What Does the Future Hold for Facebook Instant Articles?

Qiigo Blog Facebook Instant ArticlesWhen Facebook Instant Articles was announced in spring of 2015, it was expected to be a gamechanger for the way publishers shared content via the world’s biggest social network. But more than a year-and-a-half later, the Instant Articles format hasn’t made as big a splash as expected. In fact, some publishers are now shying away from publishing through Facebook’s platform.

So, what’s changed? Or, more precisely, why haven’t things changed as much as many people first expected? And what does the future hold for the Instant Articles platform? We asked Qiigo’s Facebook marketing experts to find out…

Facebook Instant Articles: A Primer

Facebook’s Instant Articles platform was designed to improve the speed, usability, and reading experience of mobile articles. Similar to Google’s AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) project, Instant Articles was designed to make reading mobile content a faster experience.

But Facebook also built in a number of tools that publishers could use to create a more interactive and immersive experience. These included video covers, interactive maps, audio captions, and a ton of other innovative features. This made the platform an attractive choice for major publishers like the New York Times, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic, all of whom participated in the first run of testing.

Launched in May of 2015, the response to Facebook Instant Articles was largely positive. The first round of articles were called “gorgeous” and “a potentially game-changing mobile reading experience.” Many expected that publishers — particularly major publishers — would flock to the Instant Articles format in droves. But so far, the response hasn’t met expectations.

What Happened to Instant Articles?

The Instant Articles platform has been a modest success for Facebook, but it hasn’t transformed the mobile publishing landscape the way many expected it to. According to digital publishing magazine Digiday, several major publications have backed off on the format, posting fewer and fewer Instant Articles in recent months. And a handful of major publishers — including Bloomberg, the Wall Street Journal, and ESPN — have yet to use the platform.

So, what happened? There are a number of factors that have tempered the excitement around Instant Articles:

  • Between September of 2016, Facebook admitted to no less than nine crucial audience metric errors, including two directly related to Instant Articles. Publishers have become concerned that Facebook audience data is unreliable.
  • Publishers are worried that if they rely too heavily on Facebook Instant Articles, the social networking site will have too much leverage in the future for dividing up ad revenue.
  • Facebook’s rollout of Instant Articles coincided with a push by the network toward video content. Instead of investing in Instant Articles, some publishers focused their resources on video production.
  • Publishers have found that the format of Instant Articles is better suited to specific types of content. As a result, some publishers found that their pageviews actually dropped when they switched all of their content over to Instant Articles.

Despite these issues, the Instant Articles format has been generally seen as a positive for publishers. Some major publications, such as the Washington Post, are publishing almost all of their Facebook content through the platform. But others, like National Geographic and NBC News, two of the format’s first testers, are now posting only one or two Instant Articles a day, or none at all.

The Future, Plus What This Means for Brands

While the Instant Articles format was expected to reshape all of publishing on Facebook, the reality has been a little less spectacular. Still, it would be wrong to write off what Instant Articles are capable of and how big a role they play in the current Facebook publishing market.

For one, longform content appears to be thriving on the Instant Articles platform. Users are willing to deal with slower load speeds for breaking news and short reads, but publishers are finding much higher levels of engagement with longform written content when they publish in the Instant Articles format.

Brands — who don’t need to worry as much about ad revenues generated by content — are also seeing success through Instant Articles, either by creating original content or through branded content posted by major publishers.

For brands that are thinking of making Facebook Instant Articles as part of their Facebook marketing and content marketing strategies, here are three key things to keep in mind:

  • Instant Articles was created as a storytelling platform, so any content you produce with Instant Articles in mind needs to hook and compel readers.
  • To get the most out of Instant Articles’ capabilities, you’ll want to harness its interactive and multimedia features in a way that grips users and resonates with your brand.
  • Sponsored content is your easiest entry point into Instant Articles, as established publishers will have built-in audiences and brand equity.

If your target market is receptive to longer, interactive, story-driven content, Instant Articles might be the perfect fit for your bringing your brand’s story to your consumer base.

Partner with Qiigo to expand your brand’s presence on Facebook and the rest of the social web. Call us today at (888) 673-1212 to find out how our team can get more out of your online presence.

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