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Imagining an Ad-Free Facebook Subscription

Even before the Zuckerberg Cambridge Analytica hearing, the idea of Facebook offering an ad-free subscription model would pop up now and again. Surrounding the recent controversy, that idea has been more widely toyed with. On the Today Show Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said an ad-free Facebook would cost. Zuckerberg, who maintains that “there will always be a free version of Facebook”, seems to be more open to the idea than he has been in the past which leaves users and advertisers wondering “could Facebook offer an ad-free subscription model?”. Senior strategist Vanessa Williams and I put our heads together and had a conversation imagining what a subscription model might mean for the future of the platform.

Ryan: Do you think brand content will be shown to subscribers at all?

Vanessa: Personally, I could see that as a major detractor to subscribers if not. Facebook is a place where users go to follow brands, I would hope that this continues for those who do want to see this kind of content and interact with brands. This could potentially bolster an organic strategy.

V: Do you think that a subscription model will result in an opportunity for revitalizing organic content strategies?

R: If subscribers are still opting in to see brands, there will be less competition from ads in the news feed, so it might not be as “pay to play” with this demographic. I could see an organic strategy becoming more viable for that audience.

R: How do we think the non-subscription users will behave?

V: I would bet they might be less engaged with Facebook and there could even be an element of resentment for the ads they see as they’re unable to or unwilling to pay for a subscription model.

V: What do you think will happen to ad buying on a version of Facebook that has the subscription option?

R: I think that bidding costs will increase, as there will be fewer newsfeeds to show ads in. I also think there will likely be a divide in demographics that can be targeted to, especially when it comes to income and location.

V: Yeah, I agree, I would think that people in lower income households might be less likely to pay for a subscription, in the same vein, the geographic makeup will likely shift as well.

V: How much would you pay?

R: No more than $5. The subscription model would have to add a lot of additional features and promise to deliver the information I really want to see. How much would you pay?

V: Maybe $5-10/month. I would be interested to see if the cost justified the experience. If it didn’t, I would likely stick to the free version.

How much would you pay? Would you pay? Let us know in the comments.

If you’re wondering what Facebook should do with the money they would get from a subscription platform, Deidre Bounds has a few thoughts. If you’re wondering what you should do with your money on Facebook, contact us and we’d be happy to help answer that question as well.

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