The relationship between Facebook and digital news publishers has never been easy. For years, publishers have accused Facebook of stealing content and hiding their posts in the News Feed. With a new account linking tool on the horizon, though, Facebook is looking to turn things around.
When it’s released, Facebook’s account linking tool will allow users to link their news subscription accounts on Facebook. With persistent login, linked subscribers will not run into paywalls when they access articles from the publications they subscribe to. They won’t be asked to sign-in repeatedly when they access articles through Facebook, either.
The social media giant is collaborating with selected digital publishers to test the new tool, however it may expand the program to include smaller digital publishers in the future, as well.
Facebook’s new account linking tool should offer a better experience for users who access content from digital publications through the social media platform. It’s meant to solve one of the biggest pain points for news subscribers and publishers alike, which is when subscribers who click on a publisher’s articles in Facebook are asked repeatedly to login. This friction causes a problem that’s been dubbed “password fatigue,” and it’s a legitimate turnoff to many news readers.
It’s not uncommon for subscribers who are asked to login to have trouble remembering their usernames or passwords. Eventually, many news subscribers get tired of the struggle and some end up dropping their subscriptions to those news publications altogether. Password fatigue is one of the top reasons why readers choose not to renew their subscriptions to online publications. It’s become a big enough issue that some publishers are posting fewer links on Facebook so their readers won’t run into the problem.
How Facebook’s Account Linking Tool Works
Facebook’s account linking tool works by matching news subscribers to Facebook users. Users who’ve been “matched” are then invited to link their subscription accounts to Facebook. That linking process is what will ensure that users will not have to re-login each time they click on a link to a news website they’re subscribed to.
How Does Account Linking Build Audience Engagement?
Facebook has been testing its account linking tool for a while. According to the company, publishers who have participated in the product test are seeing greater rates of subscriber engagement and content distribution.
Specifically, the company says that subscribers in a test group who linked their subscription accounts on Facebook had an average of 111% more article clicks compared to subscribers who were not part of the test group.
Facebook also reports that its account linking tool is driving more subscribers to follow digital news subscription publishers on its platform. Publishers in Facebook’s test group saw their Facebook follower counts increase from 34% to more than 97% among subscribers who linked their accounts.
Facebook has agreed to show more news stories from publishers who participate in its account linking program, as part of the Facebook News experience. The company says it will continue introducing additional subscriber experiences over time.
What’s the Catch?
Not every publisher will be invited to participate in Facebook’s new program, at least not at first. It’s likely that Facebook will start by inviting large news companies, with plans to expand to smaller publications over time. Currently, publishers testing the feature include The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Athletic, and the Winnipeg Free Press.