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SOCIAL NETWORKING

Meta launches subscription service for Facebook and Instagram

The Facebook application on a smartphone arranged in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, US, on 1 February 2023. (Photo: Tiffany Hagler-Geard / Bloomberg)

Facebook parent company Meta Platforms is launching a subscription service called Meta Verified that will include a handful of additional perks and features, including account verification badges for those who pay.

The new subscription will cost $11.99 per month — $14.99 if purchased through the iOS app — and is primarily targeted towards content creators. In addition to a verification badge, the subscription includes “proactive account protection, access to account support, and increased visibility and reach”, a Meta spokesperson said in an email.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg announced the new product via his Instagram Channel, a service that was unveiled in the past week. The option will be available on both Facebook and Instagram, but they’ll be separate subscriptions.

Subscription offerings have become popular for social networking companies in recent years as a way to diversify their businesses, which are heavily reliant on advertising. Snap has an offering called Snapchat Plus, and Twitter is also pushing a subscription offering right now, with account verification being a major selling point.

Meta makes almost all of its revenue from advertising, but that business can be inconsistent and severely affected by the broader economy. Meta’s business was hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic, for instance, and again last year during the war in Europe and the rise of inflation. Subscriptions offer a more consistent revenue stream.

It’s unclear, though, if users want to pay for services that have always been free. Twitter’s subscription offering has been slow to take off. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Meta’s subscription package will be “increased visibility”. Standing out on Facebook or Instagram is more difficult these days, even among a user’s own followers. The company has started to push users towards more content they may be interested in, not necessarily content from people they follow.

Increased visibility will mean “prominence in some areas of the platform — like search, comments and recommendations”, the company said. Unlike Twitter, which does not verify a user’s identity through the subscription, Meta will require users to confirm their identity with a government ID to receive a verification badge.

Meta is testing the subscription product first in Australia and New Zealand, starting later this week.

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