As an effective digital subscription strategy continues to become more important for digital publishers than ever before, Facebook has developed a new account linking tool that improves how Facebook users interact with news content from publishers they subscribe to. While it has yet to be gifted a catchy name, the tool allows users to link their digital news subscriptions to their Facebook profile and access them easily, all in one place. News subscription account linking works by matching digital subscribers to Facebook profiles, then sending these profiles an invitation to link their subscription accounts.

The aim of this new feature is to strengthen publishers’ relationships with their subscribers, whilst simultaneously improving the news consumption experience on Facebook for those subscribers. It is, in theory, a win-win. One key way news consumption will be improved for Facebook users is that once this new tool is live, linked subscribers will not meet paywalls when accessing articles via Facebook, nor will they be asked to sign-in every time they click an article by a title they’re subscribed to.

Also, subscribers of eligible publishers will see more of their stories in their Facebook News tab. At the moment, these “eligible publishers” are all US-based, but Facebook plans to expand over time.

Facebook user's linked magazine subscription feed

Facebook has tested this tool with a select few publishers already, and the early results look promising for both subscriber engagement and content distribution. In June, a test group who had linked their subscription accounts on Facebook had on average 111% more article clicks compared to those not in the test group. In the same period, publishers’ Facebook followers jumped from 34% to over 97% with subscribers who had linked their accounts.

David Grant, program manager for the Facebook Journalism Project’s Accelerator programme, said: 

Publishers in all world regions are building sustainable, enduring relationships with loyal readers. Through account linking, we hope that Facebook can be a powerful extension of those efforts, helping news organisations drive deeper subscriber engagement and bring more paying readers to their high-quality journalism, which is the foundation of keeping communities informed and connected.”

So, what’s next for this feature? Facebook has outlined the upcoming steps it’ll take to improve the subscriber account linking tool:

  • It’s adding additional partners to the product test.
  • It’s actively working to measure subscriber retention driven by account linking, and other approaches to measuring impact for publishers.
  • It’s testing new places for subscribers to link their accounts within the Facebook app, such as within Facebook News.
  • It’s actively working on an approach that would allow subscribers to directly initiate the account linking process on publisher websites.