Facebook Launches Instant Articles

Facebook has recently announced the launch of it’s new tool, Instant Articles which claims to be 10 times faster than standard web articles that are currently being shared by publishers.

Using the same technology that is used to load photos and videos quickly on Facebook’s mobile app, Instant Articles allows users to enjoy a richer and more interactive experience with the articles that brands share using this new tool. Facebook knows that we are an impatient bunch and having to wait an average of 8 seconds for an external web page to load when we click on a link, just won’t do. So with this latest feature update, we will no longer need to leave the Facebook app to read any articles from some of our favourite publishers.

Facebook is not the first social media site to offer an internal publishing platform, in 2014 LinkedIn introduced Influencer which gave selected members ‘a powerful new way to build their professional brand.’ In the past, LinkedIn was only really used when users were looking for a new job or trying to connect with someone. However, this update provided a reason for users to return to the professional network to read articles from business influencers. The overall trend that seems to be coming through is that social media networks want to be the point of call for their users looking for particular information, such as professional insight on LinkedIn or news stories on Facebook.

This tool is currently only being tested with a small number of brands. However, if publishers decide to use this tool once fully released, they will no longer be sending their fans to their websites and so there is a fear that publishers may lose traffic. It is also unclear as to whether this will impact a publisher’s SEO and how they will respond if and when, links are pointing to Facebook rather than to their own site?

Facebook has met these concerns with an enticing offer for brands by offering brands four ads per article, which they can then sell using Facebook’s Audience Network and keep 100% of the revenue they receive from the ads they sell, but will this be enough? However, if they wish to use this ad space for their own advertising, Facebook will then take 30% of the cut.

Instant Articles are being advertised to offer a richer experience to Facebook’s users, with new features such as tilt-to pan photos, interactive maps, embedded audio captions and auto play videos which will be triggered as the reader scrolls through the article. But will these features prove to be more of an annoyance than a benefit to the readers?

For the launch, Facebook has pulled in some big names including BuzzFeed, The New York Times, National Geographic, NBC News, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel Online and Bild. Just like LinkedIn, Facebook has selected high profile publishers to launch Instant Articles in the hope that others will take note of the update. Will this be the start of a new way for publishers to share their content? Whatever the future holds, Instant Articles are currently only available on iOS with no immediate plans to release this tool on Android. Those on desktop and other devices will see the same links to the publishers’ websites as usual meaning some of us will just have to put up with the slow loading times when using the app on non-Apple devices.

Although Instant Articles will not receive any preferential treatment from Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, if users prefer to engage with this style of content more often than others, then we can expect to see them appear more regularly in our mobile News Feeds. So, what do you think, is this something more publishers should embrace as the tool becomes more widely available? Or are some brands right to be concerned over the impact of this latest feature release?

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