On Facebook, fans and likes are all well and good. But this summer, the social network will have a new feature that may actually help publishers get sales. Synapse, a Time Inc division that sells subscriptions for various publishers, is working with e-commerce solutions company Alvenda to allow Facebook users to purchase magazines directly from their news feeds.
That is sure to get publishers excited. And though news feed purchases actually have more potential for other sectors on Facebook, there is something interesting about this impending feature — the ads. And the fact that Facebook isn't taking a cut of the profits.
Starting this summer, magazines will begin offering subscriptions directly in the news feed. Facebook users will be able to buy subscriptions without leaving their Facebook page and make a purchase in one simple step. That sounds exciting. Though I find it hard to believe that the thing contributing to lagging magazine sales is the difficult ordering process.
Of course, offering a subscription underneath an interesting article increases the chances that a reader will buy a subscription. Anything that makes it easier to make a purchase online helps.
But a moore important point for publishers should be that the app will allow Facebook users to add extended news snippets to their feeds — complete with advertising.
According to AdAge:
"If you share a magazine article link with your Facebook friends, for example, their news feeds will allow them to expand the item into a full article with ads and an option to subscribe, said Wade Gerten, CEO at Alvenda, which has developed e-commerce Facebook apps for companies including Hallmark and 1-800-Flowers. "It all happens within Facebook," [Wade Gerten, CEO at Alvenda] said.
Consumers don't want to leave where they are on the web, wherever they are," said Alix Hart, VP for online marketing at Synapse. "Facebook is a place where we think that over the coming year there are going to be more and more opportunities to present magazine offers in a really relevant way to consumers, as they're starting to share magazine content in a much deeper way than ever before."
News feed purchases have a wide potential on Facebook. Facebook had 450 million users in April. If those users can purchase items in their news feed as easily as they can purchase Farmville points, there's no telling how many conversions Facebook could offer.
However, it's retailers and other impulse purchases that are likely to have the most traction with a feature like that. Are Facebook users going to opt to purchase The New Yorker because of a blurb in their news feed? Probably not. However, the ad product could get interesting. Right now there's no way to monetize a blurb in Facebook's news feed. Populating an extended quote with advertising could be a great thing for publishers.
It's hard to see why Facebook wouldn't want a cut of that action. The social network is now the largest display advertising provider on the web, according to comScore. In the first quarter of 2010, Facebook served 176.3 billion display ads, compared to Yahoo's 131.6 billion.
If consumers adapt to this new feature, and publishers start bringing in some real revenue from news feed ads, it's likely that Facebook will likely change that policy.