Facebook Instant Articles: Immediate Pros & Cons

Looking to contend with the increasing amount of people consuming more Internet content on mobile than desktop,  Facebook this morning announced the launch of its “Instant Articles” initiative.

Facebook Instant Articles — which will be available, at first, on the Facebook iPhone app only — is an opportunity for content to be published & hosted on the social network directly. Facebook primary pitch to publishers is speed: with their content hosted on FB itself, mobile users won’t have to leave the app & wait for a page to load on the third-party website in order to view content. With Instant Articles loading, according to FB, “up to 10 times faster” than mobile webpages — implying there will be less abandonment, and, therefore, better opportunity for ad revenue. 

For the larger publishers involved in the initial rollout of Instant Articles — including the New York Times, Buzzfeed, and NBC News — there’s little apparent downside. Facebook’s product announcement stresses that content published through Instant Articles will still be able to be monetized as if they were appearing on their own site. In addition, comScore will be giving publishers full traffic credit for Instant Articles’ visits; and, according to Marketing Land, there is no minimum commitment — so publishers can pull-out of the arrangement at any time.

Publishers will have the opportunity to sell ad space on Instant Articles for 100% share of revenue; or, Facebook will back-fill unsold inventory for a 30% cut. Instant Articles will still be taggable with Google Analytics tracking, giving publishers the ability to see detailed analytics for articles posted directly to Facebook.

It all sounds great — for bigger publishers & mobile users. But, what about the little guys?

While Facebook insists that Instant Articles won’t receive preferential treatment in Newsfeed by design, there’s a natural progression that is likely to occur with this content. If Instant Articles are more user-friendly (by not forcing mobile users off the app to read content), and more users are gravitating towards mobile, these articles are, perhaps, more likely to be Liked or shared to friends. Given how the Newsfeed algorithm works, the more of your friends that engage with content, the more likely it is to show for you.

See where this is going?

Smaller publishers, including blogs (ahem) rely just as much — if not more on referral traffic as the big guys. Given how little organic reach our posts already get, anything that jeopardizes our chances of showing up in users’ Newsfeeds is a scary proposition.

For now, this is just speculation — there’s no telling how Instant Articles will really be received by users, nor how they’ll potentially impact the Newsfeed. Facebook has said that their goal is to eventually open up Instant Articles to all publishers that share content to the social network; so, maybe there’s some hope for the little guys, yet.

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