Forget websites, Facebook wants you to read the news in its app

21 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Facebook Focuses on Emerging Markets for New Products.

LAGUNA BEACH, United States—A new Facebook feature that quickly displays news stories shared by friends at the leading social network arrived on iPhones on Tuesday and was heading for Android-powered devices. “We are excited to get this program going,” Facebook chief product officer Chris Cox said during an on-stage chat at a WSJDLive technology conference in Laguna Beach on the Southern California coast. In May, Facebook started testing its Instant Articles feature, allowing select news publishers to publish full stories directly on Facebook’s mobile apps. People accessing Facebook through applications tailored for iPhones will start seeing lightning bolt icons in upper right corners of some stories shared in News Feeds. “What we are doing in Instant Articles is make it faster to get the news, not keep people in Facebook,” Cox said, rebuffing the suggestion that it was part of a scheme to keep people inside the social network’s walled garden. This is a major push for the new format, which Facebook has been aggressively pursuing through partnerships with publishers like the New York Times, BuzzFeed, and Washington Post. “Instant Articles not only connect readers to stories faster; they also provide a richer reading experience than standard mobile web articles, with dynamic features that make the content more fluid, interactive and immersive,” Facebook explained in a blog post. Facebook will offer about 1,000 of these fast-loading articles a day on the site, each identified with a lightning bolt icon within the Facebook news feed, he said.

Facebook says Instant Articles load 10 times faster than standard articles on mobile phones, particularly important in developing countries. “If you look at a Facebook user in Myanmar today, they can wait 40 seconds to a minute to look at what’s happening in Rangoon today,” Mr. Facebook is experimenting with custom functionality for publishers, including in-article comments, photo galleries, and interactive maps; the company is also introducing a slew of new publishers to the platform in the coming weeks. Cox said. “If we can lower that barrier, if we can lower that friction, it’s a huge service.” Publishers join the program hoping to gain readers, especially on mobile devices, with the faster load times. Facebook is hoping to attract additional media brands—though it likely won’t have to try hard, once they see competitors signed up—by promising them faster mobile loading times and 100% of the ad revenue if the publisher personally handles ad placement. Publishers can track data and traffic through comScore, Adobe ADBE -1.76 % Analytics and Google Analytics, Facebook said in a news release on Tuesday.

Apple’s News app was unveiled with iOS 9, Twitter has started curating current events in its app, and Snapchat has been tinkering with its Discover editorial pages in recent months. More than 80% of Facebook’s users are outside of the U.S. and Canada, and the company has taken a series of steps in recent years to shore up connectivity in its fastest-growing markets. Earlier this month, Google announced its version of fast-loading articles for the mobile web, Accelerated Mobile Pages, in order to fend off app-hosted content from Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat. Facebook’s advantage, however, is that it’s already one of the biggest players in online media, driving large amounts of traffic to publishers every day. The social network recently renamed the app “Free Basics,” after critics said it favors Facebook properties at the expense of others, violating the concept of “net neutrality.” Mr.

So it makes sense that publishers are eager to start creating and testing Instant Articles, especially because it’s likely that Facebook’s News Feed algorithm will favor fast-loading, in-app articles over links that take users out to Chrome or Safari. Cox said studying how Facebook is used in emerging markets has inspired new features, such as For Sale Groups, which allows people to buy and sell used items over a Facebook group.

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