Apple and Facebook at Odds Due to Disagreements Over Instant Articles and Subscriptions

Facebook Instant Articles live

Facebook has a plan to let publishers put a paywall around Instant Articles, but it looks like that sort of option won’t be available on iOS right away.

According to a report from Recode, Apple and Facebook are currently at odds over discussions regarding Instant Articles and paywalls. Specifically, Facebook has a plan to let publishers monetize their Instant Articles, which are geared towards being a speedy way for Facebook users to read articles within the social network’s mobile app. They will be able to choose different monetization options, including blocking individual articles behind a paywall that readers will need to pay to bypass.

“That tool will allow publishers to use two kinds of paywalls around “Instant Articles” that Facebook hosts on its mobile apps — a “metered” version, which turns on after Facebook users have read 10 of the publisher’s articles in a month, and a “freemium” version, where publishers can put paywalls around individual articles.”

Facebook reportedly wants to give all of the subscription revenue to those publishers, which would be a good reason for publishers to adopt Instant Articles. However, there’s a bit of a hiccup in the way that those paywalls are paid. Facebook isn’t charging customers through its app. Instead, Facebook will send readers to the publisher’s website, where they will need to pay them directly to access the content. As a result, Facebook doesn’t see this as an in-app subscription model — because it’s not charging its users directly.

Apple doesn’t see it that way, and, as a result, it still feels like Facebook should have to pay the 30% cut for the first 12 months. According to the report, Facebook and Apple have been going back-and-forth with these talks for months now, with no end in sight at the moment. So, Facebook is simply moving forward and launching the new Instant Articles paywall options for publishers on Android:

“People familiar with both companies say they’ve been discussing the impasse for months. In the meantime, Facebook says it is rolling out a version of the subscription tool that will work on Android phones in the next few weeks; it says it will work with publishers including the Washington Post, Hearst and Tron”

All that being said, Facebook is optimistic that this particular publisher-friendly feature will be available on all mobile platforms in the future:

“We know subscriptions are an important business model for many in the news industry, that’s why we’ve been working hand-in-hand with publishers to create a product that will drive real value for them. We’re committed to this effort and optimistic that we’ll launch a test on all mobile platforms soon.”

It’s worth noting that Facebook also supports Apple News, which is similar in scope and idea to Facebook’s own Instant Articles. Whether or not these issues with Facebook’s own in-house efforts get sorted out soon remains to be seen.

[via Recode]

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