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]