Facebook Instant ArticlesBy Gini Dietrich

First things first, everyone wish my mama a very happy birthday! I told her we’d have cupcakes in her honor tonight.

Now to the topic of today…Facebook Instant Articles.

I’m going to preface this by saying not everyone can use Facebook Instant Articles for their content, but it’s something to keep an eye on because I suspect they’ll make it available to bloggers sometime this year.

Facebook Instant Articles: Buzzworthy or Evergreen?

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 (hello Peach…just yesterday!). 

What are Facebook 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 iPhone app, they want your content to live on its native app, versus linking to your website.

(This is where I start to get squeamish. I want everyone to come here! I will take my ball and go home!)

When you break it down, Facebook Instant Articles allows your audience to be immersed in every element of the story: High-resolution photos, interactive maps, and embedded audio captions.

You know how we talked about VR content on Tuesday and how you can move your head around to see all sides around, above, and below you?

Well, Facebook Instant Articles wants to do that for your content, as well.

As that technology is being developed, though, they are enticing the use of Facebook Instant Articles by giving you <almost> complete control of your ad revenue.

So What About the Ad 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, Facebook Instant Articles come across as another way for the social giant to gain revenue from content you’ve created.

But, according to the model they’ve set up, there are two ways to earn revenue from Facebook Instant Articles:

  • Content creators can fill display ad inventory themselves and keep all of the revenue; or
  • You can 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.

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, they are 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 you have to learn yet another content management system to use Facebook 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, Facebook 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 Facebook 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: 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 eyeballs via a simple syndication model.

With comScore integration, Facebook Instant Articles views count as traffic to your original content.

(So I don’t have to take my ball and go home!)

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.

The Bottom Line

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.

What do you think? Will you give Facebook Instant Articles a try when it opens to all of us? And happy birthday, mumsie!

A loose version of this first appeared on the Relevance blog

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich