Instant Engagement with Facebook’s Instant Articles

For the past several years, Facebook has increasingly focused on transforming the platform into a high engaging and informative news source. Continuous changes to Facebook’s algorithm supported this vision and it gradually became more apparent that Zuckerberg & Co. want their platform to be filled with content that is of high quality and high relevancy, so as to spark high engagement rates.

Facebook is well aware that mobile loading time, especially for publisher content, has not always been their strong suit. Loading time issues, while frustrating to the 1.44 billion monthly mobile Facebook users across the world, are especially troublesome for publishers who know that only have a few seconds to persuade a Facebook user to read or watch their content.

Released to a small subset of publishers in April 2015, Instant Articles did just that – loaded articles instantly, bypassing the loading bar. Videos within Instant Articles auto play to synchronize the article’s entire spectrum of storytelling in one cohesive way. Facebook claims that mobile load times for Instant Articles are up to 10x faster than the mobile load times of publishers’ sites.  Through Instant Articles, Facebook has manufactured social publishing in a way that users actually want to experience through a seamless (and fast) infusion of words, videos and graphics. Readers today are different than they were five years ago; they have more content to read, less time to devote to a piece of content and higher expectations for what the experience of consuming content should look and feel like.

Furthermore, Instant Articles tackles another headache publishers have grappled with throughout their transition to mobile-first content: pictures. For most publishers, images are just as important as the words that they support – images bring stories to life. However, it was always difficult to display the right images . Now, Facebook users can scroll, zoom in, zoom out, view on a map and hear an audio version of an image caption. As Susan Goldberg, the Editor-in-Chief of National Geographic described the experience of Instant Articles, “it’s a layering of information.”

What really distinguishes Facebook’s Instant Articles is that its technology allows publishers to create good stories on the platform where 1.44 billion monthly mobile users are already turning to for news, entertainment and connections.  Instant Articles allows for complete customization for each publisher. Publisher do not have to lose their identities to utilize Instant Article’s features, in fact, that is the last thing that Facebook wants. Instead, Instant Articles allows publishers to create completely engaging and personalized editorial experiences directly on the platform.

 

In April 2016, any publisher with a website and a Facebook page will be able to publish made-for-Facebook content through Instant Articles. This update could significantly impact the engagement rate that publishers see on Facebook. For the past several years Facebook has been a notoriously difficult for generating and maintaining consistent engagement. Facebook’s algorithm rewards high quality posts that move people to take an action including liking, commenting and sharing specific posts.

 

What does this mean for publishers?

 

Facebook opening Instant Articles to the masses could alter the way many publishers approach content creation. For years, the general rule of thumb was to build up your own site with your content to drive your own traffic. But now, as audiences spend more time on specific social platforms, and more social platforms are releasing publisher-friendly tools, the expectation for publishers has shifted. It’s no longer just enough to create content; publishers must create content that aligns with their audience’s viewing behaviors. For most, creating stories that will live exclusively on Facebook marks the beginning of a new era. But thanks to Facebook Instant Article’s interactive features, publishers now have the chance to create content that will actually resonate with Facebook’s global audience while they are engaged on the platform.

As more varied publishers gain access to Instant Articles in the coming months, we’re eager to see how their audience engagement rates will be affected by the addition of platform-specific interactive content.

 

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