Facebook is working with Apple to test news paywalls on iOS. Starting March 1st, news publishers will be able to utilize their paywalls inside Facebook’s iOS app. Facebook started testing paywalls on Android in October; but at the time it couldn’t come to an agreement with Apple about how subscription revenue would be taxed.

Facebook Is Working with Apple to Test News Paywalls on iOS

Today onstage at Code Media, Facebook’s chief of news partnerships, Campbell Brown, said that publishers needed to give away five free Instant Articles, not 10, so Facebook is turning to that lower threshold as an alternative before asking users to pay, and that involves bringing the test to iOS; this is why Facebook is working with Apple to test news paywalls on iOS.

“We’re working now on a subscription product that we’re moving forward with on iOS on March 1st, which is a breakthrough. We had a hold-up there.” Asked to clarify what changed with Apple, Brown said: “It’s resolved.”
On iOS thankfulness to the new agreement with Apple; when a user goes out of free articles and would hit the paywall; Facebook tells me it will redirect the subscription page on the publisher’s mobile site instead of in Instant Articles. Publishers will get to keep 100 percent of the subscription revenue and the consumer data, while Facebook charges nothing and the mobile web workaround bypasses Apple’s standard 30 percent fee on subscriptions.

This suggests Facebook is getting a sweetheart “deal” to pass on to publishers because usually, Apple forbids apps from including links to their subscription checkout pages to circumvent the 30 percent tax. Facebook describes me it is not paying Apple anything for this. Instead, it says that since the mobile web subscription page auto-loads after you run out of free in-app Instant Articles, you technically never click a link out to the subscription page in the way Apple forbids.

“This was something that Facebook wouldn’t even consider for a long time, so it’s an important step,” Brown said. “We’ve made some changes. We’ve lowered the meter to five articles before you hit the paywall. I’m super excited about the potential here.”

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