Facebook is considering an ad-free, subscription version of the site, according to reports in the New York Post and Bloomberg. Almost all of the company’s $41 billion in revenues last year came came from selling ads targeted with user data, and previous internal research indicated that users would not be open to a subscription option. However, things seem to be changing in the post-Cambridge Analytica world. At Facebook’s first-quarter earnings call, both CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg said that while the ad-supported model allows the site to reach the most people, the idea of instituting user subscriptions is certainly on the table. Sandberg said that the company has “thought about lots of other forms of monetization including subscriptions.” But Zuckerberg noted that a subscription option would not supplant the existing ad-supported version. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” he said.
“Paywalls are the only future for journalism,” Fraser Nelson, editor of British magazine The Spectator said in a March tweet, and several US publishers are following his advice. Condé Nast recently placed Vanity Fair behind a paywall, now letting readers access four articles a month before shelling out $19.99 for either a print-and-digital or a digital-only subscription. This follows the company’s February placement of content from WIRED behind a similar paywall. Bloomberg, which placed Bloomberg Businessweek behind a paywall last summer, is now looking to construct a $35-per-month barrier to the contents of Bloomberg.com. According to Business Insider, Businessweek’s paywall has driven a 45 percent increase in subscriptions through the site, and traffic to Businessweek is also up 20 percent. Nelson’s The Spectator is, not surprisingly, behind a paywall itself, charging readers £12 (about $16.25) for 12 weeks of unlimited access to its content.
The Atlantic is launching a San Francisco bureau and is bringing in Ellen Cushing as a senior editor in its technology section to help establish and lead it. The new bureau is part of an overall drive meant to boost the publication’s coverage of technology and Silicon Valley. Cushing comes to The Atlantic from BuzzFeed News, where she was an enterprise and tech editor. She led all of BuzzFeed’s enterprise reporting on sexual assault and harassment, as well as managing a team of investigative reporters. Previously, Cushing was a senior editor at San Francisco magazine and staff writer and editor at East Bay Express. In addition to the new San Francisco bureau, The Atlantic says it will grow its coverage of Hollywood and culture, and its politics and policy reporting in Washington. Earlier this year, it debuted a new family section.