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Facebook opens Instant Articles to all publishers

February 17, 2016

Facebook announced Wednesday afternoon that its Instant Articles feature will be made available to all publishers come Aptil 12. Publishers include law firms and other professional services firms publishing interesting news, insight and commentary.

Until now, Instant Articles was limited to select publishers such as The New York Times, The Atlantic, BBC News, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, National Geographic and NBC.

Instant Articles enables a publisher or news organization to select articles they want to publish directly to Facebook, as opposed to merely sharing a link on Facebook to an article on their own site. Facebook users then view the entire article with the Facebook app with formatting similar to the publisher’s site.

Facebook Instant Articles

Instant Articles was ostensibly built to solve the problem of slow loading times which created problems for people reading news on their phones. No question articles running on the feature load at lightening speed, about 10 times faster than standard mobile Web posts. It’s an eloquent experience with articles instantly slid off to the side when done reading.

I say ostensibly as major publishers looked at Instant Articles as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Major publishers, who get their revenue from advertising on their sites saw publishing on Facebook as giving up that revenue. Facebook and the advertisers ultimately worked out a split of the Facebook ad revenue as well as an agreement allowing publishers to embed ads in their content published on Facebook.

Facebook Product manager Josh Roberts said in a blog post:

Media organizations and journalists are an integral part of Facebook, and we’re committed to delivering products that will create the best experience for publishers and their readers. With Instant Articles, publishers have full control over the look of their stories, as well as data and ads. They have the ability to bring their own direct-sold ads and keep 100 percent of the revenue, and track data on the ads served through their existing ad-measurement systems, or they can monetize their content through the Facebook Audience Network. Additionally, publishers can use their existing Web-based analytics systems to track article traffic or use third-party providers. They can do all this while accessing a rich suite of multimedia tools to create dynamic, interactive stories that will load quickly everywhere on Facebook, regardless of where in the world their readers are.

Roberts also detailed how publishers can get started with Instant Articles after April 12.

We’ve made it easy for publishers to join by building a system based on the tools they already use. Instant Articles uses the languages of the Web and works with publishers’ content-management systems, and we have documented an open standard that is easy for publishers to adopt. We encourage all interested publishers to review our documentation and prepare for open availability in April, at which point they will be able to share this fast, interactive experience with their readers.

What’s this mean for blogging lawyers and other professionals? Facebook will not operate as a wasteland for content of marginal value. Algorithms will see that such content never sees the light of day.

Little question professionals who measure publishing succcess in traffic numbers versus reputation and relationship building will look to automatically push their content into Instant Articles. It’ll be a waste of time and may even impact them negatively so that anything they say or publish on Facebook is punished.

As Casey Newton (@caseynewton) of The Verge reports, publishers will not flick a switch to get their content on Instant Articles.

Independent blogs and newspapers are still unlikely to create Instant Article feeds of their own. While Facebook says they have worked to simplify the process, creating what amounts to a custom RSS feed with unique HTML-like elements still requires a level of technical expertise that many publishers still lack. More interesting would be if publishing platforms like WordPress, Medium, or Tumblr enable the automatic posting of Instant Articles to Facebook. Until then, publishers interested in developing for the format can start reading up on how they’re created.

We’ve been discussing internally at LexBlog publishing the best of our network’s posts on Facebook. We’ve done so on a limited basis to date, but have recently discussed expanding our Facebook postings so as to be ready for the day Instant Articles was opened to everyone. We’d do it to get quality legal insight and commentary out to the public as well to shine a light on our network’s best posts and bloggers.

LexBlog Network publishing on Facebook Instant Articles will likely happen. The logistics from a technical aspect will need to be nailed down to provide for the presentation of the elements Facebook allows in its interface. We’ll want our publishers’ posts to be displayed as eloquently as content from the New York Times or Harvard Business Review.

With 9,000 bloggers we also need to do things in a way that scales, can be upgraded, provides high performance and that’s secure. A curation aspect may be desirable. Not even major publishers are auto-feeding all of their articles onto Instant Articles.

In regard to individual blogs publishing to Instant Articles, we’ll start discussions on technology and how such a feature could be included in our three offerings.

Opening Facebook Instant Artcles to all publishers is good news. For publishers and their software providers, such as LexBlog, the devil will be in the details. Racing to “push” content onto Facebook will not be the answer.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Jereme Rauckman

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