Facebook’s spat with Apple is over as the site gears up to roll out paywalls on iOS

Facebook has resolved a disagreement with Apple about how paywalls should factor into the social network’s app on iOS, resulting in a model that should give publishers 100% of subscription revenues.

Facebook’s spat with Apple is over as the site gears up to roll out paywalls on iOS

While Facebook has previously experimented with a publisher subscription page on Android, there had been a hold-up in rolling this feature into iOS due to a disagreement over Apple’s tax on subscriptions.

According to TechCrunch, the deal means that when a user runs out of free articles from paywalled sites via Facebook Instant Articles, the app will load the subscription page on the publisher’s mobile website. This means publishers will get to keep 100% of the subscription revenue, with no charge from Facebook and no subscription fee from Apple.

Apple typically charges a 30% fee for subscriptions bought inside native apps, and would normally forbid apps from loading subscription pages on publishers’ websites as a workaround. It’s not clear how the dispute was settled, but it looks as if this fee has been circumvented.

Speaking at the Code Media event in California, Facebook executive Campbell Brown said the dispute with Apple had been “resolved”, and that the number of free articles viewed before sending a user to a paywall has been reduced to five. These changes are expected to roll out 1 March.  

Facebook Watch will feature breaking news

Also announced at Code Media was an attempt by Facebook to push breaking news to its US-only Facebook Watch platform. It’s believed the move is a way to shift news content from clogging up your Facebook feed and instead have it choke up Facebook’s video platform.

Framed as a part of Facebook’s wider shift in its approach to covering news, the social network believes it can add value to people’s experience of the site by offering up content from local news publishers instead of national outlets. Given the wave of criticism over Facebook’s handling of the fake news phenomenon, it’s clearly an attempt to reframe the place news content has on its platform.

Facebook Watch launched in the US in August 2017, pitched as a way to compete with other video platforms like YouTube but with an emphasis on owning and controlling original content. How it folds breaking news into this coverage remains to be seen, but its further evidence of Facebook’s attempts to rethink the role of news on its nebulous network – one that’s also teetering away from youth, with recent stats suggesting under 55s are abandoning the site.

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