In the wake of Facebook’s data-privacy scandal, Bloomberg reports that the company has been conducting market research to gauge whether consumers would choose to pay for an ad-free subscription service. This would allow users of Facebook to opt-out of sharing their personal data with Facebook and would remove any and all advertising from their news feeds.
The ad-free subscription model is nothing new to the media landscape. With the advent of ad-blocking technology cutting into the incentive for traditional advertising buys, many publishers who depended on advertising were forced to offer ad-free subscription options in order to keep revenue coming in. The music industry is no different — with paid subscriptions across Spotify and Pandora, for instance, to remove ads from users feeds.
Maybe one of the most interesting cases is that of YouTube Red, YouTube’s music offering which delivers an ad-free experience (and other perks) to listeners for ten dollars a month. It’s also begun to introduce televisions shows, like the Karate Kid reboot, in an attempt to start competing with Netflix, HBO, Hulu and other “over-the-top” television and digital video providers.
What’s unique about YouTube is the fact that you can’t currently pay to remove pre-roll videos and other video advertisements from YouTube itself – but you can with YouTube Red. This is a risky move for the company, since consumers who pay for the feature might come to expect that from YouTube itself. An article that came out this month in Verge delves deeper into the mind of someone who went through the same experience.
Will consumers agree to pay for an ad-free subscription to a social network that is synonymous with being a free service? And will they do so for a company that’s already reaping value from these consumers in the form of personal information? While the answers to these questions remain to be seen, I’m of the opinion that the answers will overwhelmingly be “no.” A recent poll by Reuters showed Facebook is still the most popular social network among users, and the numbers don’t show any lasting damage from the latest #DeleteFacebook scandal.
In a world where media companies are vying for our dollars at every turn, the likelihood that consumers will start paying for a service that they already deem “free” and doesn’t offer any original content (like a Netflix or Spotify) is slim.
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