Facebook is weighing the possibility of offering an ad-free version of the social network, whose users would pay a subscription fee, according to a report in Bloomberg today (May 4).
The company has looked into offering a service like this before, Bloomberg reports, but its soul-searching became more pointed after the Cambridge Analytica scandal resulted in 87 million Facebook users having their data harvested without their consent. Facebook has carried out market research to determine whether a version of the social network without ads is something worth exploring, but there’s no guarantee it would follow through on the idea. The company wasn’t immediately available to comment on the report.
While there has been much debate about the value of targeted advertising to the average internet user, there’s no question of its value to Facebook. Only about 1% of the $11.9 billion Facebook generated in revenue last quarter came from sources other than advertising.
In that sense, it wouldn’t hurt to explore other sources of revenue, especially in regions where consumers aren’t as wealthy as Western users, which are the most valuable to the company. Facebook has recently started testing accepting payments through WhatsApp in India, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced at its F8 developer conference this week that the company would be building a dating service (whether it will free is unclear). But as long as long as advertising revenue is still pouring in, Facebook doesn’t have much incentive to radically upend its business model.