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Ways Facebook’s Libra could help publishers monetize with micropayments

Facebook’s forthcoming crypto,Libra, could conceivably become a way for Facebook to support publishers and other content creators by enabling micropayments from users, per NiemanLab. Publishers won’t be the first or the biggest beneficiary if Facebook’s crypto plans succeed, but the platform could still usher in a new monetization model for them.
In March, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the platform would create a separate section for news content where publishers would be able to make money, and where it’s conceivable that Libra could eventually facilitate transactions on paywalled or otherwise restricted news content. Here’s what a Libra-based micropayments model might look like:

  • Users browsing the site or apps who come across a paywalled news item that they’re interested in would have the option of paying for access in Libra, on a per-item basis.
  • Facebook might take a cut of that fee, similar to the 30% cut it takes from creator subscriptions sold through its Patreon competitor called Fan Subscriptions.
  • At scale, these micropayments could accrue to a meaningful revenue stream for publishers. 

And here’s how Facebook currently enables publisher monetization:

  • Posts. Publishers don’t earn ad revenue on articles that they distribute on the site, but they generate ad revenue through referral traffic, meaning when people click out to their sites, where they host ads.
  • Instant Articles. Although most publishers have abandoned it due to underwhelming monetization, Facebook’s tool to encourage publishers to post content natively to the site provides several routes to revenue, including display ads (publishers keep 100% of the revenue generated from ads sold by their own teams) and branded content. Facebook recently announced that it’s adding even more monetization options to Instant Articles, including subscriptions and a tool called News Funding. But so far, publishers reports  that these products haven’t meaningfully converted subs. 
  • Video. Publishers earn a 55% cut of ad revenue from Facebook’s pre-roll and mid-roll ads that run on their video content, but Facebook only plays ads at the 60-second mark in a video, while Facebook counts a view as 3 seconds of viewing. In order to make money, publisher video must generate views at scale, for longer than a minute.

A potential hurdle would be whether users would actually respond to a paradigm in which they’re asked to pay small fees to access content. In the same way that it remains to be seen whether Facebook’s pervasive trust problems will stand in the way of widespread Libra adoption, it’s an open question as to whether users would want to pay for content in this way.One lever for Facebook to pull would be ease-of-use if it can make Libra a simple, built-in way to pay, more users will likely consider using it. But pricing would be paramount: For example, it’s unlikely that a user would pay $1 for access to an article, but they might be willing to pay something nominal, like $0.10 per item.One could compare this paradigm to iTunes, which enabled users to purchase a single song for $0.99 — but that price point also reflected replay value and a likely more specific desire. In contrast, it’s unlikely that a user would continue returning to an archive of articles purchased on Facebook.But as publishers double down on subscription models and paywalls become more common, non-subscribing users could theoretically be convinced to pay on a one-off basis for highly desirable content, like a New Yorker feature. 

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