Facebook's new Instant Articles mobile app -- a news publishing app that many say will change journalism as we know it -- has stirred quite a commotion as people try to grasp what Facebook has created, why Facebook has created it, and what it means for everyone else.
So What Is It?
Essentially, Facebook saw a way to improve the experience of reading news stories, and they crafted a mobile app around three steps:
- Sign deals with major publishers
- Host articles from those publishers directly on Facebook's servers instead of linking to the websites of the publishers
- Using their new Instant Articles mobile app, place the self-hosted articles into the news feeds of Facebook users so that the load time on a news story when you click is instantaneous -- no more clicking on a popular news story and waiting several moments for the your phone's browser to appear, find the link, and load another website's page
So what does it all mean? Is this earth-shaking or not a big deal? Who will it affect, and how?
The End of Paywalls
One clear effect of the Instant Articles mobile app is, eventually, an end to the "subscription only" articles (i.e. paywalls) -- at least the poor performing ones that don't have enough demand behind them to compete with Instant Articles.
As Science20.com notes: "The smart money will tell you that Instant Articles will soon grow beyond iPhone-only access and the nine mega-companies already signed up. Unprofitable paywalls will become obsolete as the world’s major media players shift their areas of strategic importance."
Will This Be Bad or Good for the News Industry?
Many people are concerned that publishing companies are giving this much concentrated power to Facebook. Concerned pundits wonder:
- If nine major publishers have already signed on to Instant Articles -- which will undoubtedly exert pressure on everyone else to sign up too so that they don't miss out on the massive Facebook traffic -- will Facebook eventually accumulate so many publishers that it becomes the most powerful news arbiter in the world?
- Do we really want that?
- Facebook is offering lucrative ad deals (70% of ad profits, total control over design, branding, and analytics) and other incentives (auto-play on videos, interactive maps, and zoom-in capability on images) for publishers to jump on board. Will Facebook eventually reduce these ad percentages and bully traffic-dependent publishers to accept terrible terms in the future?
- Will outsourcing the hosting of articles (i.e. publishers giving their content to Facebook to host on their servers) -- and having Facebook's parameters become the context that defines the success or failure of a news story -- damage editorial standards and journalistic integrity? In other words, instead of having a large newsroom team working to maintain journalistic standards, it could eventually devolved into one person doing everything simply because they "know how to make stuff go viral on Facebook Instant Articles."
When you Google "how will Facebook Instant Articles change news" and skim through the many opinion pieces on what it means for journalism, there's a general consensus that, over time, Instant Articles could have a negative effect on the quality of journalism -- especially if the rest of the publishing world jumps on board with Instant Articles.
Vox.com summarized it well: "Skeptics believe that news organizations need the kind of control they get from running their own website. In their view, running their own websites fosters a stronger bond between readers and publishers and gives publishers more opportunity to innovate."
What Does This All Mean for Me?
These questions are great cocktail party topics, but unless you're in the news industry, it's a little harder to discern the relevance for your bottom-line.
It's effect on businesses can be summed up in one sentence: there will be more pressure than ever on content creators.
From that angle, the Instant Articles app might be frustrating news. Creating interesting, engaging content that breaks through the massive noise in our over-saturated media world is hard enough. Now your hand-made marketing content has to compete with professional news content that loads instantly and features incredibly interactive features. Users browsing through their news feed might be more tempted to click on the flashy Instant Article instead of your post below it.
What Does This Mean For Your Website Development?
To compete with Instant Articles, content creators will focus more intensely on making visually oriented content such as videos, images, infographics, memes, etc. that can be pushed easily to Facebook whenever a new article is posted to the business website. For that reason -- besides having high quality post content -- having a robust business website that supports a wide variety ofblog and social media features will give you a better chance of producing quality content that has visual or interactive appeal.
Contact us to learn more about how the latest social media trends will affect your business website development and discover how our talented team of engineers, analysts, and designers can turn your website into a wellspring of top-notch social media content.