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Understanding Facebook’s Instant Articles

With widespread access to Facebook Instant Articles, it’s a fast, new world for major content publishers.

More than a billion people log on and read content daily with Facebook, and content marketer publishers can get a slice of those readers with Facebook Instant Articles.
Facebook Instant Articles was in test mode with several major media publishers over the past year, but after successful results and expanding the program to several hundred publishers, Facebook is ready to go prime time.
On April 12th, Facebook launched an Instant Articles plugin for WordPress, Medium and other content-rich platforms. This gives content publishers the opportunity to host articles and video content directly on Facebook, rather than posting URL links in the status update box. It also provides a unique RSS feed for content publishers’ blog or news sites. Facebook scans this RSS feed and publishes the site’s latest content as soon as it’s published to the Instant Articles platform.

Benefits of Instant Articles

Facebook is loaded with articles in news feeds, shared by family and friends. But media load times have been slow for the 50%-plus Web-connected Facebook users, especially for media rich content pieces. Instant Articles solves that issue with load time that Facebook claims is 10x faster than the standard mobile platform.
This is critical for publishers who don’t want frustrated FB users to click off their still-loading content, robbing them of page hits and views. Likewise, slow load time was a problem for Facebook itself. It wants users to stay on Facebook rather than navigating to other pages, apps or email.
Publishers will be able to sell ads around their Instant Articles content, and keep 100% of any revenue. However, a site’s organic traffic from URL links posted in Facebook will likely suffer in the short term, as consumers may prefer the unique reader experience provided by Instant Articles.
And with WordPress and Medium jumping onboard, content will be able to stand alongside major media posts. WordPress users will be able to format their content directly in WP for Instant Articles. This is a big plus. Managing Facebook content distribution directly from the CMS will have a major impact on content accessibility.

Instant Article Features

Here are a couple of the key features for content marketers to know about Facebook Instant Articles:

  • Instant Articles offer a media rich experience. Clicking on an article from your feed will now open up the article instantly and right in your Facebook page, giving you a smooth digital magazine-like reading experience.
  • If you update your article with new information, Facebook’s RSS feed scan sees this and automatically populates your Instant Articles with the same information.
  • Images in your directly-hosted Facebook page content will show up on phone screens in improved clarity.
  • Likewise, videos will auto-play as the mobile user scrolls down through the story. This feature adds a crisp visual storytelling element.
  • Instant Articles is created using HTML5. For developers, here’s a good encapsulation by Facebook on how it all works

Not to be left behind by Facebook’s move with publishers, Google also has the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative launched earlier this year. It’s an open-source program that gives publishers fast opening times for content on the open Web, not just on a specific platform. AMP works with Java and HTML, so it’s worth a look to see if your content can load faster on mobile pages. Click here for more background.

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