Facebook Instant Articles: More Details Emerge

Chris CrumSocial Media

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There have been reports for months that Facebook has been looking to get publishers to let the social network host their content so it can show it to users in a quicker, more user-friendly manner, particularly on mobile devices.

In March, The New York Times reported that itself, as well as BuzzFeed, National Geographic, and others were joining Facebook in testing such a format. Users could reportedly start seeing this content as early as this month.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Facebook is offering to let publishers keep 100% of the revenue from some ads, and that Facebook may seek to require publishers to use its own ad products like Atlas and LiveRail, but that's not certain. Deepa Seetharaman writes:

The Facebook initiative, dubbed Instant Articles, is aimed at speeding that process, people familiar with the matter said. Facebook plans to start hosting news and videos from BuzzFeed, The New York Times, National Geographic and other publishers as early as this month, those people said.

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To woo publishers, Facebook is offering to change its traditional revenue-sharing model. In one of the models under consideration, publishers would keep all of the revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites, the people familiar with the matter said. If Facebook sells the advertisement, it would keep roughly 30% of the revenue, as it does in many other cases.

According to the report, Facebook is still finalizing deals with the publishers expected to be on board, and is still actively reaching out to other publishers.

As you know, Facebook continues to make changes to its News Feed algorithm that generally don't favor publishers. One such change was announced a couple weeks ago. Mark Zuckerberg was asked about the relationship between these changes and the Instant Article initiative on Facebook's recent earnings call.

He said:

The North Star for us in News Feed is that we want to produce the best experience for everyone who is using the app and loading News Feed to see what is going on in the world around them...there are lots of businesses on Facebook...our main interest here is the people in the community who are using News Feed, not those guys, right? So of course we want to build tools to enable them to share their content and all of that, but we're constantly refining the algorithms in order to make it so the experience is the best for you when you open up your phone and look at Facebook and, there are a bunch of things that are going on, we want to make sure that we're getting what you care about the most.

We go to a lot of lengths to make sure that we're getting signals from people in our community to make sure that we're doing this correctly, in addition to the different signals that we would get from seeing people use the products. We also do a lot of qualitative surveys to see what people, what makes – what people write in that they want to see from us, what people tell us is the most important thing that they saw in Facebook today or saw anywhere in the world today and what they would've wanted to have seen on Facebook. And our goal is to just constantly refine this and make it better and we're going to keep on doing that because we think there's a lot of upside and there's a lot more that we can do...If you're a professional publisher, you need to have the ability to share a version of the content that you're producing that you're proud of, that can load quickly, that can be as rich as the tools enable people to see, and we're working on a lot of different tools for that.

And you can imagine that as the tools for any of this content get better, people taking photos, newspapers, writing news articles, advertisers, putting out ads for content that they want to sell, the better that content gets, the more people are excited to see it and then that informs the ranking in what the community qualitatively tells us that they want to see from us over time as well.

In terms of getting content to load more quickly on mobile devices, a lot of publishers may already be addressing this while still hosting their own content, as many have been trying to improve their mobile-friendliness in response to a recent Google algorithm change.

Page speed isn't the top requirement for mobile-friendliness on Google, but the company does make recommendations about it in the documentation it referred webmasters to in preparation for the update.

Facebook's latest News Feed tweaks include showing some users more content from their friends and less from Pages.

Image via Facebook

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.