Meta plans to bring paid features to Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp

Meta is setting up a product organization to identify and create “possible paid features” for Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, according to an internal memo sent to employees last week and obtained by The edge.

The new division is Meta’s first serious foray into building paid features on its major social apps, all three of which have billions of users. It comes after Meta’s ad business was badly hit by Apple’s ad tracking changes to iOS and a broader pullback in digital ad spend. The group, called New Monetization Experiences, will be led by Pratiti Raychoudhury, who was previously head of research at Meta.

In an interview with The edge, Meta’s vice president of monetization overseeing the group, John Hegeman, said the company is still committed to growing its ad business and has no plans to let people pay to opt out of ads. in its applications. “I think we see opportunities to create new kinds of products, features, and experiences that people would be willing to pay for and would be happy to pay for,” he said. He declined to give details of the paid features being considered.

Meta’s revenue comes almost entirely from ads, and while it already has several paid features in its apps, the social media giant hasn’t made user billing a priority so far. Hegeman downplayed the importance of paid features to becoming a meaningful part of the business in the short term, but said that “on the other hand, I think if there are opportunities both to create new value and significant income lines and also to provide some diversification, that’s obviously going to be something that’s going to be attractive.

Longer term, Meta sees paid features becoming a more meaningful part of its business, he said. “Over a five-year horizon, I think that can really move the needle and make a pretty significant difference.”

Facebook group admins can already charge for access to exclusive content, and virtual “stars” can be purchased to send to creators. WhatsApp charges some companies for the ability to message their customers, and Instagram recently announced that creators may also start charging for a subscription to access exclusive content. In June, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company wouldn’t reduce transactions for paid features and subscriptions until 2024.

Meta isn’t alone in pushing for more paid features. Social media apps have increasingly turned to charging over the past couple of years. TikTok started testing paid subscriptions for creators earlier this year, Twitter paid for Super Follows, and Discord gets its money entirely from its Nitro subscription. Additionally, this year Telegram and Snapchat added paid tiers that unlock additional features. Snapchat’s paid tier proved to be an early hit.

“We obviously pay attention to what’s happening in the industry,” Hegeman said. “And I think there are several companies that have done some interesting things in this space that I hope we can learn from and emulate over time.”

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