Facebook Instant Articles

Here are the Pros and Cons: You Decide If They Can Help You

Jim Hasse

2017-01-01 09:53

In 2016, Facebook introduced Facebook Instant Articles (FIAs) to provide mobile device users with a better experience while reading content linked from within Facebook. Content appears almost instantly – typically, in less than a third of a second, as compared with average load times of 3-5 seconds for regular links.

Websites commonly slow to a crawl when things like high-quality images and video are used excessively. Google discovered years ago that a seemingly minuscule 0.5-second delay caused a 20% traffic drop.

FIAs provide a more enjoyable and immersive experience – with higher-quality imagery, more interactive capabilities (such as panning images by tilting a smart phone and other advanced features) which result from FIAs being created in mobile-optimized HTML5 code.

Users can easily identify links to FIAs by the lightning bolt icon shown on an article’s image preview.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages of FIAs?

The Pros

•    Facebook claims that FIAs:

· Load 10 times faster than standard mobile Web articles.
· Enjoy a 20% higher click rate.
· Experience 70% lower article abandonment.
· Consistently demonstrate a 30% higher share rate.

FIAS leverage Facebook’s blazing fast architecture (and servers) so that your content and pages load instantly. In world where the average attention span is down to eight seconds, faster loading times are huge because they boost engagement (and influence).

•    Instant Articles come with a suite of easy-to-use multimedia features that we’ve come to associate with premium, expensive longform projects: cinemagraph covers that are like something out of Harry Potter, autoplay videos that load seamlessly with the text, interactive maps that give you a helicopter view of key points in a story, rich photos that you can explore deeper with a tilt or pinch of the phone, the ability to share or comment on specific parts of the article, and audio captions that let you hear the voice of the author as you read.

•    Since Facebook likes to prominently showcase its latest and greatest features, publishers can expect that Facebook will give FIAs priority in newsfeeds.

•    For ads you sell yourself, as a publisher, Facebook lets you keep 100% of the ad revenue (but Facebook limits how many ads you can run). For ads sold through the Facebook network, you keep 70%.

•    Facebook provides its own engagement data, which you can process within your existing in-house analytics tools via API, and you can embed analytics tracking codes in articles to track real-time article traffic with your existing analytics solution. Even though your FIAs will be read within Facebook’s app – readers won’t actually visit your website to be counted in terms of referral traffic – standard Web analytics tools will still be able to track traffic and maintain overall visitor counts.

The Cons

•    The not-so-good news is that the setup process, using RSS feeds or APIs, can be a bit tricky, and will probably require the involvement of your technical folks. We at Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC, (HCC) have solved that problem for you because we have an app for quickly publishing FIAs for you with no hassle and no need to hire a techy.

•    Because you’re leveraging Facebook’s architecture, that content technically ceases to exist on your own website. That can pose problems for companies which make a living off page views. You probably don’t live off page views on your website – and neither does HCC. We’re just providing a service (an easy way with no time required on your part to gain the rich content about disability employment you need to extend your reach and gain greater engagement among your key stakeholders or customers).  

•    Using FIAs means that major publishers have fewer readers landing on their own mobile websites, with all that implies in terms of traffic, on-site advertising revenues and exposing first-time visitors to everything else available on the site.  As a result, the early Facebook Instant Articles adopters like BBC News, National Geographic, and The Wall Street Journal have all been “barely using the platform” recently.

Should we be surprised that large media companies are pulling back on Facebook Instant Articles? No. If anything, you could question their original decision making in putting so much of their content onto the platform in the first place.

Anyone who has worked on websites for a few years can tell you that when you remove or reduce referral traffic back to your website, especially visitors from a typically high-engagement platform such as Facebook, your vanity metrics like visits/sessions and page views will fall. For most directly monetizing businesses (such as HCC, your firm or organization) that’s OK. For indirectly monetizing ones like large media platforms, that’s NOT OK because they haven’t really figured out a better or more useful way to monetize audiences in most cases.

Conclusion

On October 19, 2016, AdExpresso.com writes:

“Recent reports that usage of Facebook Instant Articles is on the decline are misleading. And overblown.

“Large media companies might be decreasing their usage. But if you think about it logically, their usage should have been in question from day one.


“The major drawback of Facebook Instant Articles is that you’re sacrificing referral traffic – giving up visits and page views to Facebook what you would have had received on your own website.


“For ad-supported businesses, that’s obviously not a great idea.


“However, for others that serve (visitors) directly, it’s not a deal breaker.


“In fact, that drawback can be eclipsed by the platform’s … ability to deliver more engagement on a notoriously fickle consumption channel (where people are normally accustomed to jumping to the next shiny thing).


“That has the power to increase brand awareness, visibility, and (most importantly) influence.”


Influence is the essential ingredient to winning today’s battle for attention on social media.

Copyright © 2017 Hasse Communication Counseling, LLC