Facebook Paid: A Way To Give Back?

In April, Recode conducted a survey through Toluna to understand how much people would pay for Facebook without ads, if they had the option.  While results showed 77% would NOT pay for an ad-free version of Facebook, 23% said they would pay not to have ads show up on their newsfeeds. Recode’s data also showed 41.6% of respondents would pay $1-$5 to be ad free. I’m no math major, but if 23% of Facbook’s 2 billion users paid $1 each to not be served ads Facebook would make about $460,000,000.  Not chump change by any means. If you’re Facebook, what do you do with this money, besides the obvious? I’ve got some ideas.

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During his lengthy Senate testimony earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg said, “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.” This comment was a departure from previous statements that the platform would always be free to users.  Just days before, Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO said, “we feel very strongly that an ad-based product, which is free for people – the same way TV is, the same way radio is—is really important.” Zuckerberg may have made the statement to allow Facebook some wiggle room should they decide, in the future, that a paid version is necessary.

The idea that users would pay to not be served ads is not unreasonable.  There are many online platforms, mainly streaming services, that allow users a paid option that allows them to opt out of receiving ads. However, allowing members to escape these pesky interruptions could prove economically detrimental to Facebook. Particularly since, as a free service, Facebook’s source of revenue comes solely from marketer’s ad placements.

This story would be a non-story had the whole Cambridge Analytica issues had not surfaced and shown a huge vulnerability to consumers in how their data can be used. Facebook is not the first consumer focused company to sell “access” to its customer.  It’s the very reason we all receive tons of junk mail, spam emails, phone calls from the “IRS,” and seem to hear and see ads that know exactly when we were looking to purchase a new refrigerator.  But, with so much scrutiny, what is Facebook to do?

Well, here’s an idea. What if Facebook used the ad opt-out fees to amp up their efforts to give back to the community.  Here are a few options:

  1. Donate proceeds to organizations like a Donor’s Choose (a platform that allows organizations to donate to schools across the country based on specific classroom needs requested by teachers.). The schools would be selected through a monthly or annual crowd-sourcing program.
  2. Annual donations to STEM education programs that reach pre-kindergarten giving them access to STEM learning in preparation prior to beginning their formal education.
  3. Work with community colleges to establish webinars/online courses to teach seniors (or anyone interested) how to navigate Facebook security settings so they learn how to protect their data.


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