by Philippa Warr, Wired

April 8, 2013 (TSR-Wired) – Facebook is trialling a pay-to-message feature that allows users to contact people they are not connected with — for a fee.

Several price points are being tested at present so the pricing structure is subject to change but, broadly, it places celebrities and other public figures with large numbers of fans at the more expensive end of the spectrum.

“The system of paying to message non-friends in their Facebook inbox is designed to prevent spam, while acknowledging that sometimes you might want to hear from people outside your immediate social circle,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “We are testing a number of price points in the UK and other countries to establish the optimal fee that signals importance. Part of that test involves charging higher amounts for public figures, based on the number of followers they have.”


As the initiative is part of a Facebook messaging strategy and not a celebrity partnership building effort, profits will go directly to Facebook. The Sunday Times is quoted as saying the cost of messaging diver Tom Daley is £10.68, while dropping Salman Rushdie a line comes in at £10.08.

Given the fickle nature of celebrity, one possible result of the trial is a flexible pricing structure built around the amount of spam a person is likely to receive. In that scenario monitoring the cost of messaging a celebrity will give an interesting indication of the level of interest in that person — a social media data version of the BBC’s celebrity stock exchange, Celebdaq.

Users will still be able to message non-friends free of charge but those messages will be diverted to the Other folder of the recipient’s inbox. Sidenote: If you are unfamiliar with the Other folder you should probably take a moment to have a look and see if you’ve missed anything important.


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