What started off as an experiment with high end publishers last year, has now been rolled out to almost anyone with a publishing platform or website. From April 2016, media companies, brands and even bloggers have been invited to sign up to use Facebook’s Instant Articles. But why should they bother? Well the stats speak for themselves. Instant Articles, articles that appear in a Facebook feed with a lightning bolt sign in the right hand corner, are now being read up to 20% more than ordinary articles, and it’s all down to load times. Traditional articles posted into Facebook were taking, on average, up to 8 seconds to load, putting many users off. The new Instant Articles, which were trialled by the likes of New York Times, The Huffington Post and The Guardian, load 10 times faster than traditional posts, and users are 70% less likely to abandon this type of content. Facebook claims that Instant Articles are also 30% more likely to be shared that other types of posts, potentially amplifying the reach of branded stories in news feeds.
Flockler publishing platform supports Instant Articles and enables brands to publish articles automatically to Facebook. Yle, Finland's national public service broadcasting company, has been one of the first Flockler customers publishing Instant Articles and Antti Hirvonen, executive producer of YLE Kioski, commented on the benefits:
“For a long time I’ve been thinking that Facebook is the future of Internet and therefore we’ll need to be actively testing the new native features. Native videos came first and Facebook’s algorithm is clearly prioritising those over YouTube. That’s why we’ve invested heavily in native videos and it will be interesting to see the difference between native articles and normal posts."
In the partnership with media companies Facebook gets engaging content to their users, and publishers get bigger reach and revenues from display advertising within Instant Articles. It sounds like a perfect marriage, but as media companies know well, Facebook is holding all the cards in this game. Antti Hirvonen says:
“From news publisher’s point of view the current progress is a bit challenging: we are in a situation where a third party can decide what type of content we are allowed to publish (complying to FB’s editorial policies) and who’s going to see it. This is something new for media companies and I believe in the long run there needs to be a model where verified and trusted media companies are allowed to publish their own content without editorial control by Facebook.”
From brand marketer’s perspective Instant Articles are a great way to increase the reach of branded content. Here are some of the main reasons why Flockler clients are using Facebook’s Instant Articles:
Algorithm favouritism: Facebook’s algorithm will likely prioritize Instant Articles over ordinary posts, which is what we’ve seen happen when Facebook introduced its own native video player onto the network two years ago. The native video player is now a favourite tool for brands and publishers.
Convenience: Users are increasingly wanting to get all their news and information from their personal newsfeed, without the hassle of having to go off on to multiple sites. Instant Articles also serves up content to the consumer in the way they like to consume it, on the platform they are on.
Display ads: Media companies will be able sell display ads within Instant Articles. The in-article ads will also allow brands to tap into the Facebook’s Audience Network, which means publishers will be able to show more relevant ads to their readers.
Mobile first: People are spending a staggering 20% of their entire time on mobile on Facebook. Instant Articles have been designed specifically to make content look and feel good on these devices.
Speed: Once users become used to this speed and functionality commentators predict they won’t want to settle for anything less. Plus, users will not want to bounce from one website to another website anymore, as they won’t want to wait for extra load times.