Facebook Instant Articles are creating a platform for publishers to host ads on social networks, rather than placing them
Ever thought magazines would be placing native ads on social networks? Me either, and that’s not exactly happening just yet, but it’s an interesting thought, right?
Back in May, Facebook launched Instant Articles , a content publishing platform within Facebook. Instant Articles are highly dynamic, with good-looking and fast-loading graphics, animations, videos, maps and other elements. It’s more user-friendly than sending readers out of Facebook to read your articles, but on the other hand, it’s only available on mobile Facebook, and you’re losing all SEO benefits, which is why most brands and publishers produce free content to begin with.
So then, why are publishers like The New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic, The Guardian, The Huffington Post and The Washington Post all publishing on Facebook Instant?
Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said, ‘We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren’t holding anything back. Launching Facebook Instant Articles on Facebook enables to give this extremely large audience a faster, more seamless news reading experience..”
Also, while brands are out there buying up native advertising space on different content platforms, publishers aren’t, and Facebook is providing an interesting platform to, at the very least, create a fertile ground for testing content. In fact, it links up to a publishers’ CMSs to make publishing more seamless, or so they claim.
But it’s more than buying space to publish content, which is tempting but not groundbreaking, seeing as LinkedIn Pulse offers a similar platform, is free and accessible to all publishers without applying, like Facebook’s Instant Articles.
What’s drawing in publishers is two things: First, it’s a user-friendly way for readers to click on articles on Facebook, and when they’re on their smartphones, get quick-loading access to the content. Second, it’s a revenue platform, not an ad platform.
With Facebook Instant, you can sell ads yourself and keep 100% of the revenue (one ad per 500 words, and only 320×250 pixel banner ads), or you can split the revenue with Facebook and give them 30% if you leverage the Facebook Audience Network.
Admittedly, publishers are reportedly not seeing big profits here, but according to the Motley Fool, Facebook has been working hard to make the platform work for publishers, explaining that “it lets publishers use their own third-party analytics tools, they keep 100% of ad inventory they fill, and they can publish as much or as little as they want to the new format.”
And in terms of mobile readiness, it’s one of the main features of Instant Articles. Mobile usability is so important these days, that Google saw the possible advertising hit they might receive from Facebook’s Instant Articles and followed up with Accelerated Mobile Pages which helps mobile pages load quicker, and publishers like the Washington Post and the Guardian are already using it.
Thoughts on Facebook Instant Articles
Facebook has been pretty good at generating revenue. I mean, Zuck just vowed to give up 99% of his shares in Facebook for philanthropic endeavors. They got good at making revenue by giving away Facebook for free to consumers and businesses. Now, after all these years, they’re asking businesses to pony up some cash on Facebook, and instead of being the advertiser who pays for visibility, you can now collect some revenue leveraging that same network of advertisers.
The benefits of publishing on Facebook are certainly not in the arena of SEO or long-tail. I gather that they may get preferential treatment in news feeds and receive higher reach, so although they don’t have long-term value to your site, they may have short-term value to get content viewed by your network at an elevated level, where you can use it to convert visitors into subscribers and buyers the same way you do on your site.
Something to keep in mind, however, is why you create free content. Non-media brands create free content to get you to their website, and the free content is the only type of content they have. As publishers where your paid content is your product, content, I’d be careful about where you give it away, and weigh the benefit of giving it away somewhere other than the place most optimized to generate new subscribers.
On the other hand, it does have a built-in ad platform worth trying out, and you can simply think of it as a native ad on Facebook and see where it leads.
Lucia Moses of Digiday recently broke down the debate between Apple Newsstand replacement Apple News and Facebook Instant Articles. The categories? History, revenue-sharing, data terms, and features. The conclusion was that the offerings are similar in some ways – for instance, both have a star-crossed history with publishers; both will let publishers keep 70% if they use the provider ad platforms – and different in others: Facebook might have better analytics, but Apple might have better promotional opportunities for multiplatform publishers. One big advantage for Apple at the moment: Apple News is open to all publishers, while Facebook Instant is currently more exclusive.
Will you use the Instant Articles platform when it comes available to all publishers? Why or why not?