Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) is undoubtedly the No. 1 Social Networking platform on the web today but it doesn’t plan to be just be a platform for people to interact with other people or brands. Few days back, Facebook announced the launch of its new feature called Instant Articles which allows the publishers to post articles directly on Facebook, eventually improving the reading experience of the people on mobile as these articles would load instantly on Facebook itself.
To initiate the launch of its newest feature, Facebook has tied up with 9 popular publishers: The New York Times, The Guardian, BuzzFeed, The Atlantic, National Geographic, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel.
Since its launch, NewsWhip is monitoring the performance of Instant Articles feature in terms of engagement for the first posts by the publishers involved in the pilot program. Currently, the Instant Articles feature is only open for iPhone users using the latest version of Facebook App.
Engagement for First Post Earned by Publishers Using Instant Articles Feature
According to the findings of NewsWhip for the first 24 hours of launching Instant Articles, the users have embraced this new feature from Facebook with both hands. Out of all the publishers, National Geographic’s Bee story fared the best with a total 24,000 engagements on their original post on Facebook. The posts from National Geographic earned 19,000 likes and more than 4000 shares in total in just first 24 hours.
But that’s not the case with other publishers. For instance, The New York Times’ original post on Facebook was a lengthy article about Brazilian athlete full of rich photography and video. In just a few hours, the post attracted a lot of engagements gaining up to 7,500 engagements in total within 24 hours that included 5,500 likes and 1,600 shares. However, this wasn’t the best performing post for The New York Times for the day. Although its original post on Facebook attracted a lot of attention, the most engaged post was the one with a link to their article titled, “College Student to Jeb Bush: ‘Your Brother Created ISIS’”.
So till now, we have one example where the publisher benefited with good engagement from Facebook’s instant article while the other fared well with a link post on Facebook. Of all other publishers, BuzzFeed came up with their first article highly optimized for Facebook mobile with vertical image cards titled, “‘13 Steps To Instantly Improve Your Day‘. The post received a notable engagement of 6,600 which was not great when compared with posts from other top publishers on the list, however it did attract a lot of shares from users especially because of its mobile-friendly design.
One thing is clear from the 1st day performance of the first posts by the publishers mentioned above that the users are enjoying the 10 times faster speed of content delivery without waiting while the link opens in the browser. However, if the Instant Articles feature would affect negatively in any way for the publishers is too early to say or deny.
So, what is this Instant Articles Feature All About?
Instant Articles is a new feature introduced by Facebook that allows the users to read the news or article from publishers within Facebook itself without opening the link to the publisher’s article on a third-party browser. Using this feature, users can read the news instantly which will 10 times faster than reading the same news on another browser. Facebook claims that this feature will be a new way for the publishers to create faster, more interactive articles for their readers. Facebook will push these articles straight into the news feed and the users can read the articles without leaving Facebook platform. Currently, the feature is only available on iPhones using the latest version of Facebook mobile app.
With Instant Articles, publishers can rely on Facebook servers to load their articles faster for their readers using Instant Articles feature resulting in better user experience instead of using their own hosting servers to tackle the web traffic.
Last month, Facebook acquired TheFind, an eCommerce search app to help its users make the right decisions while shopping online. Earlier in 2014, Facebook launched Paper which is somewhat similar to Flipboard that helps the users to find news and stories shared by their friends and others around them. On the other hand, Facebook is also working on its Link Search feature to directly compete with Google, so that its users don’t have to leave Facebook for searching the web as almost all contents are today available on Facebook as well.
Considering all the above new initiatives, Facebook is apparently willing to control the Internet virtually by all the means. There are high possibilities that it may later integrate all these features together for better user experience as in the near future users may find everything of news, resources, eCommerce search etc. on a single platform.
What’s in it for Publishers?
Facebook is trying its best to attract the publishers worldwide to use its Instant Articles feature. A publisher can offer great user experience and build a strong fan following around its brand by delivering faster and more interactive news to its readers.
Here are a few takeaways for publishers using the Instant Articles feature:
- Offer 10 times faster load speed for better user experience to its readers
- Monetize their articles by placing ads within the articles and keep 100% revenue.
- Use Facebook’s own Ad platform and earn 70% revenue.
- Publishers can brand their articles on Facebook using their logo as well as have a follow button to earn more subscribers.
- With Articles loading within Facebook, users will be more inclined towards sharing or liking the content than via an URL opened on a browser.
- Publishers can also put the photograph of Reporters or Authors of the articles who can in turn earn followers and likes to their official Facebook page.
- Integrate features such as Auto-play video and interactive maps would boost impressions within the articles.
While many publishers and content marketers are eying this as a huge opportunity to better the user experience of their readers, there are some who think this as Facebook’s attempt to reposition itself among advertisers.
Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of Evolve Media suggested that,
“To think that Facebook is going to reasonably share in the profits from such a venture with publishers is short sighted. They will use premium publisher content to reposition their brand among advertisers and then share an increasingly smaller percentage with publishers as their reliance on any one publisher diminishes over time. This is the same thing that happened with YouTube.”
Will the Instant Articles feature fare well for all Publishers Equally?
It is too early to say if Facebook’s latest feature is a boon for publishers or it will kill the basic ethics of journalism. But there’s no doubt that if Instant Articles feature is a hit within the renowned publishers worldwide, then Facebook will gain full control over how we read the news. Currently, the social media mogul being the most widely used social network around the globe, is all set to rule over the world of content supported by such a huge user base by launching this Instant Articles feature for publishers.
Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land tweeted after the Instant Articles launch that if Google had attempted something like that then it would be opposed hugely by the media giving the example of Knol.
If Google had launched Instant Articles like Facebook, the mediarati would have lose its collective s**t screaming conflict. Remember Knol?
— Danny Sullivan (@dannysullivan) May 13, 2015
But such a control by a single entity whether Facebook or Google could be bad for the web as users will find all the news within Facebook itself without the need to check other resources on the web. Also, the budding publishers who are still extending their reach on Facebook and other social media as compared to the top brands, won’t be able to attract many eyeballs as their high profile competitors would do on Facebook getting them lesser views or clicks. It is not yet clear if Facebook will allow every publisher to use their Instant Articles feature or just the top ones. Hence, again it will develop a monopoly of the top publishers and Facebook over the news industry.