It’s no secret that Facebook would greatly prefer for everybody to simply stay on Facebook all of the time, but there’s that whole pesky entirety of the rest of the Internet out there full of interesting stuff. People already spend an exorbitant amount of time on Facebook, but they do all eventually go elsewhere on the Internet. What is Facebook to do? They’re testing a new “Instant Article” feature in an attempt to bring the rest of the Internet into Facebook.
In a pilot program launching today, Facebook will start to host and publish content from other news outlets on their site. iOS users will be the first to see the Instant Article feature, and posts will initially be from sources such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, NBC News, The Atlantic, and National Geographic in the US with The Guardian, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel Online taking part in Europe. As Fortune points out, these sources were specifically chosen because they cover a broad range of topics and are leaders in their respective categories.
Facebook claims that Instant Article will load articles ten times faster because the content will come directly from Facebook. I’d imagine they’re counting the time switching from the Facebook app to a browser in addition to the time the page actually takes to load. I’d personally suggest Android users just install Link Bubble (and buy the pro license, it’s completely worth it) to get similar functionality loading links on the side while you continue browsing whatever you’re looking at. Facebook would disagree because that doesn’t allow them to sell ads on their hosted content.
To be completely fair, Facebook will allow sources taking part in Instant Article to use their own ads on their hosted articles and keep all ad revenue from those ads. Facebook will, however, also offer to apply their own ads and take a 30% cut of the revenue for their troubles.
Maybe a bigger concern for participants in Instant Article would be Facebook taking even more control over the distribution of news. Couple that with Facebook’s longstanding tradition of frequently tweaking their news feed algorithms and maybe there’s even more reason to worry. Today’s Instant Article could be tomorrow’s Zynga, who went from king of the news feed to pauper once the algorithm was tweaked. Even pages that users legitimately want to see are often hidden behind pay walls for the page owner to try and get their content to more than a handful of those users.
Instant Article is only in its very early testing phase for now, but Facebook would obviously love to see it succeed and bring more content under their umbrella. Time will tell if publishers and content creators feel the same way.Source: NYTimes.com
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