Would you pay for Facebook if it didn’t have ads? What if that subscription offered better privacy?
Facebook is reportedly conducting research on an ad-free Facebook subscription. Here’s Sarah Frier, writing for Bloomberg:
Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has long considered such an alternative—not to replace the social network’s business model, but to remove a common reason people give for leaving the service. Internal company research in past years concluded consumers wouldn’t be receptive to a subscription option, seeing it as Facebook being greedy and asking for money for something it said would always be free, the people said.
Now, Facebook thinks consumer sentiment may be changing.
To be clear Facebook has made no public announcement about such a feature. But the framing given for the feature above is telling: Zuckerberg sees it as a way to keep people concerned about privacy from leaving
Facebook is valuable because basically everyone is on Facebook. The vast majority of Facebook users would never pay for a subscription, but some people really are concerned enough about their privacy to leave, and that makes Facebook less valuable. Offering a subscription without ads might give them a way to stay, meaning it potentially helps Facebook even if only a tiny percentage of users pay up.
Online privacy is becoming a luxury. Affordable Android phones track you on Google’s behalf, for example, while expensive iPhones do not. Facebook’s subscription service could be similar: a way for people to buy a little bit of privacy, if they can afford it.
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