Facebook recently announced its new Instant Articles feature aimed at providing publishers’ content directly via its app on iPhone. This essentially enables content to show up much faster.
Typically, an article shared on the app takes around 8 seconds to fully load and be readable. The new feature attempts to eliminate all that and give the reader content as and when they need it.
The feature is currently tied in with 9 major partners: The Atlantic, BBC News, Bild, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic, NBC, The New York Times, and Spiegel, with only a number of articles from each publisher being pushed initially.
Mind you, these are no stripped down, text-only articles. They actually have a lot of content per article. For example, once you tap an article, it pre-loads it as you scroll your news feed and is able to show you the top of the story as soon as you tap. Each publication will have their own logo on top of every story, plus a “follow” button so that you can subscribe to that particular page and get more content. In addition, elements such as authors’ and photographers’ Facebook photos can be added at the top of the story. Clicking the image will navigate you to the relevant author’s profile you can even subscribe to them from that point.
That’s not all though. Photos can include audio captions, geo-tagging, and a pinch to zoom in feature. You can also navigate high-resolution photos by simply tilting your phone and stream auto-play videos. You can even like and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.
On the other hand, this does mean that Facebook will have their work cut out for them. They essentially have to load all news articles, pictures, and videos into their data centers as soon as publishers can get them up. This could mean a complete rework of Facebook’s infrastructure to handle the increased load.
By removing the theoretical 8 second lag between tapping an article and reading, Facebook expects people will spend more time in the News Feed reading articles. Though not tested on users thus far, the feedback from employees however, has been encouraging.
It also enabled iOS users to share articles on Twitter and Pinterest, the former catching us by surprise given the rivalry between the two social media giants. On the other hand though, you can’t open an article directly in a browser. Quite possibly due to how the publisher decides their sharing options.
As for monetization, Facebook has a number of options for publishers. They can either sell ads in their articles thus, keep the revenue, or they can make use of Facebook’s Audience Network.