Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Could Subscriptions Fix Facebook's Ad Problem?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook
Photo: Facebook/Flickr
It's no secret that organic reach on Facebook is heading towards zero, and the social network is behaving more like a television network these days - a huge reach, compelling content, and all paid for by advertisers.

If your feed is anything like mine, this switch isn't welcome. I used to get ads from brands I liked. Now I get ads for hair replacement products, retirement planning, politicians who live in other states, and gyms (such is the depressing reality of being a thirty-something on Facebook).

Facebook needs to serve up ads to make money. But could the whole experience be better? Yes, by allowing me to pay to opt out.

Facebook should move to a subscription model that allows me to have a delightfully ad-free experience for a small monthly fee. It's puzzling why the big social networks haven't already moved to a freemium model; it's used by almost everyone else. And it could be a big business.

It's also unlikely it would annoy too many advertisers. Younger users probably won't pay, ensuring that brands still have access to the teens and young adults craved by marketers. Facebook could also dial up organic reach to compensate for the loss of a certain chunk of older users behind the paywall.

So Facebook, I'm ready to pay. What do you say?

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