Facebook vs. Browser: Why Would Facebook Add Subscription Linking?

If you’re a user of Facebook News, you may have noticed the release of a new feature: Subscription Linking.

What is Subscription Linking?

The new subscription linking feature allows Facebook users to read the content to which they’re subscribed without being required to log in when navigating to locked or paywall-blocked subscription content via Facebook.

How Does it Work?

Let’s say you’re a Forbes subscriber. If you use the subscription linking feature, when you encounter a Forbes article within your Facebook timeline or news feed, you will be able to open the article and access additional relevant Forbes content without having to navigate to your browser and log into your Forbes subscription account.

A Better User Experience

At first glance, there are obvious user experience benefits to streamlining this process for readers on the Facebook app. Whenever you reduce the number of hoops a user has to jump through to access the content they want, you improve UX. Perks include fewer clicks, more content at your fingertips, and a single place where you can get your favorite subscription content and your social network’s content without navigating away to your browser.

Hidden Benefits for Facebook?

While subscription linking removes user frustration, there could very well be some unseen benefits for Facebook in releasing this update. It’s a perk for them, too, when you stay within the Facebook platform, rather than navigating to your web browser. 

We’re marching toward a cookie-free internet — Google announced in January that it would remove third-party cookies (an essential for marketers in tracking the effectiveness of their efforts and ad spend) by 2022. Knowing that cookies are on the chopping block, big tech companies are looking for ways to keep users on their platform, or link their owned platforms to navigate around the need for web browser cookies.

Google’s discovery campaigns are an example of the ‘new normal’ for how users will be tracked and ads optimized for conversion without needing any cookies. 

Could Facebook be planning to use subscription linking as a new tracking method, or a method for serving up new content, or selling new products, to users? That would be no surprise to us — Facebook is a tech giant you’ll rarely catch without a plan.

Key Takeaway

Facebook is adding subscription likely in preparation for the transition away from the browser cookie. The more instances Facebook can keep you on their platform, the more opportunity to create insights and data collection on users. This is in line with other major tech companies’ shifts to owning platforms where they will deliver ads, rather than relying on browser-bound campaigning.

Sending users off-platform to browsers is becoming more of a risk as we near the age of cookie-less internet — we anticipate more platforms will expand their services to minimize browser use in the future.