For years, people have wondered aloud why social media platforms wouldn’t give them a paid option, one where the users created the revenue rather than the advertisers, leaving our newsfeeds clutter-free. It seems that Facebook is about to experiment with a version of that very thing.

They introduced Instant Articles over a year ago, which is where publishers’ content would appear like full articles right within Facebook so that the user would never have to leave to get access to the info that they want.

The problem is that publishers hate it because they can’t monetize in any of their usual ways, and it’s not good for the users because we don’t like to see out-of-context Facebook ads injected into our favourite writers’ posts.

The solution: Offer users the option to subscribe, the way that the big-guy news sites are already doing on their .coms.

So far, Facebook is only offering the option to subscribe for free, meaning that you’ll get a notification every time there’s new content, but according to Digiday’s sources, the paid model is inevitable.

So What?

Most of the time when I read publishers publishing about publishers I lose interest halfway through the first paragraph and wonder how the writer would think that anyone outside of his industry would find it at all interesting, but this is a signal towards a much larger shift.

Since the early days of blogging, the name of the content marketing game has been driving traffic, retaining readers, and gaining social shares + SEO in order to drive more readers, and so on.

The digital subscription model is just the opposite — it puts up a wall between the content producer and the potential reader. That’s a bit of a mind-bender for those of us who have spent the better part of a decade trying to convince people to click, read and share, but it’s a hugely positive shift, and it doesn’t apply only to the New York Times.

There are individuals who have become so digitally-popular that they can require people to give up cash in exchange for access to their content:

Kardashian/Jenner Apps&
Gigaom by Om Malik

And then there are the thousands of video bloggers on Twitch, which allows viewers to pay to get full access to their favourite gamers’ content:

Here’s the top 15 earning Twitch-ers

But Really Tho, So What?

Here’s the really big news behind all of the details: Our relationship with digital content has fundamentally changed.

Where we used to see everything on the internet as low-value quick hits of funny videos, micro-blogs, and semi-legitimate journalism, it’s now valuable parts of our lives, and we’re willing to part with real cash for access to virtual content.

That means 2 major things for us as content creators:

1. The stakes are higher.
When people love great content so much that they’re willing to pay for it, they’ll no longer tolerate anything that’s a 6/10.

2. With great content comes great opportunity
If people are getting used to handing over their credit cards, then imagine how much easier it will be to convince them that great content is worth creating an account for, or opting into an email list. That assumes, of course, that once they get in there they’ll agree that our content is valuable, and that’s the one thing that will never change — all of the best strategies only work when we create great stuff that people actually want to see.

Every week I pull together what’s been happening in social & digital and offer my un-edited opinion in an email called the Social Brief. To get it in your inbox every Monday, enter your address below.

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