Imagine a social platform where you could connect with the people and the information that’s important to you, minus the spam, the sleaze, and the intrusive advertising. Sounds great, right?
Now imagine paying that service around $7.63 a month. That’s how much it’s estimated that Facebook would have to charge its users for an ad-free experience. Would you pay it? According to Debra Aho Williamson of eMarketer, not many of us would.
“Facebook recently conducted market research to evaluate whether consumers would pay for an ad-free subscription version of its social media platform, according to a Bloomberg report in May,” Williamson reports.
“But just 23% of consumers surveyed in April by Recode and online survey company Toluna said they would be willing to pay for an ad-free Facebook,” she continues.
The idea of a paid, ad-free subscription service is being bandied about in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the fake news fiasco, and increasing consumer concerns over personal digital privacy.
While Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg has publicly floated the possibility, her boss is not on board.
“We think that ads [are] a great business model that is aligned with our mission. We want to build a service that can help connect everyone around the world, so we want to offer that service for free and have it be affordable—and that’s completely aligned with what we’re trying to do,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Q1 earnings call.
In other words, when you’re on Facebook (and even when you’re not, since they track your browsing even without an account), you are working for Facebook. Even so, time spent on the site continues to grow, although it’s slowed among adult users, and is dropping off quickly among younger users.
“We estimate [adult users] will spend an average of 42 minutes per day on Facebook, up 1.8% from 2017. That’s slower than the growth of 3.6% and 6.0% in the previous two years,” Williamson writes in the eMarketer report.
Meanwhile, users in the U.S. are rapidly clamping down on access to their data.
“Thomson Reuters found that 44% of Facebook users polled in April had recently changed their privacy settings,” Williamson notes. “When asked why they were sharing less with friends and followers, 80% said it was because they had heard negative stories in the media, and 47% said they had privacy concerns,”
So what would it cost to move to a subscription service? The eMarketer report gives the breakdown across several ad-supported platforms:
Given that this would make Facebook and the other platforms compete with actual media organizations for users, it’s hardly likely that a subscription-based model would be anywhere near as lucrative as their advertising revenue. So don’t hold your breath. Of course, if the data flow is strangled, that could change.
Would you pay for Facebook? Or are there better things you’d do with that money – and that time?