Digiday has recently reported that Facebook is now allowing publishers to include forms for email sign-up in their Instant Articles. Examples of these can be seen on the Facebook page for The New York Times. The new sign-up form allows publishers to take control of a certain percentage of the audience borrowed when using Facebook to host their articles and goes to show that Instant Articles can be an effective marketing tool.
Speaking at the Code/Media conference in February, Jessica Lessin, CEO of tech news site The Information (a subscription-only site) said that platforms like Facebook are a great tool to help publishers reach a wider audience. CEO of The Financial Times, John Ridding, added that, while most newspapers are understandably continuing to try to build a paying readership, they also include a free element to their publications to attract a wider interest. A good example of this is the paper’s February report that Michael Bloomberg, former New York City Mayor, was thinking about running as a 2016 election candidate. This story was broadcast across social networks such as Facebook so that people could read the news for free and statistics showed that the Facebook article had 10 times more traffic than the paper’s own site.
Traffic outside a publisher’s site comes into its own if it can also be brought inside the site as this allows publishers to gain valuable information about their audience. Gathering such information and being able to identify each individual reader is a huge bonus for publishers who want to keep their audiences and earn revenue from their ads. This appears to be the theory behind email sign-up forms within Instant Articles.
Facebook does allow publishers to gather a certain amount of information about how many people read their Instant Articles, but publishers like The New York Times don’t know what other articles the visitor may have read or indeed if they’re a subscriber to the newspaper. By signing up to an email newsletter, however, it’s likely that readers will view other articles that aren’t prominent in their Facebook feeds and might even subscribe to the newspaper itself. If the reader does go to the publisher’s website, they become identifiable and a profile created around the kinds of articles they enjoy. This information can be paired with other information such as retailers’ loyalty lists and then ads can be displayed to target the individual reader.