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What is it?
Facebook is now offering publishers the opportunity to host their content directly on the
platform. This new type of content is called Instant Articles. Stories from partner publishers
will now appear entirely within the Facebook (mobile) app, meaning you’ll never have to
leave the app. Ever.
Offering a Better Reading Experience
• Richer: Instant Articles will introduce interactive features
like embedded tweets, auto-play videos that come to life
when scrolling, interactive maps and graphics, audio
captions and possibilities to comment on individual parts
of the articles.
• Faster: Beforehand publishers have had to link to their
articles, which have taken up to eight seconds to load.
With Instant Articles the reading experience will be up to
ten times faster, according to Facebook.
The most significant feature of Instant Articles is
the speed in which users can view the full article.
Additionally, articles served through the new tool
• Cinemagraph cover photos
• Autoplay video that lay and play seamlessly
within the article
• Rich, high-definition photos that users can
zoom in on
• Interactive maps
• Audio captions that allow you to hear the voice
of authors or key influencers
• The ability to share or comment on specific
points within the article
Where There’s Facebook, There’s Controversy
Despite rumors of the new offering circulating for some time, the
launch of Instant Articles this week has reignited a slew of criticism
about the beginning of the end for Journalism. Specifically, critics
worry that publishers will soon lose control of the content they are
creating and distributing.
If Instant Articles becomes a necessary method of content distribution,
the fear is that publishers will have to edit their content to fit Facebook
Also, smaller publishers and brands who rely on referral traffic from
Facebook are afraid that already limited organic reach of their posts
will be threatened until they are granted access to the Instant Articles
Why it’s Good for Publishers
Nine publishers have partnered with Facebook for the
launch: The New York Times, National Geographic,
BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC
News, Spiegel and Bild.
All content for Interactive Articles will be created by
the publishers in their own systems and then
converted by Facebook to fit the Instant Articles
format. After publishing on Facebook publishers will
have the ability to track data and traffic to
continuously shape content to audience interests.
Apart from creating a smoother reading experience
the Instant Articles offer a new possibility for
publishers to make money, as Facebook allows
publishers to sell ads in the articles and keep the
“Instant Articles lets [publishers]
deliver fast, interactive articles
while maintaining control of their
content and business models.”
– Chris Cox, Facebook Chief
How can brands use it?
In the immediate future, there’s an opportunity for
brands to get involved with Instant Articles via
native advertising. Unfortunately, these ad
placements are premium and exclusive for
publishers’ content. So even if a brand cannot
post an Instant Article, they could buy ad space
within an active publisher’s Instant Article.
Once Instant Articles does become available to
brands, it offers another layer of content
In the meantime, brands can try partnering with
approved publishers to create branded content for
the platform, knowing that the return will be a
higher likelihood that users will see the content in
their newsfeeds, but the articles will not be driving
National Geographic will run ads inside Instant Articles
promoting its paid subscriptions. Source: TechCrunch
What’s the verdict for “Journalism”?
Right now, it doesn’t seem like Facebook’s main goal is
increasing ad revenue from content publishers or
controlling the content they are distributing. Instead,
they are interested in keeping users engaged within
their own app longer, and making the Facebook News
Feed more relevant.
This is good for content distributors. They still have
control of the all content they’re putting out there,
although should Instant Articles become a
“requirement” for these publishers, that will essentially
force publishers to somewhat “let go” of the ability to
completely select their content distribution strategy and
“This is a living page. This
is a living, breathing article
that is beyond just words.”
– Shezad Morani, Creative
This changes the measurement game for publishers while certainly improving
Site traffic will decrease as one of their top referrers disappears (unless of course they
continue to use promoted posts AND Instant Articles). Time on site will likely decrease
as well as, the likelihood of navigating back to a home page is no longer a possibility.
However, since the birth of native advertising and the rise of content marketing, the
home page or “cover” has become less relevant. This does allow the actual story to
be the hero rather than the creator.
Facebook is planning to eventually roll out Instant Articles to any publisher that shares
stories on Facebook. However, they are inviting publishers to upload sponsored
content as well (for a fee of course).
While it’s limited largely to traditional news outlets and magazines, there could be
room in the future for specialty or trade publications to distribute content that they
publish on other platforms more effectively right now. For instance, imagine opening a
quick link to a recipe with a video demo right on Facebook versus clicking through on
Pinterest, or reading posts/watching videos from your favorite bloggers and
YouTubers within one dynamic, organized, interactive set of articles.
As with previous innovations, we can expect platforms like Twitter to unveil similar
functionality in the future. Plus, we expect Facebook to whet brands’ appetites with
streamlined functionality before increasing pricing, but for now we can appreciate the
new tool for what it is, a product that allows users to consume fast, interactive content
on a widely used, trusted mobile-first platform.