Facebook unveiled Instant Articles on Wednesday, positioning itself as a potential big time player in the news publishing market. The new feature gives media outlets such as National Geographic and the New York Times a new platform for reaching readers, and a new avenue for generating ad-based revenue.
Facebook Instant Articles aims to be your primary news source
Content hosted through Instant Articles can include photos you view by tilting your smartphone, videos, interactive maps, and audio captions. Facebook claims content available through its new platform can load substantially faster compared to traditional websites.
The services lets media outlets show their content directly in viewer's Facebook streams without requiring them to click out to a different site. Publishers can format content to match the look of their websites, giving them a way to maintain their brand, and Facebook gets to keep viewers inside its own ecosystem.
Considering Facebook has about 1.4 billion active users around the world each month, Instant Articles has the potential to drive up traffic for news outlets. It also, however, ties them to Facebook's ecosystem and to a degree puts the social media giant in the driver seat because readers are now looking there for all of their news.
It may, however, be too late for publishers to worry about relying on Facebook because it's already the go-to information tool for many Web users. If content isn't available there, they'll never see it. In essence, Facebook has a voluntarily captive audience.
The big draw for news companies ultimately will be eyeballs. Thanks to Facebook's massive active user base, more people will likely see their content, and that in turn translates to ad visibility. Assuming advertisers see the value in branded and syndicated news content on Facebook, that could translate into more money for the content creators.
Instant Articles is launching with BuzzFeed, NBC News, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel Online, Bild, the New York Times, and National Geographic—and for now it's available only in the Facebook for iPhone app. Assuming Instant Articles plays out well, Facebook is hoping to draw in more publishers soon.