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Facebook Is Now Letting Some Groups Charge Monthly Subscription Fees

SEAMUS BYRNE, /BEYOND
27 JUN 2018

Would you pay to access Facebook?

It's one of the classic questions in the midst of privacy and data misuse scandals, as users learn more about the delicate tightrope walk of giving up information in exchange for free use of the world's dominant social network.

 

But now the concept is being put to the test as part of a new pilot initiative around Facebook's Groups system.

In a company blog post, Alex Deve, Product Director of Groups at Facebook, said they're eager to support the admins of groups that run groups valuable enough for folks out there to want to pay for access.

"Many admins do this today by creating an additional subscribers-only group that sits alongside their existing group, and rely on additional tools to track and collect payments. Subscription groups were created to make it easier for admins to provide these experiences with built-in tools, and to save them time so they can focus on offering members-only content."

The pilot is running with a few hand picked groups to kick things off. Examples offered were a 'Declutter My Home' group, a group for prepping kids for college, and a meal planning group.

While the post did not go into detail on how group admins set pricing, the screenshot offered showed the declutter group with a $14.99 per month price point. But according to The Verge, pricing will be offered at a range from $4.99 to $29.99.

 

The Verge also reports that Facebook will not take a cut of the subscription fee - for now. But if someone signs up through mobile platforms, Apple or Google will take their usual percentage of the fee.

As with paywalled news services, it would seem likely that only a very small percentage of users will opt into a paid version when free alternatives are available.

But the very concept of trialling this must surely be seen as a win for community groups of all kinds. A community needs to be available in the easiest space possible for their target interest groups to come together.

The effort to launch some separate service outside Facebook won't necessarily bridge the effort gap required to build regular interaction and, ultimately, value for users.

If Facebook can support an environment where people feel their money gets them the value they're looking for, and community organisers can get enough income to put more work into managing and curating their communities, we start to see a Facebook that looks more like the positive version we're starting to wish it had been in the first place.

 

No doubt, at some point, Facebook will want its cut of the revenue. But again, wouldn't we rather be part of a Facebook that sees its users as its core customer - and not the advertisers?

Of course, the more cynical view may be that Facebook could have it both ways. If we're already used to the ads and the data collection, why would they remove that even in the areas we're also paying for access?

But, thankfully, with a lot of push back from users and from authorities this year, perhaps this could be the start of a bigger shift.

But that would only be the case if users are truly prepared to put their money where their data lives.

/Beyond is ScienceAlert's new section covering the wider world of gadgets, games, and digital culture.