Facebook Instant Articles: When publishers finally embrace this new platform

By @chelean on
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A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen in front of logos of news publishers it has tied up with, in this picture illustration made in Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 15, 2015. Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Facebook has announced the official release of its updated Instant Articles to all publishers in the recently held Facebook F8 conference. This new platform is set to feature fast-loading and responsive posts compared to the usual posts on Facebook. Additionally, the social media giant opened up its Instant Articles to all publishers to create more interactive and shareable content on Facebook.

There were mixed speculations from publishers on the release of the Instant Articles platform which Ad Week has captured. The platform lets publishers post their content directly in the Facebook Instant Articles news feed as well sell ads other than their brand.

“Facebook Instant Articles is neither an ally nor a threat since the war is already over, and Facebook won,” said Sean Cullen, Fluent EVP for product and technology. “Publishers have no choice but to adopt Instant Articles in order to maintain their existing traffic levels and many will have no choice but to buy advertising from Facebook to grow."

John Potter, CTO of Purch, told AdWeek that Facebook Instant Articles is an ally more than a threat. However, Potter reminded publishers that Instant Articles is just one of the many platforms to reach an audience.

Aside from Instant Articles, WordPress, Tumblr and LinkedIn are also considered alternative blogging and publishing platforms where publishers can showcase their products and articles. These platforms also contain plug-ins, customisation and analytic tools that can benefit publishers.

For authors, open publishing platforms offer the key advantage of having anyone read their content, thus increasing readership that leads to future sales. A journal from the Eindhoven University of Technology noted that open access publications offer research institutions greater chances of participation in international research and discussions. Closed publishing platforms, on the other hand, offer more established reputation similar with traditional journals.

An example of a publishing platform which is not public is Born2Invest. The mobile app, which was launched in 2015, has become stronger in publishing unique content, thanks to its writers and localisation strategy.

“The biggest edge human curators have over machines at this point is that they are simply better at determining what another human may find useful and engaging,” said Dom Einhorn, Born2Invest CEO and founder, in an exclusive interview. Today, the business and mobile news app is currently available in 24 languages and nine editions.

Instant Articles better for publishers?

Facebook said it takes less loading time to view articles on Instant Articles, compared to the mobile web version. In countries with slower connections, like India, Brazil, Mexico and the Philippines, 20 to 40 percent prefer reading Instant Articles over articles on mobile web browsers.

Previously, Instant Articles was only available to a select few major publishers including Google’s AMP. Today, there are more than one thousand publishers globally that are officially part of the program, according to the company blog. In order to create a more seamless creation and management of Instant Articles, Facebook has partnered with several publishing tools, analytics providers, and even open source platforms.

In addition, the new Instant Articles allows publishers to create branded content, which is another form of advertising. Unlike embedded marketing which puts the brand in the content, branded content works vice versa, putting content on the brand. Facebook launched trial versions of the Instant Articles several months ago, Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and The Washington Post owner, supported Instant Articles as soon as he heard about it, Niemanlab reported.

According to transcribed remarks from Cory Haik, Washington Post executive director of emerging news products, Facebook has always been an important part of The Washington Post. The social media platform has helped the new media company achieve its social referral traffic soar high.

The Atlantic Digital has also been using Instant Articles since its release.

“My own, personal experience is that the pages are much faster. When we were still in the A/B testing phase, Facebook reported to us that we did see an increase in sharing,” said Kimberly Lau, VP and general manager of Atlantic Digital.

Mobile ad technology provider, Marfeel, through a company release, expressed its immediate support for Instant Articles. The company, which has introduced its Google-compatible AMP technology during the 2016 Mobile World Congress, has also revolutionised its creation, optimisation, and monetisation of mobile websites for publishers. Marfeel has even solved lagging page issues even before Instant Articles and Google’s AMP did.

“It’s allowed us to integrate Instant Articles into our mobile site simply and smoothly,” the company said. “And what’s more, it carries our existing monetisation strategy over to Instant Articles, allowing us to avoid what otherwise would have been a painful process,” the company said.

While there are many pros and cons regarding Facebook’s launch of Instant Articles, one thing is clear, the evolution of publishing is dramatically changing. Even business strategies have changed with the adoption of emerging platforms that promise to increase monetisation and market reach.