Facebook Catches our Attention … Instantly

Posted Thursday, March 03, 2016

Stephanie McGrath

  • IMG-Instant-Articles

Why should you care about Facebook opening up Instant Articles? Because this could directly impact the way you experience and consume news in the future and because it could represent a new opportunity for those struggling to deal with a changing media landscape.

“We’re excited to share with you that the Instant Articles program will be open to all publishers—of any size, anywhere in the world—on April 12th at Facebook’s F8 conference,” reads the recent post on the Instant Articles’ Facebook product page. “In the meantime, we encourage you to review our documentation and prepare for open availability.”

Like many, I have been known to bemoan and been frustrated by Facebook’s all-encompassing reach. But just as newspaper publishers can’t ignore the fact that their industry is changing, I – and everyone who creates content – can’t ignore its power or the opportunity it represents.

First, as a refresher, Instant Articles is “an incredibly fast and immersive reading experience for people all over the world on Facebook,” reads the official party line.

Facebook rolled out Instant Articles a while back to a small set of publishers including The New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, NBC News, The Atlantic, The Guardian and BBC News.

Like native Facebook videos, which play videos within Facebook itself instead of forcing users to link through to YouTube or Vimeo, Instant Articles lets us consume stories without leaving the world of Facebook (a.k.a. clicking through to another site).

Still wondering why you should care? Here are the key things to consider:

  • Facebook’s advertising is incredibly powerful and highly targeted.
  • News publishers are frantically trying to save their business. A Best Picture Oscar for Spotlight – which celebrates investigative journalism – won’t be enough to save the industry. Publishers need new ways to reach readers and new revenue streams. Newspaper advertising? Well it’s pretty much on its last gasp. Those who used to buy the ads are not seeing the return on investment they can experience on platforms like – you guessed it – Facebook.
  • The volume of readers and potential readers is huge. Enormous. Facebook is a part of how our world works now. Yes, the kids are on Snapchat but let’s not even begin to pretend Facebook is fading.
  • Those of us who’ve seen the power of publishing on Facebook’s native video platform have experienced first-hand the potential to reach significantly more eyeballs, more easily than we’ve been able to grab via YouTube.
  • Most of us in marketing and communications realize (and everyone else should realize it pretty soon or else they’re going to get themselves into trouble) that content marketing is now just the way marketing is done, and the key way for brands to build relationships with their target customers and audiences is through timely, engaging and relevant content that builds trust, loyalty and respect over time.


Meanwhile, in a comment to Contently’s online magazine – The Content Strategist – Facebook provided the following guidance around the use of Instant Articles in the future.

“In April, Instant Articles will be open to any publishers that wish to join, but it is primarily designed for news publishers. While other types of publishers will have the option to create Instant Articles, in many cases there are other formats on Facebook that will better serve their needs.”

So if we put all the elements together, here’s why you should care:


  • If you care about the future of media as we know it, this could represent a way for more publishers – old and new ones – to increase audiences and potentially (still waiting on word from Facebook on how ad revenue could map to publishers) make money.
  • If you are in marketing or communications and are creating content, this could represent a new way to increase brand reach through this content (but it had better be good).
  • If you are starting a new publication you could be at the forefront of this venture.
  • That is to say, if you are any way involved in the creation or consumption of content, this is a big deal.


Are there concerns? Sure. This means Facebook will have even more control – control over analytics, control over a publisher’s audiences and control of the environment in which stories are published and experienced. We also don’t know how the advertising model will work in the future and how resulting revenue could work or benefit publishers. As Contently pointed out, we’ll also need to watch to see if Facebook censors content and how algorithms map to content – will users see quality or just quantity?

But there’s also hope for those who are wondering how to save a suffering industry and opportunity for others who know how to create amazing stories, but aren’t sure how to reach readers.

Keep a close eye and get ready. If you are a maker of content, you’d better be ready to be a publisher of Instant Articles. 


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