Facebook and Instagram have rolled out a new paid subscription service in Australia and New Zealand, marking the first time the social media giants have offered such features for a fee. The move comes as parent company Meta, formerly known as Facebook, looks to diversify its revenue streams amid a drop in advertising revenues. The service, which costs US$11.99 on the web and US$14.99 on iOS and Android mobile platforms, offers users a verified badge, protection against impersonation, direct access to customer support, and increased visibility. The subscription model is being tested in smaller markets before a potential rollout in larger markets.
Meta’s decision to offer paid verification services could prove lucrative for the company, as it provides an additional revenue stream from its two billion users. The move could be especially attractive to content creators, influencers, and celebrities, who often face technical and administrative problems that cause delays and lost revenue. Despite the potential benefits, some ordinary users have expressed skepticism about the need to pay for such services, with some users in Sydney stating that they wouldn’t pay for the service and saw a trend toward more casual use of social media.
The paid verification-subscription strategy adopted by Facebook and Instagram has puzzled some commentators who note that Twitter tried a similar approach a few weeks ago with less-than-stellar results. However, Jonathon Hutchinson, a lecturer in online communication at the University of Sydney, believes that Meta’s willingness to try new and risky models has been a hallmark of the company’s approach. Hutchinson sees the latest gambit as part of a broader effort to condition users to pay for social media and predicts that more services and functionality will become subscription-based in the long-term.
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new feature was about increasing authenticity and security across the company’s services. He stated that the verified badge would help users identify authentic accounts, protecting them from impersonation and creating a safer online environment. Facebook and Instagram plan to gradually roll out access to Meta Verified, with 100% availability expected within the first seven days of the rollout.
Despite the potential benefits of paid verification, some critics have raised concerns about the impact on free speech and the potential for creating a two-tiered social media platform. The introduction of paid subscription services could further exacerbate the digital divide, with those who cannot afford to pay for services being left behind. It remains to be seen whether paid verification will prove popular with users, but Meta’s decision to experiment with new revenue models is an indication of the challenges facing the company as it seeks to maintain its dominance in the social media market.