8 things about Facebook Instant Articles

(and how this is going to change business forever)

The day has come. Facebook launched its new tool for publishers last week and this is going to shake up the future of the entire industry. Too much? Then take a look at the guys working with Facebook as global partners and “beta-tester” in this first release: New York Times, National Geographic, Guardian, NBC, Bild, Spiegel, BBC, Atlantic, Buzz Feed. Pretty impressive, huh?

If you want to make things simple, there is not that much to say about Instant Articles. It is just the full integration of some editorial content within Facebook feed on mobile devices: no need to click on the article, wait — an average of 8 seconds -, and be redirected to an external website anymore. Just stay INSIDE Facebook and make use of the content in a smoother, richer and faster way. That’s it.

But if we go deeper, we can clearly understand that the point is not (only) about how faster the content loads for the end-user. The main point, in our opinion, concerns the implication for anyone who produces, manages and distributes content today. Magazines, Newspapers, Blogs, Publishers in general.

Facebook may have found the squaring of the circle about social content on mobile devices. They created a new and immersive experience for users. Seamless, interactive, deeply integrated. An experience that solves the typical issues of browsing with small interfaces: poor reading quality, connection problems, low loading speed, lack of consistency among different ecosystems, etc.

At the same time, it gives to publishers a powerful tool in terms of content curation and business enhancement. From now on, indeed, magazines and newspapers will be able not only to enrich their stories like never before (+ share them where users already spend most of their time) but also to eventually find a way to make real money from social media traffic on mobile devices.

Here is the catch: thanks to Instant Articles brands will be able to create a more natural, consistent and effective integration between their stories and advertising. More: they will have the chance to involve Facebook in the proper sale/management of advertising spaces too. A completely new role for the blue F, that acts now as a content distributor, media owner, and also media agency.

We made a list of 8 possible scenarios that, in our opinion, should be kept under consideration (a few of them may seem scary):

1. Instant Articles will set a new standard for design on mobile devices. Premium content quality, valuable interactions, perfect usability, loading time close to 0. People expectations will consequently increase and it will be hard for competitors — social media, website, platforms, blogs or whatever — to keep up the pace.

2. Instant Articles can bring a great value for brands in terms of awareness too. Every user that scrolls content becomes a loyal reader and this can change the relationship between them and the brands on Facebook. More valuable and “Twitter-like” (brand/followers) than the current “Facebook-Like” (brand/fans).

3. The boundaries between Facebook and the rest of the web are going to disappear. Everything will be integrated inside the news feed and users won’t even have the need to leave their wall. This is somehow positive because it will improve the user experience, but also risky due to the potential “monopoly” of Facebook. Especially if Instant Articles become available (and it will for sure) on desktop, tablet and smartwatch.

4. Newspapers and magazine are going to lose their classic role of distributors and keep the sole role of content creators. Which means less control on what they publish online or, at least, on how they publish their content.

5. Instant Articles is a great opportunity for content creators over the short term (better experience, ROI, awareness) but, at the same time, it can be a hazard over the long term. It may cause a radical decrease of social traffic toward owned channels and force publishers to considerably change their business model.

6. Publishers will probably have to make a strategic choice: put all their eggs in the Facebook basket (and, therefore, reduce the traffic to their owned channels) or deeply diversify their content to keep their channels alive.

7. Instant Articles is now tailored around the publishing industry but will soon open to other specific industries and then to the entire “branded” communication.

8. Facebook will bet hard on Instant Articles with the ultimate goal of refining the quality of its content (= to be more attractive to advertisers) and will clearly converge toward a different publishing model over time. Eg.: Medium, Flipboard or Twitter.

Facebook Instant Articles has been launched only through a selected number of partners and it’s buzz has already led to hype. We’ll have the chance to monitor its evolution in the next months and to test it within the services we are currently implementing. Stay tuned for news and updates!

Originally published at www.sketchin.ch on May 18, 2015.