Analyzing Facebook Instant Articles
When Facebook announced its new, innovative Instant Articles for iPhone users, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and a number of news agencies were eager to jump aboard the FB bandwagon.
Facebook Instant Articles displays lengthy features and breaking news stories instantly within the mobile App without navigating to a separate page. Instant Articles load as much as 10-times faster than the standard mobile web pages, and encompass the same technology, which allows for videos and photos to be displayed at high speeds within the iPhone Facebook app.
The most enticing option for publishers is that they can choose which articles they wish to publish and Instant Articles uses existing production tools, as well as standard HTML and RSS feeds, to create content that is scalable to any length and format.
After observing that certain articles were gathering more views within the Facebook app than on the actual external links, Facebook knew they had a tremendous opportunity to cut out the middleman and create a new publisher friendly format for news curators.
There are currently a select number of publishers that curate content using Instant Articles; this includes news agencies, such as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and Slate. One problem for publishers is monetizing the stream of traffic for Instant Articles’ users. The mass cornucopia of Facebook users allows content in a market of limited publishers to gather views like never before.
Yet, Instant Articles provides little leeway in terms of advertising and companies, such as The Washington Post are turning to subscription models to better monetize Instant Article streams.
One company, Polar, is teaming up with Facebook Instant Articles to provide publishers with the ability to incorporate native advertising within Instant Articles. This may be publishers’ only option to monetize their Instant Articles stream as native ads are rarely seen on Instant Articles and can only be run as one of the four related articles at the bottom of the page. Publishers are skeptical, as related articles that contain native ads cannot be tracked, which are necessary to satisfy advertisers.
A Viable Threat to SEO?
Facebook’s Instant Articles has the detrimental effect of driving traffic away from users’ website pages and limiting traffic to the Facebook pages themselves. Jayson DeMers of Forbes contends that Instant Articles can “also exist on your website, though it’s not yet known whether such duplicate publication would cause duplicate content issues.” SEO marketing could be in trouble if Facebook chooses to register their Instant Articles as “noindex” upon search engine pages, preventing search results from registering publisher articles on search engines and purely limiting keyword article traffic to Facebook pages.
For content marketers and SEO campaigns, Instant Articles can afford you the ability to have far-reaching content that only Facebook sharing can hook you up with. But publishers must ask themselves whether it’s worth reducing user traffic to your actual website and potentially reducing e-commerce streams for specific keywords.
With the fast and integrative features that Instant Articles provide for users, on-site content can decline in value as users become accustomed with the innovative features that Instant Articles provide for content consumption.
As Instant Articles grows, publishers should become weary of Facebook’s control over what articles reach users. This is purely theoretical, but if some publishers perform better than others this could create a growing gap between good and bad content. In the end, publishers should not worry too much about using Instant Articles, as this will have a negligible impact on SEO marketing and on-site traffic.