12 Initial Thoughts on Facebook Instant

Today’s launch isn’t as catastrophic or miraculous as you may think. Here’s why.

1. Facebook offers the promise of engagement, which has eluded news media in the past decade.

2. Facebook has better data, and they’re mining it smarter than those in the news business. Theoretically, Facebook knows what we’re most likely to read and when we’ll most likely read it.

3. Theoretically, monetization is more likely. Users are more engaged, ads are more targeted, ad inventory is better managed.

4. Theoretically, Instant’s UX will be more attractive to users. Load will be faster, gesture and motion will trigger events.

5. But here’s the problem with the news media hinging its hopes on Facebook Instant…

6. In practical terms, the only future X that’s being solved for is audience targeting. All of the other existing and future problems with news distribution in our modern media age won’t be addressed or solved.

7. (To be fair, that’s not the point or intent of Instant. But I’m pointing out that Instant isn’t going to fix what’s fundamentally wrong with current and future news distribution.)

8. The Instant partnership does not address the fundamental difference in how we use our phones vs how we use other digital media. Instant isn’t a new technology. It is a new way of repurposing content for what is really only a very slightly different medium. Many in the academic and journalism community are voicing fears that Facebook, with its Newsfeed algos and with the Instant platform, is creating easier access to an echo chamber that’s already difficult to escape. But what’s the real probability — real, not our well-worn dystopian view of the future — that people will actually rely only on Facebook for all of their news?

9. Our phones already contain so much data about us. Mapped against Facebook’s data, you could publish a single story 1000 different ways, effectively hyper-personalizing each and every story for the individual user. But that’s not what Instant is doing.

10. What’s the “standing on line at Starbucks” version of the story? The “waiting for a meeting” version of the story? Your phone can infer what you’re doing, where you’re doing it and therefore based on your behavior, what kind of news will be best for you at a particular moment in time. Like Google Now…but for news content. (But Google isn’t doing that, either.)

11. From my vantage point, Instant is not as disruptive or as damaging as many media watchers say it will be.

12. And, importantly, it’s also not as revolutionary or inspiring as many in the tech community say it already is.