Facebook pilot links user profiles with online news subscriptions

The feature could cut down on password fatigue.

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Facebook is still figuring out the best ways to promote reliable news on the platform. One of its next tricks might be linking users’ profiles with their news subscriptions. Today, the company revealed that it’s been working with publishers to test a new account-linking feature.

It works like this: When Facebook identifies that a user subscribes to a participating publisher, it will invite the user to link their subscription account. Once the accounts are connected, if the user clicks on a paywalled link via Facebook, they won’t have to sign-in to access the content. Users who link their Facebook and news accounts will also see more stories from those publishers in Facebook News. 

Facebook is testing the feature with a handful of publishers, ranging from The Atlantic to the Winnipeg Free Press, and early test results are promising. In June, subscribers who linked their Facebook accounts made 111 percent more article clicks compared to those who didn’t link their accounts, Facebook said in a blog post.

“People have account and password fatigue and so it is not surprising that one of our most common reader complaints is that they have to login too often, and of course when it happens they do not remember their username, or password,” Christian Panson, VP of digital at Winnipeg Free Press, said in a statement. “Once a reader has linked their subscription, any visit to us from Facebook delivers a seamless and frictionless experience directly to the content they expect.”

Platforms, like Facebook and Apple News, and publishers are still figuring out how to work with each other. Facebook reportedly offered publishers millions of dollars to participate in its dedicated news tab, which the company is now expanding to more countries. Facebook said it’s committed to promoting original reporting, but it has also struggled to find enough local news coverage. 

Ideally, promoting reliable news on the platform will help Facebook take back control from rampant misinformation. The feature could also let publishers deliver more personal experiences and recommendations on Facebook, or it could be another way for the giant to get its hands on more of your data.

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