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Facebook launches Instant Articles with Buzzfeed and The Guardian among first partners

facebook instant articlesFacebook has pushed ahead with the launch of its Instant Articles initiative with publishers including Buzzfeed, BBC News and The Guardian set to publish articles directly to the social media site’s app.

The move, which has been an open secret in the media industry for some time, will see publishers be able to sell ads directly to monetise the platform, or use the Facebook ad network to sell ads.

While many publishers are keen to experiment with the new platform as a way to engage audiences where they are, and to raise revenues, futurist Ross Dawson warned publishers may be “essentially giving them [Facebook] your future” by doing so.

Buzzfeed Australia editor Simon Crerar told Mumbrella the viral content site would be publishing its first post on the new platform tonight.

A GIF of what the new posts will look like. Source: Buzzfeed

A GIF of what the new posts will look like. Source: Buzzfeed

Facebook is keen to keep people on its platform, and argues links to external content sites are the slowest to load, taking an average of eight seconds from the Facebook app, creating a bad user experience.

“We designed Instant Articles to give publishers control over their stories, brand experience and monetization opportunities,” it said in a blog post. “Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory.

“Publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.”

Crerar said the new platform was good for Buzzfeed, which monetises its content through brand sponsorships and posts, as it was already using different platforms to publish on. That theme was expanded on by founder Jonah Perretti at Buzzfeed’s recent Newfront presentation in New York.

He cited the example of Buzzfeed Motion Pictures which gets just five per cent of its views on the Buzzfeed website, with the rest coming on YouTube and Facebook already.

“A lot of publishers will want to experiment with this and we always want to be where the audience is,” he said. “People’s consumption habits are changing, and we’re keen to experiment with this. If people are consuming their content on Pinterest or Twitter it makes sense to be there. It’s really about giving the user a really good experience.”

The use of ad units on the articles will also represent an extra revenue stream for Buzzfeed. It is understood initially publishers will pocket all of the ad revenue.

Crerar added: “Facebook are keen for people to experiment with it. For us the more people who see our content the better it is, so it’s a win win.”

Whilst tonight’s Facebook posting, an international one from Jack Shepherd called ’13 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Day’, is officially a test, Crerar said if it proved successful it could lead to content being instantly published to Facebook as well as the Buzzfeed site in the future.

Facebook has promised new features for the pages including “tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, embedded audio captions, and interactive maps let you explore the story in beautiful new ways”.

Publications trialling the feature initially are The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.

Tony Danker, international director, Guardian News & Media, said in a statement: “It is great to see Facebook trialling new ways for quality journalism to flourish on mobile.
“The Guardian is keen to test how the new platform can provide an even more engaging experience for our readers. It is then vital that, over time, Instant Articles delivers recurring benefit for publishers, whose continued investment in original content underpins its success.”

Alex Hayes

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