Facebook to sell subscriptions to paywall-protected news websites through its mobile app, sources claim

Facebook is creating a feature that will allow news websites sat behind a paywall to sell subscriptions directly to users via its mobile app, inside sources have claimed.

The new feature will provide users of the social network with access to a limited number of articles per month before they are sold a subscription, company insiders told the Wall Street Journal.

It could be ready by the end of the year but is likely to only be available through Facebook’s Instant Articles platform.

The move follows criticism of the social network’s harmful impact on the news industry’s health. Facebook and Google are estimated to be taking about half of the UK’s online advertising revenue – forecast to rise to 71 per cent by 2020, according to analysts OC&C.

It also comes as Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign has been calling on the web giants to stop destroying journalism and give publishers a fairer deal for using their content.

The Times reported sources at Facebook as saying the company had acknowledged “the increasing importance of a subscription business model in supporting the high-quality journalism that contributes to the informed communities we all care about”.

The move will be welcome news for publications like the Spectator, who use a metered paywall as part of their business model, but it’s not clear how publications behind hard paywalls, such as the Times, will benefit.

Instant Articles loads stories from registered publishers within the Facebook app, reducing loading times and offering space for advertising.

British news companies signed up to Instant Articles include the likes of the BBC, Telegraph, Mirror, Sky News, Daily Mail and Sun.

David Kirkpatrick, of industry website Marketing Dive, said in a post: “Many details of how Facebook’s new feature will work are still up in the air, but the move would be a step towards addressing some publisher concerns.”

Facebook recently announced it was expanding a new initiative to include advertising at the bottom of Instant Articles to include all publishers.

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