Facebook Begins Hosting Articles From News Publishers

A deal with the devil?

2-PhotoThe great Facebook/news publisher experiment has begun. This morning Facebook announced Instant Articles — articles from media companies that are directly hosted by the social network.

The initial partners taking the risk of allowing Facebook to handle their mobile content includes The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC News, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.

There are advantages for media companies participating in Instant Articles. The content will be delivered faster and made more reader-friendly. Facebook said that Instant Articles will load 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles. Another benefit to joining forces with Facebook is obvious: Everyone uses Facebook. By signing up, the media companies will likely expose their work to a much wider audience.

The downsides of Instant Articles for media companies is that Facebook now controls the publishers’  content and advertising-related information. If readers no longer need to go to nytimes.com to see Times articles, what does that mean for the future?

The sad truth is that media companies don’t have much of a choice but to sign up for Facebook Instant Articles. The social network is much too powerful to ignore. Sometimes a Faustian bargain is the best option available.