While some in the media industry have expressed grave concern that the program will ultimately put journalism organisations at the mercy of an all-powerful social media network, the longterm effects of Instant Articles will likely be less earth-shattering.
It’s still early, but from the looks of things, the new feature will likely amount to not much more than a more seamless mobile reading experience for Facebook’s users and a potentially helpful means of monetising mobile advertising inventory for its publishing partners.
After all, despite Facebook’s massive size and its ability to send loads of traffic publishers’ way, it’s not as if it’s the only game in town.
Brian Morrissey of Digiday on Facebook Instant Articles and what it means for publishers
With competitors like Snapchat and YouTube also investing in high-quality content to show people who visit their platforms, Digiday president and editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey says it’s hard to imagine a scenario where publishers won’t have at least some leverage in dictating how their content is distributed and who gets to profit from it.
“I think this is going to be the Y2K of publishing,” Morrissey said. “There are some worrying parts of it just because platforms have gained so much power, but unless it’s only one platform — and it’s not going to be just Facebook — smart media companies are going to be able to play the platforms against each other.”
So far, the program has been rolling out fairly slowly, with initial partners The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, and NBC News each running a single Instant Article on May 13 and nothing since.
Nonetheless, it’s easy to see why many feel that every major publisher will one day run Instant Articles. In playing with some of the stories on my iPhone (it didn’t work when I tried to read them on my iPad mini), I was impressed by how much more attractive they were than that regular stories that show up in the News Feed. The links to all of the stories have motion embedded in their preview images, and the articles themselves load extraordinarily fast despite being full of interactive, multimedia features that give them a truly native feel.
In this sense, it’s hard to argue with the idea that people will be more inclined to click on an Instant Article than the other stuff in their News Feed. That publishers will feel compelled to keep up with the native experiences their competitors are offering is a good thing for Facebook’s users.
Dan Greenberg, Sharethrough CEO, weighs in Facebook Instant Articles
“Instant Articles brings a lot of context and relevance to news, which can be powerful,” said Alicia Hatch, a principal at the consulting firm Deloitte Digital.
Dan Greenberg, co-founder and CEO of native advertising company Sharethrough, which owns and operates this publication, said it’s about time the mobile reading experience got an upgrade.
“For the mobile web, design and user experience has been long overdue for an overhaul and Facebook has just shown people the future of how they should experience the Internet,” said Greenberg, whose company runs this publication. “Which raises the bar for all content websites, web designers, hosting companies and advertising companies.”
The deal, at least as presently constructed, is also pretty good for publishers. Right now, publishers get 100% of the revenue for ads they can sell themselves, and 70 per cent of the revenue when Facebook sells their left-over, in-article inventory.
This could be something of a big deal for publishers, since many of them have struggled mightily to sell mobile ads against the content that appears on their websites. Given that Facebook has been extremely successful using its so-called “affinity graph” of user interests to target ads on mobile, people like the Wall Street Journal’s Jack Marshall have made the case that Instant Articles could allow publishers to sell way more mobile ads than they otherwise would have.
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