Facebook Instant Articles: A First Look
Who else scrolls through their Facebook feed first thing in the morning? We’ve all been there – forcibly waking yourself up via that sickly screen glare, scrolling through the overnight updates of your Mum’s new favourite Minion photo, the travel photos from your uni mates who haven’t found employment to be a post-graduation necessity, and – oh look – that girl you went to school with is pregnant. Again.
You’ll also inevitably come across lots of links to content. Whether it’s the latest story from BBC News or Buzzfeed’s most recent take on cat gifs (both equally important, obvs), most brands and businesses rely on Facebook as a key tool for content promotion.
What you might also find, however, is that the content takes a long time to load. Most of the time you’ll be knocked out of the app and into whichever your default browser is, which really sucks.
Unsurprisingly, Facebook are well aware of this problem. And – clever little crew that they are – they’re fixing it, rolling out the brand new Instant Articles program as of April 12th.
So what is Instant Articles?
Effectively, Instant Articles means that anyone can host their content directly onto Facebook. A bit like LinkedIn Pulse, Instant Articles means that every user can become a publisher. The content will open seamlessly via Facebook at a rate of up to 10 times faster than the standard mobile web, dramatically reducing load time and – hopefully – dramatically increasing audience.
But it doesn’t stop there. Using the same technology that’s made Facebook such a visual, video-friendly platform in recent years, high resolution photos and autoplay videos will work without hindering your speedy load time. You’ll also be able to include interactive maps and embedded audio captions to really bring your brand stories to life. Ain’t technology cool, tho?
Brands like The New York Times, National Geographic, The Guardian and NBC News have already begun using Instant Articles, so you might’ve already noticed articles loading much quicker from some of these big names. But following Facebook’s F8 Conference on April 12th, even small fries like us will be able to climb aboard the bandwagon.
So is this the new democracy? Will we all be able to share user-friendly content easily? Are all brands created equal, or are some equal than others?
Well, we’ll have to wait and see. There’s already some concern that it’ll make businesses even more dependent on Facebook for brand awareness than they already are, and that – inevitably – content produced by small businesses will be swallowed by the massive advertising budget of bigger brands. In addition, some who've already previewed the feature have, alarmingly, noticed a drop in readership.
And how will it work from an SEO perspective? If we publish content exclusively on Facebook, we risk missing out on QDF signals prized by Google. It's also possible that our Facebook pages could end up outranking our websites, and what happens if ol' Zuckerberg shows ads from our competitors to our Instant Articles readers?
Like the agile and open-minded marketers we are, we'll embrace the move and see what happens. But as usual with Facebook, only time will tell.
If you’ve already begun using Instant Articles, or if you’ve noticed it making a difference to your news feed, we’d love to hear what you think. Give us a shout on Twitter @noisymonkey – or hey, you could always use Facebook.