Facebook Tests Changes to Ads Within Instant Articles

By David Cohen Comment

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Facebook is considering changes to advertising within its Instant Articles iPhone feature after some of its partner publishers balked at restrictions.

Jack Marshall of The Wall Street Journal reported that Instant Articles publisher partners including The Washington Post, The New York Times and Little Things feel that the social network’s “strict guidelines” for advertising within Instant Articles are costing them ad revenue.

Examples include limiting publisher partners to one “large banner” ad of 320 pixels by 250 pixels for every 500 words of content, Marshall reported, while the same articles would usually contain three or four of those ads on the publishers’ own mobile sites.

Marshall also pointed out Facebook’s prohibition of rich-media ads within Instant Articles, as well as the fact that ads in Instant Articles must be packaged with other inventory across publishers’ websites and other properties, prohibiting them from putting a premium on Instant Articles ads.

Product manager Michael Reckhow preached patience, saying that the social network is working with its publisher partners and testing potential changes, and telling Marshall:

It’s early days with Instant Articles, but one of our principles from the beginning has been to work collaboratively with our publishing partners to understand their needs and shape the product. We’re currently working closely with publishers to understand how their advertising in Instant Articles compares to the mobile Web so we can deliver results, while maintaining a great reading experience for people. We’ve made numerous improvements to the advertising capabilities over the past few months and will continue to iterate based on publisher feedback to improve the product.

Washington Post chief revenue officer Jed Hartman told Marshall:

You have to analyze many factors to determine the monetization potential. You have fewer impressions per page view than we presently do, so you have to balance that, and you don’t have all the animation we can sell on our own site.

The assumption is that if you’re giving someone a slicker, faster, more convenient way of engaging with content, then you’ll have strong consumer demand and increased socialization, and that will lead to a bigger audience.

And Little Things co-founder Joe Speiser told Marshall:

The hope is that Instant Articles gives publishers way more traffic to make up for the lower monetization potential. It all comes down to how Facebook prioritizes this in News Feed. We’ve seen them prioritize video, and if they do anything similar with Instant Articles the numbers could go through the roof.

Readers: Have you experienced Instant Articles yet? What are your thoughts?

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