Last year, Facebook introduced Facebook Instant Articles, a fast-loading mobile experience that allows users to instantly view articles and consume content within the Facebook mobile application. Over the last 10 months, Facebook has rolled out Instant Articles to all iOS and Android users with dozens of major publishers opting into the content format, including The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Cosmopolitan, and National Geographic.
When a user clicks on an enabled Instant Article link, a full-length story loads in a microsecond, featuring text, images, video, and interactive elements. After a quiet rollout to mobile application users, Facebook is redefining the mobile content experience and resetting user expectations.
In February 2016, Facebook announced that it would be opening up Instant Articles to all publishers by April of this year. Facebook Product Manager, Josh Roberts, wrote on the company’s blog, “we’re excited to announce that on April 12th at Facebook’s F8 conference, we will be opening up the Instant Articles program to all publishers – of any size, anywhere in the world.”
PUSHING MOBILE FORWARD with Facebook Instant Articles
Photo Source: Facebook
As consumers spend an increasing amount of time on mobile devices, brands and publishers are going all-in on mobile-first content experiences. With load times up to 10x faster than standard articles and the ability to better control advertising, Instant Articles can offer a better experience for both readers and publishers.
Facebook isn’t the only platform to dive into mobile-optimized content. Google launched Accelerated Mobile Pages (or AMP) late in 2015 with the same goal of distributing relevant content instantly to mobile users. Similar to Instant Articles, publishers can create content using the AMP formatting, which will instantly load from within mobile search results.
How important is mobile load time? Google studies show that 29% of smartphone users will immediately switch to another site or app if it does not satisfy their needs – for example, if the user cannot find the information they are looking for or if it loads too slowly. Interestingly, a Forrester study from 2009 (well before the mobile revolution even began) found that 40% of mobile shoppers will abandon a website or application if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.
WHAT THIS MEANS FOR PUBLISHERS & BRANDS
For both publishers and brands that create a large amount of content, Facebook Instant Articles promises to deliver a rich experience where users live and breathe – their mobile News Feed. The ability to control and sell ads within articles allows publishers to earn revenue from content. Traffic from Instant Articles can also be measured and attributed with website analytics tools.
According to Digiday, Facebook is also testing email newsletter signups from within Instant Articles. The Washington Post and The New York Times are among a few publishers testing this added functionality, which Facebook says will allow the publishers to “build a more direct relationship with their readers through Instant Articles.” Earning newsletter subscriptions could provide additional value for publishers and incentivize the use of Instant Articles.
GETTING STARTED With Facebook Instant Articles
To get started with Facebook Instant Articles, brands and publishers must claim their URL, setup a template using 19 customizable elements, build and connect an RSS feed or utilize the Instant Article API, set up advertising and analytics, follow a submission checklist, and submit 50 articles with ads enabled for Facebook to review. Once approved, pages may begin publishing content as Instant Articles. A published Instant Article enables Facebook to render a page in the fast-loading format whenever an enabled user encounters a link to the page.
To better connect with content managers and publishers, Facebook announced a partnership in March to give publishers using WordPress a plug-in that will convert new content into the Instant Article format. Google has also made a plug-in for WordPress users to create Accelerated Mobile Pages. A March 2016 report from W3 Techs reported that 26% of content management systems for global websites are powered by WordPress, so the plug-ins could have huge implications for content shared on both Facebook and Google.
FINAL TAKEAWAY ON FACEBOOK INSTANT ARTICLES
Instant Articles may be worth implementing if marketing goals align with driving traffic or building an audience of engaged customers. Because Instant Articles keeps users within the Facebook interface, rather than directing them to a separate website, usage may negatively impact onsite conversion goals from organic Facebook posts. That said, increasing engagement and improving the customer experience would likely benefit cross-channel impact. Websites that rely heavily on article content and see page load speeds over 3 seconds may also benefit from using Instant Articles. Before committing the time and resources needed to convert top information and blog pages into Instant Articles, NHI recommends evaluating content objectives and website impact.