Buzzfeed, The New York Times, BBC, The Guardian: the publishing kings of the modern-day age. Now, each of these content power-houses will be publishing content directly onto Facebook’s app through Facebook’s new Instant Articles feature.
Facebook announced the launch on their blog two days ago. Initially, the partnership will only be available to nine publishers. But as the feature rolls out across the next few months, what will it mean for brands?
Our finger’s on the digital marketing pulse, so we’re here to give you our unique take on Facebook’s latest move and help you decide what to do next.
It’s clear that the objective of Instant Articles is to get brands to tell better stories. To help brands and incentivise them to do this, Facebook are now utilising a range of interactive features to help brands layer their information and deliver rich content: there’s the internet’s favourite new trend of cover videos, and the ability to like and comment on individual parts of an article (similar to the highly-popular function on visual storytelling site Medium).
Facebook are once-again championing video content by including scrolling autoplay prompts. There’s also a somewhat superfluous option to scroll left and right in a zoomed-in image by tilting the phone. Audio captions will allow readers to hear the voice of the author tell parts of the story, and animated maps will have geo-location tags to show exactly where in the world the article’s photos were taken.
Interactivity stimulates engagement. Click, explore, click, explore, and on it goes; it’s the natural digital rhythm. We know that when brands tell better stories online, people start participating.
A key motivation for Facebook was to reduce the time it takes for users to load a web page from the Facebook app. In the promotional launch video, National Geographic’s Anand Varma put it perfectly: “you don’t want a loading bar to get in their way”. Users will no longer have to wait the average eight seconds it takes to load links through Facebook.
In our world of increasingly shorter attention spans, this is a great strong-arm from Facebook to encourage brands to tell more engaging stories. This creates better experiences for both potential and current customers. Better experiences drive repurchase and inspires customers to become advocates for your brand.
Brands will now be able to sell ad space within their Instant Articles, or embed their own (and keep all of the revenue!). Alternatively, they can allow Facebook to sell the ads through their own extensive ad network, where Facebook will receive 30% of the revenue.
This gives brands some really exciting opportunities to hyper-target cleverly disguised ads to users who are already engaging with their content. It’s almost like speaking to the converted!
Instant Articles are essentially a way to keep users within the Facebook ecosystem, so click-throughs will no longer direct users to your website. This means you will have to work extra hard to get them to click into your website with engaging content, links, and images, or with motivating and relevant ads.
Many are concerned this could lead to a decline in readership on brands’ own websites, equalling a decline in interest from advertisers. This will be a key consideration for many publishers and content producers when deciding whether or not to adopt an Instant Articles strategy.
It’s still a little unclear exactly how Instant Articles analytics will work. Facebook have said: “publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools”. But does this mean there’s a restricted amount of analytics tools that can be used?
More promisingly, the New York Times is reporting that Facebook is permitting publishers to collect data about users who read Instant Articles with the same tools they use to track visitors to their own sites.
So far, the feature is only available for iPhone users through Facebook’s mobile app. This means a huge number of users will be isolated from using the feature, meaning it could ultimately fall flat on its face.
If you’re a lucky iPhone user, you can check out the first Instant Articles from Buzzfeed, New York Times, and National Geographic here.
At the end of the day, as we continually keep seeing in the world of social media, Facebook comes out on top. They get the best of both worlds: more money in their pockets and more people staying on their site.
The announcement of Instant Articles comes along with a lot of controversy, particularly from those warning that publishers will be handing over control of their content. However we can only hope that the announcement acts as a clarion call for brands to reassess how they tell stories and deliver better online experiences for their customers. So what do you think? Is Instant Articles for you?
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