Facebook, a social networking site, announces the launch of Instant Articles; a new mobile news product that may allow publishers create articles that load natively inside Facebook’s app. The social network may become a top player in the media industry.
The idea is a natural extension of Facebook’s news feed. “As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook,” product manager Michael Reckhow wrote in a blog post. Facebook aims to reduce the constant need to go back and forth between the Facebook app and the web browser, which may take some time to load articles that are hosted on third party sites. “Rather than loading an article using a web browser, which takes over 8 seconds on average, Instant Articles load using the same fast tools we use to load photos and videos in the Facebook app allowing articles to load as much as 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles,” according to Facebook’s FAQ.
Instant Articles may be news for the end users, who may want to save a few extra seconds when trying to read news on mobile, since many may seem to be doing that on public transportation. It also introduces a suite of interactive features. Zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting the phone. Watch auto-play videos come alive as the user scrolls through stories. Explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line. Currently, the feature is only supported on the iOS version of the Facebook app; however, an Android version is forthcoming.
Facebook is allowing publishers to sell ads in the articles and keep the revenue, or they may choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetise unsold inventory. Publishers may also, retain substantial control over the branding of Instant Articles; an article may have a prominent publisher logo at the top, making clear to readers that they’re reading a publisher story, which may segregate it from a generic Facebook news story. ComScore, the Web’s important measurement company, may give “Instant Article” publishers full credit for any traffic those stories may generate on Facebook’s app. Google Analytics, Omniture, and some publishers’ tracking tools may work just like on a publisher’s websites; recording standard data on who’s looking at what articles and the media inside them.
After initial set up, any story on publisher’s website may easily become an Instant Article. It’s a straightforward process because it uses HTML and RSS, standard ways for authoring articles on the web, according to Facebook’s FAQ. Facebook, also may provide tools for publishers to preview articles prior to publication and make sure they display as intended. Publishers who may wish to embrace new elements like interactive maps and auto-play videos may use simple, well-documented HTML tags to enhance the content with rich-media features. Presently, Facebook is only testing the product with a few publishers, however, may open up the program at a later date.
For other publishers, yet to sign in to the program; Facebook says, Instant Articles will receive the same treatment from News Feed sorting algorithm. However, if users click, like, comment, and share Instant Articles more often than others, they may show up higher and more frequently in the feed like any piece of popular content.
Facebook aims to keep users in its app, rather than leaving Facebook and going to a third-party website. With an aim to begin a relationship with publishers that might change if Instant Articles are a success. If users enjoy the format and think going off to a separate website is a second-class experience, well Facebook may have the publishers in a compromised position.
Watch the video to learn more about this innovative direction in journalism, Facebook Instant Articles Product Video.
How might products like Instant Articles, flourish the quality of journalism on mobile?