In May 2015, Facebook launched its experimental Instant Articles program. For the past year, the program has only been available to large media outlets like the New York Times and BBC News, but last month, Facebook opened up Instant Articles to all publishers. Now, anyone can take advantage of the program.
What are Instant Articles?
Instant Articles make web content available within Facebook’s mobile UI. This means that users don’t have to leave the Facebook app to read articles. It’s faster, friendlier, and in many ways better than simply publishing to a blog.
The Instant Articles model creates a new way for publishers to approach content accessibility and monetization. It’s a model that Facebook’s competitors will likely be looking to replicate, a trend that will form a new standard for publishing web content.
Currently, the standard way of viewing content through social media is by following links: You see something you like, you click on it, and you wait for a new page to load. Unfortunately, this last step can take a long time on mobile devices, where website performance is very hit or miss.
With Instant Articles, users can expect a much more consistent experience. Articles load right within the app. This removes the need for a web browser to make requests for a new web page, which can greatly reduce performance.
These accessibility upgrades are great for publishers; they want their content to reach as many people as possible. A better user experience means more people will read a publisher’s content. The cost of this accessibility is the upfront time put into integrating the code for Instant Articles. Fortunately, the potential benefits of this change likely outweigh the one-time investment.
It’s also worth mentioning that better mobile performance will also improve SEO. Page speed factors into Google’s ranking system. In other words, using Instant Articles can help a publisher’s content rank better in Google search results.
Facebook’s Instant Articles program works hand-in-hand with their Audience Network advertising program. Audience Network matches sponsored content to its respective audience, ensuring users only see advertisements that are relevant to them. These are the Facebook posts that appear in your feed with the “Sponsored” tag on them.
Through Instant Articles, publishers can serve Audience Network ads and earn a percentage of the resulting revenue. Alternatively, publishers can sell third-party ads and earn 100% of the revenue, as if they were publishing on their own website.
Considering the Audience Network program is itself setting a new standard in online advertising, it’s partnership with Instant Articles is one that is likely to make waves.
Should I Use Instant Articles?
There are certainly downsides to using Instant Articles. Since Instant Articles are hosted on Facebook instead of a publisher’s own domain, publishers will be trading direct traffic for referral traffic, which can negatively impact SEO. Also, Google offers slightly more control over monetization with its Accelerated Mobile Pages Project , which is probably Facebook’s top competitor for optimizing web content.
Taking these limitations into consideration, it’s important to note that Facebook has proven itself responsive to publisher needs. Instant Articles has seen multiple changes over the past year in order to make the program meet publisher expectations.
With these things in mind, the best response to whether you should be using Instant Articles is the same as for any marketing strategy: See what works for everyone else, then try it for yourself. The Instant Articles program is free to use, so there isn’t really a downside to just giving it a shot.
The state of the web is always changing. Instant Articles could represent the new standard for web content—a paradigm shift that is just beginning. Start experimenting now.