Groups are one of the most popular functions of Facebook. (Pic: supplied)
Groups are one of the most popular functions of Facebook. (Pic: supplied)

Facebook to allow charging for group membership

TAKING us for Zuckers once more, Facebook will allow administrators to slug mums, charities, memorial groups, public awareness campaigns and ordinary community group members up to $360 a year in membership fees.

Facebook groups have always been free but the social network's boss Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to monetise them by letting administrators charge subscription fees from $4.99 to $29.99 each month to join premium subgroups containing exclusive posts.

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to monetise the platform.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg is attempting to monetise the platform.

Members of parenting, cooking and home cleaning groups will be the first to cough up as part of a pilot program allowing administrators to launch a subscription-only group, which will sit alongside the existing free group.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg - the subscription feature is expected to be rolled out to thousands of other groups on the platform and there's no guarantee which ones, if any, will remain entirely free.

It also means that free groups, which allow users to share valuable information across a range of topics, could soon be rendered worthless because key content will sit behind a paywall in the premium subgroup.

Facebook said the new feature would help administrators by financially supporting the work they do to engage their communities.

"We're piloting subscriptions with a small number of groups to continue to support group admins who lead these communities," Facebook product director Alex Deve said in a blog post.

Many information-sharing groups are now likely to have their content locked behind paywalls where users can’t access it without paying.
Many information-sharing groups are now likely to have their content locked behind paywalls where users can’t access it without paying.

"Subscription groups were created to make it easier for admins to provide these experiences with built-in tools, and to save them time so they can focus on offering members-only content.

"As we learn from this pilot and understand how group members feel about subscription groups, we'll continue to improve this experience to help admins offer more to their members and continue to invest in their communities."

The feature is only available as part of an experiment on mobile and Facebook will not get a cut of the subscription fees.

However, Apple and Google will take a percentage of the money via iOS and Android.

The social media giant has struggled to retain members following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which saw the data of 87 million users - including 310,000 Australians - harvested without permission.

Just 51 per cent of US teens aged 13-17 say they now use Facebook, down from 71 per cent in 2015, according to a recent study from Pew Research Center.



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