It’s a slightly irritating issue: while you’re reading a news article’s excerpt on Facebook and you click through to read the full post, even though you’re subscribing to the press release, you enter the paywall and need to log in manually. Facebook says it is now testing a tool that would help minimize the number of times you need to connect to news pages, enabling news users to connect their Facebook profiles to their subscriptions.
According to Facebook, the aim is to “provide a smoother experience of news consumption on Facebook,” and enable publishers to “deepen their relationships with subscribers.” Here’s how it works: Facebook finds a subscriber from one of its publisher partners and invites the subscriber to add their subscription account to their Facebook account. Every time the reader clicks the publisher’s article link on Facebook, the user won’t have to log in and touch the paywall for the publisher.
Facebook checked the feature with a select community of publishers, which it claims shows potential for collaboration and delivery of the material. During June, test community subscribers who linked up their Facebook subscription pages clicked on 111 percent more posts, the firm said. And until the user ties up their accounts, Facebook says it will bring more material from that particular publisher to the user.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Athletic, and the Winnipeg Free Press checked the feature and made comments that described a “frictionless” user interface for Facebook’s blog post, but it seems a little early to call it a success. Christian Panson, Winnipeg Free Press vice president of multimedia, said in the blog post that one of the most frequent concerns from readers is that they have to log in too often.
In June, Facebook released its News tab for US users, with plans to pay for the participating publishers. Facebook wanted publishers to follow its expectations of honesty and have a broad enough audience to participate as a partner. It said that it would rely on fact-checkers from third parties to review posts for clickbait and copyright infringement, as well as sensationalist content. It said it was aiming to extend the News tab to other countries last week, but on the timetable it was a little ambiguous, saying it would be within “six months to a year.”
It wouldn’t be shocking if news outlets were skeptical of getting into another Facebook deal, since the track record with news and how it handles outlets isn’t the best. In recent years it has launched many enormous news programs, including its Instant Posts, and its News Feed algorithm is widely criticized for siphoning ad revenue particularly away from local news. Facebook eventually deprioritized the categories of content produced by the accounts to support friends and family content.
In its new blog post, Facebook says it would add more publisher partners and is “actively working on an approach that will enable subscribers to start the account linking process directly on publisher websites.