We never thought this day would come, but Meta officially announced a no-ad paid subscription service in Europe. Should advertisers be worried?
If you receive a prompt offering to purchase an ad-free Facebook or Instagram subscription, you are not delusional and are not being scammed.
Meta has officially announced a new paid subscription service in the European Union, European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland. This service will be available starting November 2023. It allows users to pay a monthly fee to use Meta’s products (Facebook and Instagram) without seeing ads, and their data will not be used for advertising purposes.
Users may still choose to use Meta’s products for free if they consent to using their information for ads. Meta promises, though, that it is committed to keeping people’s information private and secure under its own policies and the EU’s GDPR.
Why is Meta suddenly offering a paid subscription?
It’s no secret that Meta’s primary business is ads. Just like any other social network, since Facebook took over the market, we’ve all known the rules of the game:
Users get a free social network to consume interesting and valuable content, keep in touch with friends worldwide, learn new things, follow news, and get attention (probably the most important thing to us as humans). Meanwhile, advertisers get the opportunity to target relevant audiences based on user data, and Meta gets paid for this service, which allows it not to charge users.
While this system has served billions of people worldwide, the increasing awareness of the right to privacy and data protection is changing the map - especially in the European Union.
Last July, the European Court of Justice barred Meta’s data harvesting methods across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp unless it received explicit consent from users. This was after the court had already fined Meta 390 million euros in January for forcing users to accept personalized ads as a condition of using Facebook.
Meta had to devise a solution to comply with the new EU data privacy regulations, so the ad-free paid subscription was born.
Meta’s ad-free subscription cost
According to Meta, the new subscription currently costs €9.99/month on the web and €12.99/month on iOS and Android (due to the fees that Apple and Google charge through their purchasing policies).
When purchasing the subscription, it applies to all the linked Facebook and Instagram accounts in the user’s Accounts Center. However, starting from March 1, 2024, Meta plans to add a fee of €6/month on the web and €8/month on iOS and Android for each additional account.
Meta is not alone
Meta might have jumped on the ad-free subscription bandwagon just now, but this wagon has been rolling for quite some time now.
Streaming services like Spotify have been offering ad-free subscriptions for a while now, and YouTube has also joined this trend with its premium subscription.
Even TikTok announced it will test a no-ad subscription in Europe, while X (formerly Twitter) and Snapchat already offer such services.
How will this affect Meta advertisers?
In four words, it's hard to tell.
It depends on whether the European regulators (and others worldwide) accept this compromise as a solution satisfying their requirement for user “consent” and how many users decide to purchase the no-ad subscription.
The most common estimation seems to be that this compromise will allow Meta to continue offering targeted advertising. However, if the European court does not accept this, Meta might need to find a new solution.
How many users will choose to opt out of advertising? Would you pay more than €100 per year for a service you used to get for free for so many years just to get rid of ads or protect your data?
YouTube launched its premium subscription service in 2015. Seven years later, in 2022, it had 80 million premium subscribers out of 2.6 billion annual users. That means about 3% of YouTube’s users decided to pay to avoid seeing ads.
However, it might be better to look at statistics from social networks that are more similar to Meta’s. While YouTube resembles streaming services, X (Twitter) and Snapchat might seem more appropriate to assess expected premium subscription rates.
Only about 0.2% of X’s users and less than 1% of Snapchat’s users subscribed to their respective premium ad-free plans, so Meta advertisers can be optimistic that this change won’t harm them significantly.
Nevertheless, as the Talmud says, prophecy has been given to fools. We’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds.
However, it must be clear that Meta is not canceling advertising or trying to get rid of it. On the contrary, this step is meant to allow Meta to keep showing ads and providing businesses with targeted advertising capabilities.
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Yuval is the Head of Content at Madgicx. He is in charge of the Madgicx blog, the company's SEO strategy, and all its textual content.