Reading news on Facebook is about to get a lot faster

20 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Rant About How Twitter And Facebook Are Burying News Publishers.

Facebook announced Tuesday that there’s been an expansion in its Instant Articles platform for the iPhone. PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Facebook has rolled out an expansion of its “Instant Articles” project which offers faster-loading pages to media companies who agree to publish directly to the social network.

Five months after introducing its fast-loading instant articles into the News Feed, Facebook is now rolling out the format to all iPhone users, the company said today.Facebook wants to make reading on your phone fast and easy—or as Facebook puts it, “instant.” Now, many of its users will finally get to experience what that means in practice. Chris Cox, the chief product officer for Facebook, made the announcement at the Wall Street Journal WSJ.D Live conference, adding that Instant Articles are being tested on Android phones as well. With Moments and Instant articles, Twitter and Facebook seem happy to take content from publishers without ever sending people back to their sites — you know, the place where publishers earn their money. The lightning bolt indicates it’s an “Instant Article.” The company says when you tap the story, it loads ten times faster than a standard mobile web article.

But the social networking company hasn’t forgotten about Android users; it said that later this year, Instant Articles will be available for that mobile operating system (it’s already in public beta). Launched to much fanfare, Facebook promised that these Instant Articles posted and shared by popular publishers like The New York Times and BuzzFeed would load “instantly.” Except in the following months, very few users got to see the new format in action.

In its pitch to publishers to join Instant Articles, Facebook tells them they can either keep the ad revenue, or have Facebook sell them for a revenue split. In this video, I break down how news consumption is changing, why that’s a danger to publishers, and what they can do to fix it, all in two minutes.

At the time, Facebook product manager Michael Reckhow wrote: “Along with a faster experience, Instant Articles introduces a suite of interactive features that allow publishers to bring their stories to life in new ways.” The concept centered on the fact that if publishers had their content right in the app, it could increase exposure, thereby helping people find what’s going on in the world that much faster. Facebook is also adding new partners to the instant article program, including Vox Media (parent of The Verge), Slate, The Huffington Post, and The Daily Mail.

Those who are expected to use Instant Articles in the coming months include: Billboard, Bleacher Report, Business Insider, Bustle, CBS News, CBS Sports, CNET, Mashable, Mental Floss, The Onion, TIME, USA Today, Variety, The Verge and The Weather Channel. At first Facebook called them “Immersive ads” and then the “ads canvas”, but really, they’re the paid promotional equivalent to its hosted organic initiative Instant Articles. Starting now, people using their iPhone to access Facebook will notice specific pieces of content with a lightning bolt that denotes the content is an Instant Article. Publishers’ interest reflects the enormous percentage of traffic that Facebook drives to their properties — and their fears over being left out if the faster-loading stories soon crowd out the regular old URLs that have been their lifeblood for the past several years.

Essentially, Instant Ads are in-feed Facebook mobile ads that when tapped, immediately unfold a rich media marketing experience within Facebook’s app rather than forcing people to wait for a mobile browser page to load. Additional partners will be added in the future including Brit + Co., CNET, Refinery 29, CBS News, Entertainment Weekly, NBA, Rolling Stone, MLB, Good Housekeeping, and a host of others. Instead of penalizing users for opening ads by interrupting their social experience with a slow-loading mobile website, Facebook pre-caches the marketer’s content so it appears immediately when users tap. I could tilt my phone to scan across its mayo-laced bun, swipe through photos of onions and pickles, and watch an animation of someone drawing with ketchup. While they load faster than normal articles in part by stripping out advertising and tracking code that runs on many web pages, they also can include various custom visual elements, including 3D maps and photos that can be browsed by tilting your phone.

But critics worry that as third-party platforms like Facebook become the main hubs where readers find news and entertainment, those platforms will exert more control over what people read and see. The more they read, the more they’re likely to share. “The enhanced experience inspires people to share Instant Articles with their friends more often than they do with standard web articles,” Facebook says. One concern about Instant Articles, however, is exactly that—whether the new initiative will somehow give precedence to stories that load instantly. Similarly, as a major driver of traffic for news media, the worry is that Facebook’s partnerships will anoint certain publishers as winners and, purposefully or not, others as losers.

Even if Facebook doesn’t privilege Instant Articles, users sharing Instant Articles more frequently than the non-Instant variety could wind up giving precedence to certain publishers over others. Instant Ads epitomize Facebook’s ad strategy, which is about making the result of online marketing some kind action taken or emotional impact, rather than a short-lived click to a website.

Unlike Facebook, Google’s initiative to make the web “less slow” is an open-source alternative that seeks to make the web more friendly on phones. Facebook now has Buy buttons that let you purchase products you see within feed ads with your credit card on file so you never visit a merchant’s site. Because as much as Google wants to keep the web open (or at least as open as it can be with Google as a filter), Facebook wants Facebook to become your world. Instant Articles pose a serious risk to news and content publishers who lose the relationship with their audience that leads to loyal readership and subscriptions. But for the user, a Facebook where you can see friends, read news, watch videos, and even experience ads without enduring crappy mobile load times sounds like more fun.

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