This month Facebook introduced ‘Instant Article’, an enhancement to its mobile app that allows news organizations to publish articles directly to your news feed from their own Facebook-hosted news pages. The New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, BBC News, Der Speigel and a few others have signed on.
For users, this will mean no more slow-to-load pages from links (eight seconds on average) and the addition of a bunch of other features including: the ability to zoom in on high res photos, auto-play video scrolling, audio captions and interactive maps. A “richer user experience,” says Facebook. Pretty cool.
So what does this mean for the community of mobile/social journalist, activists and storytellers? For starters it is confirmation of what we do. Facebook, by far the world’s largest social platform, and big media players are putting their money behind the need to do a better job of bringing the news to where an ever-growing number of readers already are - mobile devices and social platforms.
Facebook has not announced plans to make the tools and services on which Instant Article is built available to smaller web publishers, although Facebook has a form for interested organizations. Exclusivity is undoubtedly part of the initial appeal for big media players.
For now Instant Articles is available only on iOS, and while you can see Instant Article content on your computer, you do not get the touch-screen features or other interactive enhancements. Facebook hopes users will increase the time they spend on its network as a result of the features. It will also receive a percentage of the ad sales from news site pages.
Big web news publishers report that they get about 60 percent of their traffic -- and related ad revenue -- through referrals from Facebook. But, some are concerned that they could lose control of their content through platforms like Instant Article. To win over reluctant partners Facebook agreed to break with its traditional ad revenue model and let publishers keep a percentage of ad revenue from Facebook hosted news sites. Facebook also will surely give Instant Article publishers juice through its ranking algorithm.
Whether Instant Article succeeds or fails as an experimental business model isn’t important. Either way, it will work to develop a larger audience with an expectation for mobile content that is more visual, interactive and informative.
Small World News plans to look into becoming an Instant Article publisher as an experiment in what Instant Article might mean for our community. We will keep you posted.