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Facebook Wants to Take Over Online Publishing With Instant Articles

Facebook Wants to Take Over Online Publishing With Instant Articles

by Giulio PriscoJuly 15, 2015

Online newspapers have already replaced printed newspapers, but now readers turn more and more to social media for news and opinions. Facebook spotted this trend and realized its disruptive implications, and now the social network wants to take over online publishing, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Earlier this year Facebook started to contact major online publishers and try to persuade them to publish their content directly on Facebook.

Major online publishers are already getting 60 percent of their traffic through referrals from Facebook. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that clear majorities of Twitter (63 percent) and Facebook users (63 percent) now say each platform serves as a source for news about events and issues. The survey found that the rise in the share of social media users getting news on Facebook or Twitter cuts across nearly every demographic group.

Ultra-Fast Load Times and Broader Audience

Facebook Instant Articles“When was the last time you went to read a 5 min article when you heard about breaking news?” asks Business 2 Community. “You didn’t. You heard about it on Facebook, and that’s where you gathered all your ‘intel’ on what’s happening.”

However, the content distribution platforms of most online publishers aren’t even close to the efficiency of Facebook, and traditional online articles load much to slow for social media users now accustomed to the almost instant load times of Facebook.

In May, Facebook launched Instant Articles, a trial project that allows media companies to publish stories directly to the Facebook platform instead of linking to outside sites. Facebook tries to sell the program by saying it will substantially reduce load times for mobile users and give publishers access to a much broader audience.

“Leveraging the same technology used to display photos and videos quickly in the Facebook app, articles load instantly, as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web,” states the Instant Articles website. “Powerful new creative tools bring your stories to life.”

Instantly zoom into high-resolution photos and tilt to explore in detail. Watch autoplay video come alive as you scroll through the article. See where it all happened with interactive maps. Hear the author’s voice with embedded audio captions.

That sounds difficult to resist, and many top publishers including The New York Times, The Atlantic, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic, Bild, Spiegel Online, and BBC News, have signed up to trial Instant Articles. Their article pop up in some users’ Facebook news feed now and then, but aren’t being widely deployed yet.

Of course, the publishers don’t want to lose their advertising revenue to Facebook. Therefore, the publishers will get to keep 100 percent of revenue brought in from ads that they sell and 70 percent for ads sold by Facebook. Given that Instant Articles may reach a broader audience, that seems a win-win deal which can bring more relevant content to readers and more money to both publishers and Facebook. It’s worth noting that the program could threaten Google’s Adsense business.

Yet, it seems that no single company should be able to control that much of our access to news, analysis, and opinions.

Images from Facebook.

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