Facebook is trying to make it easier for users to access their news subscriptions from the social media platform without multiple logins. Facebook has built a new account linking tool that reduces the number of times a user has to log in to news sites by connecting the news sites to a user’s Facebook account, reports The Verge. Goals of the feature include better engagement with subscribers and an opportunity for Facebook followers to see more articles from news subscriptions they have subscribed to. Another benefit seems to be that Facebook is attempting to collaborate with, rather than compete against, news publishers.
The new feature is part of Facebook’s Journalism Project and, in an August 28 blog post, the social media platform said it has been working with publishers around the world to test the feature and early results are encouraging.
“The goal is to help publishers deepen their relationships with subscribers, and to provide a better news consumption experience on Facebook for those subscribers. One significant update is persistent login. Once implemented, linked subscribers will not meet paywalls when accessing articles from Facebook, and won’t be asked to sign-in repeatedly — a common pain point many subscribers and publishers face today,” wrote Stephen Largen, product marketing manager for Facebook.
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Engagement with linked news subscriptions is increasing
According to Largen, in June, subscribers in the test group who had linked their news subscriptions with their Facebook accounts had on average 111% more article clicks than those not in the test group. The experiment also drove more news subscribers to follow their subscription publishers on Facebook. Through June, publishers’ Facebook followers grew from 34% to more than 97% among subscribers who had linked their accounts.
“Publishers in all world regions are building sustainable, enduring relationships with loyal readers,” said David Grant, program manager for the Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator program. “Through account linking, we hope that Facebook can be a powerful extension of those efforts, helping news organizations drive deeper subscriber engagement and bring more paying readers to their high-quality journalism, which is the foundation of keeping communities informed and connected.”
Publishers test the new feature
One of the publishers who has participated in the test is The Athletic, a specialized, subscription-based, online-only sports publisher.
“Account linking with Facebook has offered a convenient, easy way for The Athletic’s subscribers to access our in-depth storytelling while they are spending time on their favorite social media platform. This enhances the experience for our subscribers, keeping them engaged with The Athletic and up-to-date on their favorite teams, leagues and players,” said Charlotte Winthrop, vice president of product marketing for The Athletic.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Winnipeg Free Press have also been among the test group of publishers, both citing positive results. The AJC has seen increased readership and engagement, while the Winnipeg Free Press has been able to reduce friction between their website and subscribers who get frustrated with repeated logins.
Facebook cited additional ways where they can test the subscriber accounting linking tool:
- Adding new partners and publishers to the testing process
- Measuring subscriber retention related to account linking
- Testing new opportunities for subscribers to link their accounts, such as through Facebook News
We can see the benefit to publishers who are looking for better ways to engage their subscribers and to reduce barriers to subscriptions or accessing content. It is a win-win if the publishers and Facebook are working together to achieve those goals, and they are both satisfied with the results. For years, Facebook has said they want to work with publishers, not compete against them. If their efforts are genuine and mutually beneficial, we hope this experiment is successful.
That said, I would be the exception to the rule. I subscribe to four online newspapers, two national and two local. I only ever access one of the local publications from within Facebook because I have it marked as a “see first” preference, and it makes me log in every single time. I have my login saved through my anti-virus software, so this isn’t an issue for me. If I want to know what The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Seattle Times are reporting, I go directly to their websites. I don’t look for or access their articles from within Facebook, and I don’t see that habit changing. Facebook already knows plenty about me. I don’t want to give them more data to track my movements or interests.