Businesses will now be able to monetize online events on Facebook, thanks to a new feature that the social network is launching in the United States and 19 other countries today.
In a call with reporters, Head of Facebook App Fidji Sumo said that Facebook’s Events feature was designed for in-person events, but with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting social distancing orders, the company “really quickly pivoted” to supporting online events.
In fact, Sumo said that in June of this year, live broadcasts on Facebook Pages doubled compared to the same period in 2019.
Sumo also outlined the new feature in a Facebook blog post. Businesses will be able to host larger events through Facebook Live, and the company is also testing the ability to host smaller, more interactive gatherings in Messenger Rooms. The goal is to give business owners the ability to create the event, set the price, promote the event, collect the payment and host the event itself all from one place.
Apparently some of the paid events that have already been organized during tests with early users include talks, trivia, podcast recordings, boxing matches, cooking classes, meet-and-greets and fitness classes.
“With social distancing mandates still in place, many businesses and creators are bringing their events and services online to connect with existing customers and reach new ones,” Sumo wrote. “People are also relying on live video and interactive experiences more when they can’t come together physically.”
Sumo said Facebook will not be collecting any fees from paid online events for at least the next year year. So on the web and on Android “in countries where we have rolled out Facebook Pay,” businesses should be able to keep 100% of their online events revenue. That won’t, however, be the case on iOS, and Sumo’s blog post includes a surprisingly direct dig at Apple:
We asked Apple to reduce its 30% App Store tax or allow us to offer Facebook Pay so we could absorb all costs for businesses struggling during COVID-19. Unfortunately, they dismissed both our requests and SMBs will only be paid 70% of their hard-earned revenue. Because this is complicated, as long as Facebook is waiving its fees, we will make all fees clear in our products.
To that end, the post also includes an iOS screenshot (“which we submitted to Apple today for approval”) showing that the purchase button will include a small text message saying “Apple takes 30% of this purchase” beneath the purchase button (vs. “Facebook doesn’t take a fee from this purchase” on Android).