All the News That Fits the Algorithm

How will Facebook’s Instant Articles affect local publications?

If you haven’t heard, today Facebook made Instant Articles available for publishers of all sizes. Instant Articles first came out last year, but only for a select group of media giants like the Guardian, the New York Times, and Buzzfeed. Now, pretty much anyone with a blog can take advantage of faster load times and dynamic in-app content.

But that’s not the only advantage to using Instant Articles. Just like with native video – video that’s uploaded directly to Facebook, instead of hosted on YouTube or some other third-party site – content that uses Instant Articles will be given better placement and a higher priority in your readers’ newsfeeds.

From a publisher’s perspective, using Instant Articles makes plenty of sense. Native content makes its way into other people’s feeds much more often than linked content, which means it’s pretty much Instant Articles or Die for a lot locals and indies out there.

It makes even more sense from Facebook’s perspective, especially since uploading content to the social network gives Facebook a license to use your content in any way they see fit. Under Facebook’s terms and conditions (which are subject to change without notice), posting pictures and videos gives Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license” to use your intellectual property.

Any way you look at it, Facebook comes out on top of this one.

Take advertising, for example. Sure, you can sell your own ads for your content, even if you use Instant Articles. But even if they don’t change the algorithm a few months down the line so that content with outside advertising sits lower on the totem pole than content with ads from the Facebook Audience Network (FAN), they still win. Why would an advertiser waste time and money buying ad space from your rinky-dink website when they can tap into the guaranteed, targeted, and branded traffic that comes with Facebook’s ad network? It’s hard enough to convince most small business owners to buy digital ads, even today.

Which brings me to the real question: why bother even updating or promoting you indie website? Why not just take the leap and go full-on Facebook crazy? It seems inevitable at this point, at least for small sites. The reality is, no one wakes up in the morning and goes straight to www.myshittytown.com to check the news. They go to Facebook, check Twitter, browse Reddit or Twitter, get off the toilet, and repeat.

If they see an interesting article you wrote, they MIGHT click it and end up on your site. They might not. They’ll probably just read the headline and keep scrolling – that is, if your content even makes to their feed in the first place.

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