Facebook Mulls Advert-Free Subscription Model

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Would you pay to use Facebook if it carried no adverts? Facebook executives reportedly ponder the option

Senior management at Facebook is reportedly considering whether an advert free version paid by subscriptions would tempt more people to join.

The social networking giant has reportedly been conducting market research in recent weeks on this in an effort to gauge the reaction of people.

It comes after CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared to hint at such a possibility when he was grilled for two days by various US Congress committee’s in April about the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal.

Zuckerberg Facebook -Shutterstock - © Kobby Dagan

Paid subscriptions?

And now it is being reported that there is an internal internal debate at Facebook over whether users will pay to avoid adverts.

To this end, Facebook has been conducting market research in recent weeks to determine whether an ad-free version paid by subscriptions would spur more people to join the social network, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

It said that Facebook has previously considered such an option alongside its existing free (but advert heavy) service, but now there’s more internal momentum to pursue it in light of Facebook’s recent privacy data scandal, the people said.

However, it should be stressed that these plans are not solid and may not happen, the sources said. These sources remain unidentified because the discussions are private.

Facebook has also declined to comment on the possibility of a subscription-based ad-free service.

Adverts are the lifeblood for Facebook, as the social networking giant generated virtually all its $41bn in revenue last year by selling ads targeted with user data.

Last month Chief Operating Officer (COO) Sheryl Sandberg admitted that the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal had resulted in a “few” advertisers pausing their spending with Facebook as a result of the controversy.

Outside chance

And the chances of a paid for Facebook option with no adverts remains a very remote possibility, as previous internal research has suggested that consumers would see it as Facebook being greedy and asking for money for something it said would always be free.

Yet Zuckerberg himself appeared to suggest that a paid-for model could be option during his congressional testimony last month.

Zuckerberg left the door open for a subscription option. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,’’ he said.

Facebook meanwhile is facing a number of official investigations around the world as a result of the data harvesting scandal, including the US FTC and the UK’s Information Commissioners Office.

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