Facebook Instant Articles

What you need to know about Facebook Instant Articles

What are Instant Articles?

  • Instant Articles are stories from big-name news outlets that appear within Facebook’s iPhone app in their entirety rather than simply as a link to elsewhere on the web. [Wired]
  • Facebook is working with nine launch partners for Instant Articles: The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild. [Facebook Media]
  • Facebook allows publishers to control the ad sales, branding and content; sell ads on the articles and keep all the revenue; and get data on their readers. [Digiday]

How do Instant Articles work?

  • The app is using the same technology Facebook has used to get photos and videos to load quickly. It pre-loads the story as you approach it in your News Feed, and is able to show you the top of the story as soon as you tap. On the web, publishers typically lard their pages with dozens of modules for serving advertisements and analytics; one reason instant articles load faster is because they strip most of those out. [The Verge]
  • Instant Articles makes use of a tool called AsyncDisplayKit. By tapping into the iPhone’s multi-core processors, the user interface is quick and responsive. [Ben Cunningham]
  • Facebook lets publishers use their own publishing tools, and then converts stories automatically into a format that works on Facebook’s app. There are bells and whistles, like a photo- and video-panning feature Facebook imported from its Paper app. [Re/code]
  • Essentially, the social network reads special tags coded into the story to reformat it, but refers back to the underlying link so that reading it counts as a mobile web view [The New York Times]
  • You can “like” individual elements of the story, follow the authors or the news organization on Facebook and even share the story on other platforms, such as Twitter. [The New York Times]
  • The Instant Article experience is only available on the Facebook app for iPhone. Those using Android will see the article in their news feed the way it normally would. [The New York Times]
  • ComScore gives Instant Article publishers full credit for any traffic those stories generate on Facebook’s app. [Re/code]

Why is Facebook doing this?

  • As more people get their news on mobile devices, Facebook wants to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. The articles are hosted on Facebook’s servers, are well designed and create a better experience than the typical 8-second wait for an article to load on the mobile web. [The Verge]
  • Facebook is taking a 30 percent cut if the ads are sold through the Facebook network. [Contently]

What concerns do publishers have about Instant Articles?

  • In this deal, Facebook retains sole control of its news feed algorithm. [NPR]
  • Facebook is working to solidify itself as the default place where millions or possibly even billions of people go to get their news . The risk is that it will wind up helping Facebook more, and that eventually Facebook—a for-profit company that has shown no evidence that it actually understands or cares about “journalism” per se—will become the trusted source of news for millions of users, rather than the publications that produce content. [Fortune]
  • Facebook will becomes the de facto solution for publishers’ mobile challenges, publishers effectively limit their business to content creation and could become dependent on others to deliver their audience. [VentureBeat]
  • Once news sites join Instant Articles, they’ll lose their leverage and Facebook will impose more and more unfavorable terms on them. [Vox]
  • By publishing on Facebook, publishers may cannibalize their in-house ad sales teams. [VentureBeat]
  • What happens when Facebook goes away? Are today’s publishers, by then, just portable content generators ready to be passed to the next platform? Or have they been replaced by something else entirely? [The Awl]

Who worked on Instant Articles?

  • Project Manager Michael Reckhow and designer Mike Matas are part of the team behind Instant Articles. These are the same guys behind Facebook’s Paper app. Matas came to Facebook when Push Pop Press was acquired in 2011. [TechCrunch]

The Hollywood model and what it means for your career

The marketer’s CMO, Dana Anderson, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that AORs (agency of record) are “no longer the pathway to Oz for clients or agencies.” She said that digital has “created thousands of new mediums,” so “it is just not possible for one agency to be expert in all these areas.”

…creative agencies were once viewed as the “custodian” for brands. But that notion is getting “circumnavigated” by the “two-way conversation” occurring on social media directly between brands and consumers


Work is making a grand shift towards the Hollywood model. In the not too distant future you’ll see ad hoc teams assembled of different people with parallel skills carrying out large and elaborate problems. They’ll work together for as long as is needed to complete the task then dissolve.

The Hollywood model is far more adaptable for today’s business world. Employees that are proven, reliable and have highly-sought-­after skills will have leverage. Those that don’t have marketable skills will be forced to compete against the robots.

How do you make sure you’re one of the first picked in this new economy? Be curious. Remain teachable. Educate yourself (and not necessarily through a traditional college). Develop your soft skills and communicate clearly. Flex your creative muscles.

Instagram launches @music channel

Instagram launches @music – their first dedicated vertical channel focusing on popular and emerging artists.

By creating exclusive editorial content, Instagram hopes to become a full-service destination for music lovers, and to enhance its position as a critical ally for artists and labels.

Buzzfeed News

Could we be headed for @movies, @videogames, @books….? Is this an extension of Instagram and the start dedicated channels? Maybe it’s the start of Instagram creating exclusive content for their platform ala YouTube’s Creator Space. Down the rabbit hole of speculation.

