People reading news on their smartphones face a specific problem – slow loading times on the mobile web. Roughly a year ago Facebook announced Instant articles as their initiative to host articles from publishers in the app newsfeed rather than forcing someone to wait for the website to load the content. This way you can consume everything in a fraction of a second oppose to waiting nearly 8 seconds for an article to go live. That makes people happier and more likely to click on your content. Visually and from UX point of view, they are stunning! I see them as a crossbreed of Flipboard and Apple news.
Immediately after the launch, Instant Articles were reserved for Nine major American and British publishers, including New York Times and BBC news. Over time, that number has risen to over a hundred. During its annual F8 developer conference in San Francisco, Facebook will make Instant Articles available to anyone!
Facebook is now partnering with Automattic, a company which is behind WordPress.com. They are about to release an Instant Article WordPress plugin which simplifies the process of generating and publishing Instant Articles from WordPress. It’s an open source customizable plugin which basically creates a RSS feed and sends optimized posts to appear on Instant articles. The plugin also supports interactive graphics, embedded audio captions, tilt-to-pan photos, native autoplay video as well as product information and other eCommerce content.
Good news for publishers is that there are no new tools for them to learn. They can use their existing WordPress implementation and easily publish a full catalog of articles. With it you can specify all the necessary information for the article layout. It provides support for third party content and you can also reuse existing codes and shortcodes from your website. If you think of it, the possibilities are endless when you combine it with the new REST API and other interactive functions that you can fuse inside the admin panel.
But there is a downside to it though – traffic! Publishers will see less pageviews on their own websites, since all the eyeballs will stay inside of the Facebook news feed. Now they have to decide do these perks in the form of exclusivity and visibility trump lack of monetization and analytics. As much as Zuckerberg is trying to pose himself as a good Samaritan now, in the end he is looking for his own benefit. Instant Articles, if they live up to their potential, will make publishers more dependent on the social giant. And that will boost this giant even further, giving it more leverage on the terms of engagement.