In short: Meta may be preparing to test ad-free versions of Facebook and Instagram in the European Union. Insiders have leaked that the social media giant is planning to offer subscriptions for its two platforms in order to remove ads and keep users’ data private.
Three anonymous sources with knowledge of the matter told the New York Times that Meta will do so soon roll out Subscription plans for EU Facebook and Instagram users. Subscription prices are unknown but would allow paying users to keep their data private. The move is in response to recently enacted EU privacy laws and directives targeting social media. Meta hopes that offering Europeans a paid alternative will be enough to keep the authorities away from Meta. However, regulators might still deem the ad-based versions too intrusive.
Since Meta is using the options to placate EU governing bodies, it probably won’t offer subscriptions in the US, but you never know. Lawmakers in the US talk a lot about privacy, but it seems they don’t do much about intrusive social media ads or internet scraping. Congress has held several hearings over the years, particularly in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, but has taken minimal action.
Unsurprisingly, Meta declined to comment on the leak.
While it’s not the first time a social media site has offered a subscription, given the size of Facebook and Twitter, it’s a big step. As of August 11, Facebook had over 2.9 billion monthly active users. Likewise, there were a total of 2.35 billion Instagram users. These numbers are global numbers, but we can still get an idea of how much meta paid accounts can earn if only a minimal percentage take up the offer.
The EU consists of 450 million people in 27 countries. Assuming only a third of the population (150 million) opts for subscriptions, and Meta conservatively charges $10 per month for a bundled Facebook/Instagram subscription. That’s a potential monthly revenue stream of $1.5 billion. That’s a far cry from the $7.3 billion a year that Meta brings in might from advertising in the EU, but this will not go away entirely.
If any previous hoaxes about Facebook users can be relied upon, most users will be reluctant to pay for Facebook and Instagram and stick with the ad-supported version, privacy to hell. In addition, these are only rough, conservative estimates. Recent subscription trends are pushing a Facebook/Instagram bundle closer to the $15/month mark. Rest assured that Meta’s bean counter subscription levels are chosen to limit ad losses as much as possible.