Facebook Instant Articles are a way for publishers to post their articles directly to the social network’s iOS app, meaning they load up faster for users than (often clunky) publisher websites.
The first Facebook Instant Articles partners are: BuzzFeed, The Guardian, The New York Times, National Geographic, NBC News, The Atlantic, Spiegel Online, and Bild.
Some publishers, including News UK, the biggest newspaper publisher in the UK, had been sceptical about the introduction on Facebook Instant. News UK’s CMO told Business Insider last year such an idea would be a “tax on navigation,” and a “tax on audience,” referring to the data Facebook would garner about publishers’ readers, and that visits to their own sites might be cannibalised, along with some associated ad revenue (or, in the case of News UK’s The Sun and The Times, which operate behind a paywall, potential subscription revenue.)
However, TechCrunch reports that Facebook says it will share analytics and that Instant Articles would be compatible with traditional online measurement systems like comScore, Omniture, and Google Analytics (so audiences will not be lost to Facebook, in other words.)
In addition publishers will receive “100%” of the revenue from ads that appear inside Facebook Instant articles. Facebook will only split revenue (with 70% going to the publisher) if it sells the ads against the articles. That should also seek to allay publishers’ fears about any potential cannibalization.
Those publishers not part of the launch group might fear that Facebook Instant articles will get bumped up the all-important news feed, but Facebook says this won’t be the case. Of course, however, if users click on lots of Facebook Instant articles, the algorithm will adapt to their preferences and show them more of that kind of content.
The launch of Facebook Instant is not the first time the social network has asked publishers to form content partnerships. In 2011, a number of publishers including The Guardian, The Washington Post, Business Insider and The Independent partnered with Facebook to create “Social Reader” apps to allow users to consume and share content in the Facebook environment.
However, in 2012 the majority of those publishers began to phase out those apps as although many of them proved extremely popular, the majority of the engagement was happening only on the Facebook platform, without much click-through to the publishers’ own sites (where they can generate revenue.). In some cases it was even cannibalising traffic to publishers’ own sites. The Social Reader App also generated what many users deemed as excessive updates about what readers were reading, clunking up the News Feed.
Earlier this year Facebook also launched standalone app Paper, its answer to news aggregation apps like Feedly and Flipboard. However, its popularity tanked soon after launch.
Disclosure: Axel Springer is an investor in Business Insider.
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