Facebook Instant Articles

Mobile phones are the future of good stories, Facebook emphasized as it rolled out its newest feature Instant Articles.

People get a lot of their news from Facebook, and the social network is responsible for significant traffic to news sites. With Instant Articles, media houses can publish their articles directly to Facebook. This lets people stay within the Facebook ecosystem, and eliminates the extra few seconds people have to wait for the external page to load.

Beyond the time advantage, Instant Articles are also ushering in a new standard for storytelling. Publishers can accompany their articles with video covers and audio tracks. Readers can interact with the content seamlessly – pinching the screen to zoom in and engaging directly with Like, Comment and Follow buttons.

To date, nine publishers have signed up for Instant Articles.

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BuzzFeed:“Early Numbers Suggest Facebook Instant Articles Giving Participating Publishers An Edge”

Pre-Instant Articles, external websites would take an average 8 seconds to load. Facebook predicted Instant Articles would speed up the process 10x.

Early results are yet to confirm if articles are loading faster. Meanwhile, a study by CrowdTangle shows that engagement around the Instant Articles are higher than on ‘standard’ posts (see results on the right).

Instant Articles’ rich media features might be contributing to this rise in interaction. Indeed, as John Bennett, editor-in-chief of The Atlantic noted:

[Instant Articles is] really going to solve the problem we’ve had with bringing pictures that work really well in the magazine environment to the phone.

The increase in engagement might also give Instant Articles a more prominent place on people’s newsfeeds, and might help increase their reach on the social network.

Instant Articles is currently available on the latest version of the Facebook app, on iPhones only.

Larger implications for the media industry, like ownership of creative content and freedom of web.

Instant Articles launched amidst a considerable amount of controversy and confusion. The primary concerns for partners – who controls the content, and how much power should publishers relinquish in order to ‘stay relevant’ with today’s technologies? What’s the impact on revenue?

For publishers too small or too hesitant to sign up for Instant Articles – what’s the impact of Facebook’s new role as news publisher? Will their content be treated as a ‘second citizen’ on the newsfeed? Is it imperative to move towards the rich media format to survive?

Beyond the media industry, Facebook’s bold move also raises questions about the role of social media networks in larger society. Social giants like Facebook, Google and WeChat are racing to add more features and apps, to become one-stop shops. In other words, silos of content, walled portions of the internet, or monopolies threatening the ‘free web,’ with a few networks and apps dominating the visibility and reach of all content on the web.

Where’s the line, in your opinion? Tweet us at @Peopleslab.

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This post is a part of our People’s Insights Monthly Brief for May, Tech Innovation – Friend or Foe?

Melanie Joe

Melanie Joe

Melanie is Consultant - Research and Insights at MSLGROUP, based in Mumbai. She tracks inspiring initiatives in the digital space for People's Insights.

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