Facebook Opens Instant Articles to All Publishers

Implications for Higher Ed & Other Organizations

Familiar with Facebook’s “Instant Articles?” Chances are, you have already read a few, maybe without even knowing it. What are these “instant articles?” Understanding that a large portion of their audience accesses Facebook via a mobile device, often one with a slow data or wi-fi connection, Facebook created “instant articles;” Pieces of content by some of the world’s best known publishers (Buzzfeed, National Geographic, and The New York Times to name a few) so that when you tap to read an article in your newsfeed, it loads instantly.

The shift shows Facebook’s emphasis on promoting great content. Previously, publishers were seeing incredibly high bounce rates on social content, much attributed to users who clicked, had to wait too long for their content to load, and abandoned the story that originally piqued their interest. Instant Articles are an attempt to combat that and keep people coming to the platform for news consumption.

After initial success with a few hundred publishers, the company recently announced that they’re opening up Instant Articles to publishers of all size, on April 12.

Source: Facebook

So, aside from much quicker loading time, what’s the difference readers experience with Instant Articles?

  1. Embedded videos autoplay seamlessly.
  2. Photos are pre-loaded into the piece. Users can tap to zoom, and rotate their phone left/right to move the view of the photo.
  3. Audio captions — Engaged readers can hear the voice of the author while reading the story, if publishers choose to include such content.

Essentially, Instant Articles are an entire multimedia content consumption interface — all on the Facebook platform, all loading as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web. We’ve previously compared the success we had with Facebook native videos over posted YouTube videos. I’d expect to see similar success with Instant Articles as they represent a similar type of seamless, on-platform content consumption.

So, how does it work? Recognizing the importance of publisher control, Instant Articles will remain consistent with current web publishing standards (HTML and RSS). Branding also remains entirely within the control of the publisher, who is also able to continue to use their current analytics platform, customize font and the entire look and feel of their content. Publishers can also automate production in their own CMS and preview items within their Facebook publishing feeed.

What about breaking news? Corrections? Facebook has that covered, too; Instant Articles are automatically updated via RSS. That means as soon as publishers make updates on their content, these changes are instantly updated within Instant Articles as well.

Instant Articles will reward shareable stories — that are now more shareable, and viewable than ever. In their own words,

“Facebook’s experience with other media formats, such as auto-play video, has been that more rapid content loading generates increased content consumption and sharing. We believe Instant Articles will help publishers grow their businesses on Facebook.”

Facebook has found a way to offer all of the advantages of consuming content on the web but in a way that feels native to their mobile app. The best part? If a reader stumbles upon your content organically and chooses to share a piece with their friends on Facebook, they will automatically share the Instant Article version. No dilution of the quality of your publishing, no slow loading times — just fast, organic growth.

Until April 12, we’ll be anxiously awaiting the launch of Instant Articles. We’ll follow up on our experiences once we’re live!

By: Emily Truax, Digital Engagement Associate, Boston University

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