Facebook Instant Articles: More Media Partners, More iPhone Users Coming

By David Cohen Comment

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Facebook announced more than 20 new partners for its Instant Articles initiative, as well as providing a detailed look at how publishers create Instant Articles via their content-management systems.

The social network introduced its interactive Instant Articles for its iPhone application in May, with nine launch partners:

Several of those partners detailed their plans to begin producing quicker-loading, interactivity-rich Instant Articles in June.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post bought into the Instant Articles concept in a big way, announcing that “100 percent of its stories” would be formatted as Instant Articles.

And other new partners set to come on board, as reported by Re/code, are:

Software engineer Brandon Diamond also announced in a Facebook Media blog post that in addition to adding more publishers, the test of Instant Articles will be expanded to more users of the social network’s flagship iOS app “over the coming months.”

The Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in his newspaper’s post announcing the partnership:

We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren’t holding anything back. Launching Instant Articles on Facebook enables to give this extremely large audience a faster, more seamless news reading experience.

The Post has seen explosive growth in readership over the past year, particularly on mobile phones and among millennials. Working with partners like Facebook allows us to further attract and engage those readers.

And Ryan told Re/code:

We were fine with not imposing limits on the amount of content. We figured, if you’re in, you’re in.

The Washington Post also announced that Qualcomm became its first advertisers to buy a package that includes impressions from Facebook Instant Articles.

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Facebook vice president of ads and pages Andrew Bosworth discussed the motivation behind Instant Articles at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco Tuesday, saying:

What we saw was a behavior on Facebook where people were in the application, they wanted to see news, they were clicking to see news, and it’s taking eight seconds to load. Eight seconds doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you’re waiting for content, it’s actually quite a bit. What we were seeing was a really bad user experience.

Fundamentally, what we’re trying to do is work with publishers to give them a way to deliver their content, and a great user experience and, by the way, ads that allow them to get paid for the content they create.

Instant Articles product manager Michael Reckhow told Re/code the social network is seeing “really good engagement” from the format, adding:

Everything that we make faster, it makes people engage more. We know there’s a lot of attention on this and on the numbers. When we put one out, we want it to be a number that’s going to stick.

Tobi Bauckhage, co-founder and CEO of new Facebook Instant Articles partner Moviepilot, said in a release:

Facebook Instant Articles has the potential to change mobile publishing for the better, and Moviepilot magazine feels like the perfect fit to give this a test drive. We’re one of Facebook’s biggest multichannel publishers, and we’re thrilled to partner with them on this exciting initiative.

Facebook software engineer T.R. Vishwanath offered details on how publishers can create Instant Articles via their existing CMS installations in an engineering blog post, stressing that conventional, publicly available technology such as RSS feeds and HTML5 drives the process.

Vishwanath began with a general overview:

We heard clearly from publishers that they want a single tool to publish articles to the Web, mobile apps or any other places readers see their content. That’s why Instant Articles supports publishing directly from a publisher’s CMS—there’s no need to author articles in a new location.

When publishers get started with Instant Articles, they provide an RSS feed of their articles to Facebook, a format that most CMS already support. Once this RSS feed is set up, Instant Articles automatically loads new stories as soon as they are published to the publisher’s website and apps. Updates and corrections are also automatically captured via the RSS feed so that breaking news remains up to date.

HTML5 provides an expressive format for specifying all the necessary information to lay out an Instant Article, and it allows publishers to reuse the code from their websites. This format also provides support for third-party content, including social media embeds, ads and analytics—all of which can be embedded in Instant Articles just like they are on the Web.

He also detailed the process of sharing Instant Articles:

Each Instant Article is associated with the URL where the Web version is hosted on the publisher’s website. This means that Instant Articles are open and compatible with all of the ways that people share links around the Web today:

When a friend or page you follow shares a link in your News Feed, we check to see if there is an Instant Article associated with that URL. If so, you will see it as an Instant Article. If not, it will open on the Web browser.

When you share an Instant Article on Facebook or using email, SMS or Twitter, you are sharing the link to the publisher website so anyone can open the article no matter what platform they use.

Associating each Instant Article with a URL makes it easy for publishers to adopt Instant Articles without changing their publishing workflows and means that people can read and share articles without thinking about the platform or technology behind the scenes.

Readers: What do you think of Tuesday’s developments with Facebook’s Instant Articles?

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