Facebook plans to take on Substack, Patreon, and other creator platforms, with Mark Zuckerberg announcing that the social network’s independent news product will be free for those using it to publish. Facebook had previously made its paid online events, fan subscriptions, and badges free to use by creators, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Today, Zuckerberg confirmed, that strategy is going to continue. “To help more creators make a living on our platforms, we’re going to keep paid online events, fan subscriptions, badges, and our upcoming independent news products free for creators until 2023,” he said. “And when we do introduce a revenue share, it will be less than the 30% that Apple and others take.”
The mention of Apple – which has recently found itself at odds with Facebook over efforts to make tracking user data through advertising more difficult, by demanding apps request specific permission for such data collection – is seemingly no accident. Apple’s cut of revenues through the App Store has been the focus of the Epic Games trial, with the Fortnite publisher arguing that it’s just one of a number of unfair policies the Cupertino company enacts.
Facebook will pick up that challenge head-on, in what sounds like – in part at least – another retort to Apple’s privacy tools that highlight just what personal data is collected and collated by ad platforms such as the one Facebook runs. “We’re also launching a new payout interface so creators can see how different companies’ fees and taxes are impacting their earnings,” Zuckerberg teased. “More to come soon.” Facebook has previously sided with other developers in protesting the “Apple tax” for the App Store.
Apple’s cut of developer proceeds has become an increasing topic of controversy in recent years. The Cupertino firm argues that as it has created the iPhone and iPad ecosystem, thus generating a market for developers, it deserves part of the proceeds they make. Apple later relented, in part, and lowered that cut for many developers, but has been more resistant to softening rules elsewhere in the App Store.
One particularly controversial one is the limit on listing alternative ways for customers to subscribe or pay for services, from within apps. Companies like Spotify have argued this is unfair treatment, given Apple Music can make its subscription pitch. If Spotify, for example, tries to sell a premium subscription through its iOS app, Apple requires a cut of those monthly revenues.
The question, of course, is whether creators will trust Facebook to act in their best interests. The social network was a primary force behind the so-called “pivot to video,” pressuring news sites and others to make more video content with the lure of higher ad spend rates. In reality, it was later revealed, Facebook had massively exaggerated just how much video was being consumed, details which only emerged long after many newsrooms had let go of staff or shuttered entirely.