When it comes to music, Roots drummer and “Tonight Show” bandleader Questlove (@questlove) is all about the highs and lows. Take DJing, for instance. Give the crowd too many hits and you’ll numb them into the ground; too many non-jams and you’ll drive them off the dance floor. “When I first started, I was just desperate,” he says about the lack of pacing in his shows. “I was like, this is a hit, this is a hit, this is a hit. And you get addicted to the adrenaline rush of, ‘OH MY GOD THIS IS MY SONG.’ You kill them so much. I realized that now I am more obsessed with the opposite. I will put a bad song on and actually watch them filter out the floor. And I will wait two minutes [then play] ‘Uptown Funk’ –– ‘OH MY GOD IT’S MY SONG’ –– and then the scream is bigger than before. –Instagram @music Photo by @questlove

A photo posted by Instagram @music (@music) on

Start with why, not what

Cal Newport has a great take on the Apple Watch and its role in your life. He believes that people work backwards. Instead of  what they need, they’re more concerned about what’s hot. Here are two bits of inspiration from his post.

…once you start letting other people tell you how to invest your limited time and attention, you’re almost certainly going to stray from the things you find most important.

Decide what matters to you; seek out the tools that most directly and obviously help you accomplish these things; then get down to work.

Cal Newport

Being a full-stack employee

…the full-stack employee has a powerful combination of skills that make them incredibly valuable. They are adept at navigating the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape. They make intuitive decisions amidst information-abundance, where sparse facts mingle loosely with data-drenched opinions. Full stack employees are capable of speaking design lingo, know that using Comic Sans is criminal, and are adept at making mocks in Keynote, Sketch, or Skitch (if it comes to that). And they know the difference between UI and UX.


The open source algebra textbook

Sarah Hagan's students at Drumright High School in Drumright, Okla., don't use traditional textbooks — they make their own. They begin with blank composition notebooks and each day, Hagan hands out a lesson she's written herself or open-sourced from other teachers across the country. It's usually printed on colored paper and requires some kind of hands-on work: drawing, coloring, cutting. "The point is, we shouldn't have to be like, 'Oh, yeah, there's that chart on page 763 that tells me how to classify something.' They should think, 'Oh, that's on that blue paper that we did a few days ago, and I doodled in the corner,' " Hagan explains. The link in our profile takes you to the full story. (Credit: @elissanad/NPR) #50GreatTeachers #education #npr #oklahoma

A video posted by NPR (@npr) on

Here’s what I’m reading for February 21

Here’s the most interesting stuff I read, watched and listened to for the week ending February 21.

How Facebook and twitter created an industry demand for audience development experts – Facebook and twitter have designed themselves as indispensable content broadcasters. Now that they both have demanding shareholders to answer to, marketers are stuck in the middle. How should they evolve? Beyond creating lights out content, teams must invest just as much time and money in content distribution and audience development. What skills should someone charged with audience development have? See what Lucas thinks in the link.

5 essential twitter search operators to find the most relevant tweetsTurbo charge twitter’s advanced search to go beyond just seeing who’s talking about “Starbucks lattes”, and discover who wishes they had one right now, who thinks they’re too expensive, and who’s following the Starbucks account just for a discount coupon.

U.S. Digital Services Playbook – To meet citizen’s needs and to increase the success rate of projects, the government has created a playbook of key practices. These  “plays” were drawn from practices from the private sector and government and, if followed together, will help government build more effective digital services.

Game Over (99% Invisible podcast) – This is how a virtual apocalypse plays out on The Sims.

Tesla wants to create a battery to power your home – While the big speculation of the week was that Apple was invading Tesla’s car turf, Elon Musk mentioned he’d be producing a stationary battery for powering homes in the next few months. Bombs away at the utility companies!

Beam on Kickstarter – Screw this smart projector into any light socket and this powerful projector turns a flat surface into a big screen.

Back the Beam Smart Projector on Kickstarter

Share your best stuff with me on twitter @bobhazlett

Podcasts I’m listening to right now

These shows are burning up my ear holes.

  • On Being – Big questions on meaning with scientists, theologians, teachers and artists.
  • Back to Work – Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discuss being productive, work, and tools with the state of mind of an older and wiser man.
  • The Accidental Creative – How to build practical, everyday practices in a create on-demand world.
  • Planet Money – Making sense of our economy in an easy to understand and digest story format.
  • Mortified – Adults sharing embarrassing diaries and letters they created as kids.
  • 99% Invisible – Like Planet Money, but for design and architecture.
  • Startup – A podcast about creating a podcasting company (it’s getting deep in here). Season 2 debuts soon.
  • New Tech City – The human side of technology.

tweet me your favorites @bobhazlett

The New York Times goes all-in on Instagram

The news needs to live where you (or your users) live.

I’m giving The New York Times a big bear huge for taking this step outside of page one and their homepage.

Over the past few weeks, the Times started new Instagram accounts for its video team, sports desk, marketing department and events team. Those four joined existing Times accounts for food, travel, fashion and T Magazine content. That makes eight active Times Instagram account today, with plans to launch a primary @NYTimes account in the next month or two.

“It’s not an effort to drive traffic to the site. That’s very hard to do on Instagram,” said Alexandra MacCallum, assistant managing editor for audience development at the Times. “It’s much more about building awareness and, hopefully, loyalty for The New York Times broadly, but particularly for the Times’ incredible visual storytelling.”