Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Facebook Taking Over Publishers’ Content

Earlier this month, Facebook made their new Instant Articles feature available to all publishers. In a nutshell, when a content publisher puts an article on Instant Articles, users browsing Facebook using its mobile app can see that article from inside the Facebook app itself, without being sent to an external browser app.

If you are browsing this article on the mobile Facebook app, you should be seeing it as an Instant Article, within the Facebook app. The main benefit, as claimed by Facebook, is that Instant Articles content load ten times faster than mobile web content, resulting in a far better user experience. It’s a good thing.

Unless, of course, you’re particularly wary about what Facebook may have planned with this feature. There may be a concern, for example, that content is now hosted with Facebook, and served out by Facebook, instead of the traditional web platform that the publisher is used to, and this could mean some loss of control  by the publisher.

Do you remember or know about Facebook Notes? Oh yes, it’s like an extension of ordinary status updates in Facebook, one that lets you write long, much longer, posts. Some people do actually use it to write articles. But not many people actually use it. Perhaps you might not even know about it at all.

So it sounds to me like Instant Articles is an attempt to grow Notes into something far more useful, and something far more enticing for publishers to adopt. Facebook is probably already one of the most heavily used app on anyone’s smartphone. Instant Articles will further keep users inside the Facebook app, because the 3rd party articles they read may now be hosted by Facebook and delivered within the app.

Facebook has sought to assuage the concerns of publishers. They have designed Instant Articles with input from publishers, and built it to meet their needs. Publishers can run their own analytics and their own advertising, for example, or they can simply fallback on Facebook’s.

For now, Instant Articles doesn’t receive preferential treatment from Facebook’s News Feed sorting algorithm just because it’s an Instant Article. But who knows what the future holds. Clearly, publishers are going to be indebted to Facebook and have to play by whatever rules they set.

For better or worse, Instant Articles seem to be catching on, because at the end of the day, publishers will want to improve their users’ experience. Publishers wouldn’t want to risk getting left out.

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