In the recent market research conducted by Facebook, it is weighing a move to launch a second version of its 2 billion-plus-user community, a version that will be ad-free but come with a monthly subscription fee. Facebook may soon become a bit more like Netflix.
According to a report, the company has studied such an option in the past but has been conducting market research in recent weeks to determine whether a Facebook ad-free subscription version would spur more people to join the social network. According to some private reports, the plans aren’t solid and may not go forward.
There is no guarantee Facebook will adopt such a second operating model. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, however, there is more internal momentum to pursue it, and Facebook declined to comment on the possibility of a subscription-based ad-free service.
The current model allows Facebook to reach most people, at every income level; the company generated virtually all its $41 billion in revenue last year by selling ads targeted with user data. Now, the company is facing a crisis of public trust after a developer gave personal information to Cambridge Analytica. Even executives also have been facing difficult questions from employees, like whether Facebook should be offering political advertising at all.
“We certainly thought about lots of other forms of monetization including subscriptions, and we’ll always continue to consider everything,” Sandberg said then. As Zuckerberg remarked, “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”