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April 24, 2017

Facebook Instant Articles Fail: Digital Publishers Leave the Party

Facebook Instant Articles Fail

Facebook is at the receiving end of the ire of various digital publishers on its platform. Many are jumping ship and ditching the Facebook Instant Articles, after it has spectacularly failed to live up to its promises.

Touted as a revolutionary tool for the Publishing Industry in the digital age, has even its most ardent and earliest partners like the New York Times fleeing away from the service.

So Why Did Facebook Instant Articles Fail so Bad? Click To Tweet

Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook launched Instant Articles in 2015. At the time, it sounded like a game-changer for the media and publishing industry. The industry which was still adapting to the changes brought in by the influence of digital space.

Until then, the industry followed the usual route. Develop a website- publish articles – utilize various media channels for distribution – get viewer to the website – encourage conversation and engagement- generate revenue via ads and subscriptions.

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Facebook Instant Articles looked impressive on its debut

But with advent of social media, they now had improved additional distribution channels. The publishers were desperately looking for new ways of reaching readers. With the introduction of Facebook Instant Articles, all they had to do was hand-over the content to this third-party app.

This although a huge risk, promised greater benefits. The Facebook Instant Articles received prominent feature in Facebook’s News Feeds. The publishers could seemingly now reach billions of readers in a very cheap and easy way.

The Bait

According to a Kissmetrics Report, roughly 50% of mobile web users will abandon a page if it doesn’t load within 10 seconds. For about 20% of respondents, the abandonment threshold is just five seconds or less.

Facebook Instant Articles was a technological play which aimed to solve the problem that story links off a Facebook page took too much time to load.

Apart from that Facebook promised to generate revenue from the content distributed by Instant Articles. Publishers could keep 100% of the advertising revenue for any ads they sold, or take 70% of whatever Facebook sold for them.

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Laying the bait: FB promised 100% revenue share to Publishers

It promised that with Instant Articles, publishers would get more readers, sharing, visibility, engagement and thus, more revenue with better monetization.

Casting the Line

Even then there were some apprehensions. Facebook had robbed away the hard-earned digital audience of the publishers with its News Feed.

Do you have any proof that publishers using another company’s proprietary platform have ever created a lasting and sustainable business?John Battelle, media industry veteran

It was taken for granted that Facebook would favor the instant links. Facebook also included analytics tools and customization tools to sweeten the deal. These would help understand and track audiences and make articles look distinct from one another.

Some thought it better to outsourcing their distribution and ad sales and refocusing on reporting the news. Many thought of it as an exciting experiment.

Total of nine publishers including National Geographic, BuzzFeed and The New York Times were invited to be launch partners.

The Switch

But then as is customary of Facebook, it switched and skewed the deal. Shortly, after launching Instant Articles, Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm. It now favoured posts from family and friends over publishers and now also highlighted video content.

This left the publishers even with Instant Articles reeling the burn way down in the priority and greatly reducing the reach.

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Facebook is now back to showing videos and content from family and friends! Source: www.adweek.com

Then, the promise of monetizing never really materialized. The Times group in its test concluded that the articles in its website monetized better than Facebook Instant Articles.

It left a lot to be desired in terms of monetizationLewis D’Vorkin, Forbes chief product officer

Facebook while developing Instant Articles never really considered how Publishers would make money. “The idea that these products could meaningfully impact the revenue of the news industry just didn’t really come up,” the former employee told The Verge’s Casey Newton.

The Scenario Today:

Now, the industry doesn’t really trust Instant Articles. They found it better to host their own content on their own websites monetized better than Instant Articles.

The Verge, Digiday, The Fortune, Business Insider have already done a detailed report of the various treacherous Facebook maneuvers. Even the most ardent partners, feel betrayed.

The revenue in no way backed up by the amount of time that was being spent on itJason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next

DCN is a trade group that represents many large publishers, including NBC, The New York Times, Conde Nast, ESPN, Slate, Business Insider, and Vox Media.

Vice News, Forbes, Hearst Publications ,the Los Angeles Times, Quartz and the Chicago Tribune are all the big publishers who have deserted the platform.

Others like CNN, the New York Daily News, and the Wall Street Journal have drastically reduced their content on Instant Articles and are pushing majority of readers to their own site.

Digital Publishers now must engage and monetize their audience better Click To Tweet

The best option for them now is to improve engagement on their own websites, to better monetize and grow their readership. Vuukle Audience Engagement has championed the cause of digital publishers and provided cutting edge technologies to better engage their audience and monetize them. Leave a comment below and let’s talk about how Vuukle can help you.

Santosh Kumar Pandey

Engineer by qualification, content & marketing expert by profession. Meditate, blibliophile & a creative geek.