Facebook to Host the News with Instant Articles

by Matt Klassen on May 15, 2015

Facebook is officially in the news business, as the social network unveiled Instant Articles this week, a new service that will allow media publishers to place their content directly on Facebook, as opposed to simply providing links to their own webpages. If you’re wondering why any media outlet would play Facebook’s little game, well it’s not hard to find the answer, as the news service is geared specifically towards mobile and boasts a loading speed 10 times faster than that of externally linked stories on Facebook, meaning readers’ eyes get on the news faster…and on those pesky advertisements as well.

Beyond greater accessibility, however, stands greater advertising revenues. Another key incentive for media outlets to allow Facebook to host—and thus ultimately control—their content, is that as part of the Instant Articles service the social network will allow publishers to retain 100 percent of ad revenue generated from their content (I doubt that will last long though).

It should be noted that Facebook has committed itself to a hands-off policy regarding news content, according to company spokesperson Alexa Cassanos. Publishers “are in complete control of what they publish on Facebook — both links and Instant Articles. The only exception is determined by legal restrictions and our community standards.” Of course Facebook has put itself in a position where it can control the news if it wants to, and I would wager there will come a time in the not-so-distant future where it will find greater benefit in dictating, not just hosting, the news.

As it stands, nine major media outlets have signed on so far — The New York Times, National Geographic, Buzzfeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Der Spiegel and Bild. As mentioned, these companies will now place news coverage directly on Facebook, without external links, as a way of delivering the content to users’ mobile devices more quickly and efficiently.

Further, while geared specifically towards mobile, Facebook’s Instant Articles is currently only available on Apple’s iOS, with no word on whether or not Android and perhaps even Windows Phone will be added in the near future.

In all this it should really come as no surprise that Facebook’s foray into the news is being met with gross disdain and genuine concern, as while partnering with the social network will undoubtedly allow media outlets both large and small to increase readership, such perks come with a price…most notably selling their journalistic integrity down the river.

As Tom Webster, vice president of strategy and marketing at Edison Research, told the E-Commerce Times, while Facebook’s strategy may have a positive impact on readership, the downside is that the content “survives only under the largesse of Facebook…and if your content — no matter how important it may be — doesn’t generate clicks, then it’s gone, along with the revenues that might have supported it.”

In the end, Instant Articles is an enticing lure for media outlets, promising increased ad revenue wrought from increased readership. But many are justifiably worried that Facebook’s generous terms will irrevocably change the field of journalism, first by enticing media to cater to the Facebook ‘click’ model of generating revenue, and then ultimately by enticing the media industry into a dependency that will give Facebook vast amounts of control over what we see and how we see it.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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