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Facebook Instant Articles will shake up media (and benefit users)

Matt Kapko | May 22, 2015
Facebook is starving for professionally produced media, and publishers are desperate to reach people who abandoned them for social sites, so Facebook's Instant Articles could be a good thing for the company, its publisher partners and consumers.

Facebook's Instant Articles
Facebook's Instant Articles promises to offer fast access to news articles with multimedia content. Credit: Facebook

Facebook's ongoing courtship of news, media and entertainment companies has had its ups and downs, but partnerships always seemed inevitable. Today's Internet users spend less time on walled-off websites and in apps with narrow focuses, and Facebook has become a default distributor -- some might say gatekeeper -- of all things media. Publishers might be concerned about ceding too much control to Facebook, but the concept of users consuming more and more news through Facebook seems like another inevitability.

The awkward dance between Facebook and media organizations reached a crescendo last week when the company introduced Instant Articles, its long-anticipated plan to deliver news articles and media in a more polished and streamlined manner directly to users' News Feeds. Articles are filled with rich, interactive media that loads up to 10 times faster than standard mobile Web articles, according to Facebook. User can explore photos and interactive maps in articles by tilting their phones, and they can watch auto-play videos or listen to audio captions in story streams.

Facebook Instant Articles a significant opportunity for publishers 

Facebook's scale and investments in video and mobile represent a solid foundation, and an opportunity, that media companies simply can't ignore, according to Forrester analyst Erna Alfred Liousas. "On the other hand, since Facebook isn't in the business of producing content, it needs ... media companies to keep producing content to keep audience interest levels high." 

[Related Feature: Is Facebook still an innovative company?]

The introduction of Instant Articles probably won't change the reasons why people use Facebook, but it will change how users interact with content from large media brands. Getting content in front of as many eyeballs as possible is every publisher's goal, so they can't overlook Facebook, the biggest eyeball emporium in cyberspace. 

Standard news stories take an average of eight seconds to load on mobile devices, which makes them by far the slowest single content type on Facebook, according to the company. With Instant Articles, publishers can choose to sell ads and keep the revenue or use Facebook's Audience Network to fill ad inventory. Publishers also get access to traffic data and analytics, but they give up control over other media that runs alongside their featured articles.

"Facebook is, first and foremost, a place for people to connect with family, friends and to stay up to date on what is most important to them," says Tania Yuki, founder and CEO of Shareablee. "Any surrounding content on the platform needs to add value to that experience, not detract from it." 


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