Capitalising on the popularity of articles shared by users on Facebook, particularly on the mobile app, the social media giant has partnered with nine publishers to launch Instant Articles, which will let users view stories within Facebook rather than linking out to an external source.
The service will launch on the iPhone for now with a “special set” of stories by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic.
Other partners include The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.
These publishers will be able to create “fast, interactive articles” and have control over their “stories, brand experience and monetisation opportunities”.
The company says it made the move because stories usually take an average of eight seconds to load and are “by far the slowest single content type on Facebook,” while Instant Articles claims to make the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles, it claims.
Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue or use Facebook’s ‘Audience Network’ to monetise unsold inventory and they will have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.
They can also use HTML and RSS feeds to scale “entire content libraries” in the Instant Articles format.
Users will be able to zoom in and view high-resolution photos by tilting their device and Instant Article will also feature auto-play videos, interactive maps, audio captions and the ability to ‘like’ and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.
“Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook,” said chief product officer Chris Cox. “Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”
Mark Thompson, president and CEO at The New York Times Company, said he wants to explore ways of growing the number of users on Facebook, “improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement.” Tony Danker at Guardian News & Media said it is vital that “over time, Instant Articles delivers recurring benefit for publishers, whose continued investment in original content underpins its success.”
Facebook is also testing out an ‘Add a Link’ option that lets users look for a website or article that they want to share within its app, rather than having to search for and copy and paste a link from another source.
Both initiatives seemed to be aimed at encouraging users to stay within the app.