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.

After months of anticipation, Facebook is at last expanding Instant Articles, its native publishing platform, in a big way. In May, Facebook started testing its Instant Articles feature, allowing select news publishers to publish full stories directly on Facebook’s mobile apps.Speaking at WSJDLive, The Wall Street Journal’s global technology conference, Facebook product chief Chris Cox said the company’s road map is shaped by how Facebook is used in countries such as Indonesia, India, Thailand and Myanmar, places where the service is popular but connections are often poor. 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.

Because Instant Articles can be read in full without ever leaving the Facebook app to go to a mobile browser, they load a lot faster and create a more seamless reading experience. “Starting today, people will see a lightning bolt on the top right corner of some stories shared in News Feed,” Facebook Product Manager Michael Reckhow wrote on the company’s official blog. “The lightning bolt indicates it’s an Instant Article. 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.

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