Fairfax Media teams up with Facebook as first local publisher on Instant Articles platform

SMH Instant ArticlesFairfax Media is the first local publisher to sign up to Facebook’s Instant Articles product, as the social media giant continues its global rollout of the publishing platform.

The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and announced a launch partnership with Facebook in Australia and New Zealand to use the platform meaning they will upload content directly to the site and look to monetise the audiences by selling display and pre-roll video ads there instead.

Some publishers have questioned the wisdom in displaying their content directly on Facebook rather than pulling readers through to their own sites, but others are hopeful of gaining incremental readers because of the mass-scale of the audience on the social network, and the faster loading times.

While both Buzzfeed and The Guardian have put Australian content on the platform as part of global deals, Fairfax is the first Australian-based business to sign up to it.

This year Google launched its Accelerated Mobile Pages product, which is aimed at helping publishers accelerate load times, in early October and Apple launching its Apple News product later that same month.

Instant Articles launched in May, rolling out to Asia just last week, with Facebook indicating Instant Articles content with a small lightning bolt on the news post.

The local rollout coincides with the social media company changing it advertising policies on the Instant Articles platform. The Wall Street Journal reported publishers said restrictions had made it too hard for them to generate revenue from content they posted to the platform.

Publishers complained that they could only place one ad for every 500 words they published in an Instant Article, Facebook has relented and has reduced the threshold to one ad for every 350 words.

Fairfax’s editorial director for Australian Metro Media Sean Aylmer said in a statement: “From today, we will use Instant Articles to share a significant number of our news stories daily, delivering our large and growing Facebook audiences an immediate, radically improved and more engaging mobile experience.

“We are taking advantage of innovative new technologies – including Instant Articles – to maximise the audience reach of our quality, independent journalism and enhance the experience our audiences have with our content.

“Our strategic partnership with Facebook underlines the tremendous mobile innovation happening at Fairfax and our unrelenting commitment to putting audiences at the centre of our publishing model.”

Fairfax New Zealand group executive editor Sinead Boucher said in a statement: “With rapidly growing audiences on mobile, we’re excited – not just about a faster mobile experience – but by being able to bring Stuff’s stories to life in new ways using the mobile-driven suite of Instant Articles interactive features.”

Facebook’s managing director Australia & New Zealand Stephen Scheeler said in a statement: “Expanding Instant Articles in Australia and New Zealand is a significant milestone for the product and for each of our early launch partners.

“Fairfax is at the forefront of digital publishing innovation and we’re pleased they are our first local publisher to use Instant Articles in Australia and New Zealand, with the audiences of the SMH, The Age and Stuff enjoying fast, interactive articles in the Facebook app,” he said.

“We worked closely with Fairfax Media in Australia and New Zealand to begin rolling out Instant Articles locally. Internationally, publishers are already sharing thousands of Instant Articles on Facebook each day, and looking ahead we’re excited to partner with more publishers here to bring the Instant Articles experience to more people.”

According to the announcement, Fairfax mastheads remain in control of the content published via Instant Articles and are exploring opportunities to monetise Instant Articles display and pre-roll advertising.

Existing analytics tools will be used to measure audience data and traffic to Fairfax’s Instant Articles.

“We expect Instant Articles will accelerate our already strong digital audience reach and engagement via Facebook,” Aylmer said.

Instant Articles is available to iPhone users while Android will launch later this year, with a small public beta available now.

Miranda Ward


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