad income,” said David Chavern, president and chief executive of the News Media Alliance, in the op-ed piece. “Together, they account for more than 70 percent of the $73 billion spent each year on digital advertising, and they eat up most of the growth. Nearly 80 percent of all online referral traffic comes from Google and Facebook. This is an immensely profitable business.”

But the two digital giants don’t employ reporters: They do not dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones or attend the prior night’s game to get the highlights. They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them. The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together.

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