WhatsApp has announced that it has dropped the subscription fee it charges to users after their first year of use.
The news comes as a surprise to many as the messaging app, now owned by Facebook, looks at new revenue streams and increasing its already significant user base.
The announcement came on a blog post in which WhatsApp also mentioned that almost a billion people now use the app. That figure alone tells you of the audience potential for advertisers.
However, in an unusual move, WhatsApp immediately put paid to any suggestion that they might be about to publish ads to users. Instead, they gave this interesting quote:
“Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”
We interpret that as meaning that the new source of revenue is going to be businesses paying to have a presence, be it a page, a channel or similar, on WhatsApp that users voluntarily engage with. By charging businesses to have this type of presence they should be able to continue to keep users happy.
WhatsApp mention banks as an example. Exploring this further, your bank may pay to have a WhatsApp presence. That gives you an easier form of communication with them and perhaps encourages other to migrate to them. Or a retail brand might develop a WhatsApp channel and you can look them up and ask them questions directly via the app.
These might not be examples WhatsApp would pursue but they do bring about an interesting way of solving the problem of retaining your users whilst monetising an app.