What you need to know about Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook launched Instant Articles to select publishers in 2015 with the aim of giving a better user experience for customers reading news articles on mobile devices. Instant Articles was created to solve slow loading times on mobile networks making it hard for people on their phones to read the news. This was impacting on all publishers, especially those whose audiences felt poor connectivity was a real issue. Facebook has announced that from 12th April this year they’ll be opening up Instant Articles to all publishers, so the smaller outfits can join the same revenue-sharing deals previously only enjoyed by prominent publishers such as The New York Times. Josh Roberts, Facebook’s product manager, said they recognise the integral part that media organisations and journalists now play in Facebook. As for revenue sharing, publishers keep 100% of the revenue from ads sold directly through Instant Articles and 70% if they choose to let Facebook sell ads on their behalf through its mobile ad network, the Facebook Audience Network.

The technical low-down

Publishers who want to take advantage of Instant Articles must provide their content to Facebook in a pre-determined format, through an RSS feed which automatically loads content as soon as it hits the publisher’s website and apps. Corrections and updates are also integrated via the RSS feed. Instant Articles are created using HTML5 in a special format for all relevant information to be collected, allowing publishers to reuse their websites code. The Instant Articles format also provides support for third-party content such as ads and analytics. Publishers serve ads into Instant Articles through an iframe, using their existing providers. Ads from Facebook’s Audience Network can be integrated too. Publishers using a third-party for their analytics e.g. Google Analytics, can embed the same HTML/JavaScript tracking tags to their Instant Articles and view the data through their existing analytics tools. Facebook’s also offering its own analytics data, including stats on reach and engagement. It goes without saying that a Facebook page is a prerequisite for making use of Instant Articles, however, as Instant Articles are only available via the mobile app, web-based versions of content must be published separately with a URL provided for Facebook. Support is available for Instant Articles, but publishers need to have a Business Manager account to take advantage of this.

Opt in or out?

Since the inception of Instant Articles, there’s been much debate about whether publishers should opt in. Even though Facebook doesn’t give Instant Articles any special priority and says it won’t impact on organic reach, Instant Articles could have an impact on independent media companies with long-term consequences, as they’re effectively handing over their entire audiences to Facebook. On the other hand, the benefits lie in the huge rewards to be reaped from capturing the worldwide audiences that Facebook delivers.


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