When a company such as Facebook introduces a new feature, marketers have two simultaneous reactions: excitement and skepticism, like a child discovering fire for the first time.
When Facebook unveiled its Instant Articles, the appeal was instant, but so was the potential drawback. Do we really want another place to share our content? How much do we want to fragment our audience? Aren’t our owned media enough? How much more ad revenue can we give to Facebook?
These are all relevant questions we have to ask when approaching a new, shiny feature full of promises. The good thing is this feature explicitly targets media outlets, hoping to draw them in with minimal loading time and nearly complete control over ad revenue. But is it worth your resources, and how can you benefit from it?
What are Instant Articles?
According to Facebook, Instant Articles are “a new way for publishers to create, fast interactive articles on Facebook.” Leveraging the same technology used to display photos and videos in the Facebook iPhone app, Facebook wants your content to live on its native app, versus linking to your website.
When you break it down, Facebook Instant Articles bring its established user experience to long-form content, with high-resolution photos, interactive maps, and embedded audio captions. With Instant Articles, your audience is immersed in every element of the story. Imagine holding a photograph in your hand, while being able to tilt it back and forth. Now imagine experiencing that with an image in a Facebook Instant Article.
But What About My Ads Revenue?
When you post a link to your website on Facebook, it’s a simple way to track conversion through click-through rates and ad impressions. At a first glance, Instant Articles come across as another way for Facebook to gain revenue from content you’ve created. However, according to the model they’ve set up, there are two ways to earn revenue from Instant Articles published on Facebook:
- Content creators can fill display ad inventory themselves and keep all of the revenue; or
- Let Facebook handle placement at the expense of 30 percent of your ad revenue.
Publishers who choose the first option of selling their own ads are free to insert those ads into the Facebook pages using any “ad serving” tool they wish. Of course, Facebook being Facebook, there are some guidelines in place for your self-serving advertisements:
- One large banner ad—or two small banners—for every 500 words of content.
- A maximum of four ads per article, and a maximum of two small banners per article.
- All articles are allowed to have at least one ad, regardless of the length.
- Publishers may include no more than one house ad per article.
- No ads may be placed “above the fold” on the first view of the article.
- Publishers may not include ads in autoplay videos embedded in their articles, although ads in third-party video players are allowed.
Jon Handschin, co-founder and chief creative officer of Moviepilot, says Facebook gives “publishers room to put in other types of advertisements because it’s the profit model for us. Native advertising is a play in that market as well, and Facebook understands it.”
Whether you choose the self-serve option, or let Facebook handle your placement for a small price, Facebook is trying to make one thing obvious: They want to support your business models by encouraging you to use their platform without taking away your ad revenue.
Well…at least not by much.
Technical Brass Tacks
Will your content team have to learn yet another content management system to use Instant Articles? Yet another dashboard to add to their bookmarks list?
The short answer: No.
One of the biggest appeals of Facebook Instant Articles is its ability to publish directly from your existing system. You want a single tool to publish articles to the web, and Facebook heard you. All you need is a simple RSS feed of your articles.
According to the Facebook Developers’ blog post, once you’ve set up your RSS feed, 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.”
And for the interactive images and videos? Well, lucky for developers everywhere, Instant Articles are created with HTML5, and it allows publishers to reuse the code from their website. So once the code is written, you’re set to go.
Is it Worth Your Time?
Currently, the early adopters of Instant Articles include publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, National Geographic, MTV and Vox Media—all of whom include extensive creative elements in their content, including videos, voice recordings and interactive maps.
But will it benefit you as a content creator? The short answer is “yes.”
Is it worth your time? That depends on how you want your audience to interact with your content.
If your goal is to share the information with as many people as possible, Facebook Instant Articles provide an easy to way to help you reach more eyes via a simple syndication model. With comScore integration, Instant Article views count as traffic to your original content.
If your goal is ad revenue, you need to evaluate the time to takes to set up the revenue stream on Facebook in addition to what’s already created on your website.
As you plan your content strategy this year, Facebook Instant Articles could be an easy win for content publishers who are hoping to get more traction with mobile users because they’re currently only available to iPhone app users.
This is just one more step for Facebook to retain its users on the platform for as long as possible, creating a fully immersive experience from the way we connect with friends to the way we get our news.