Facebook Instant Articles Promises Better Mobile Experience

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New Facebook tool for publishers quickly creates interactive news articles on social network

Facebook has released a new tool for online publishers that promises to speed up the process of loading news articles on the social network.

Known as “Instant Articles”, the new tool has already signed up a number of media publishers including the likes of the BBC News, The New York Times, the Guardian, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, Spiegel and Bild.

Interactive Articles

At the moment, news articles often appear in people’s newsfeeds, either from online publishers or from a user’s Facebook friends. Facebook’s decision to release a new publishing tool therefore is recognition that Facebook has become an increasingly important source of online traffic for news publishers.

Specifically, the new tool is designed to speed up the process of reading articles on mobile devices, as well as make them much more interactive.

“Today we’re excited to introduce Instant Articles, a new product for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook,” wrote Facebook Product Manager Michael Reckhow. “As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app.”

“To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” wrote Reckhow. “Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.”

FacebookmapSo alongside the faster performance, Instant Articles also promises to deliver a number of other interactive features to allow publishers to enhance their articles.

This includes allowing the user to zoom in and explore high-resolution photos by tilting their phone. And as the user scrolls through the story, auto-play videos will automatically begin to play to allow for a more visual approach. But this could be a bit of an issue for users stuck on limited mobile data plans however.

Interactive maps and audio captions can be added to the article, and the user can like and comment on particular parts of an article in-line.

Facebook claims that the Instant Articles tool has been designed to give publishers “control over their stories, brand experience and monetisation opportunities. Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory,” it added. “Publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.”

“The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook,” said Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times Company. “We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement.”

“It is great to see Facebook trialing new ways for quality journalism to flourish on mobile,” said Tony Danker, International Director, Guardian News & Media. “The Guardian is keen to test how the new platform can provide an even more engaging experience for our readers.”

The Instant Articles tool is launching on the Facebook for iPhone app, but it will apparently be developed for other mobile platforms, going forward.

Newsfeed Changes

Changes to people’s Facebook’s newsfeeds has in the past proved to be controversial, with some users concerned about what content appears in their newsfeeds. In January this year, Facebook Facebook tweaked its systems to crack down on hoaxes and spam in user newsfeeds.

But for many Facebook users, one of the most irritating change was when the social networking giant began inserting adverts into their newsfeeds and updates. This happened despite research that British people resented big brands invading their social networks.

Another irritation came when Facebook began inserting videos that automatically played when the user scrolls to them. This caused complaints from mobile users, arguing that these videos swallowed their precious mobile data allowance.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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