A new Facebook initiative is set to transform the way that people read news articles online. Though the initiative has already rolled out in America, the BBC and the Guardian were the first media companies in the UK to sign up for Instant Articles, which has been designed to streamline the process of reading articles through Facebook.
We all know that Facebook is a major player in the online world, so it’s not surprising to hear that the social networking site has become an increasingly important source of traffic for news publishers producing online content. However, Facebook itself has admitted that the process of reading articles published through the network on mobile devices is one of the slowest parts of the app.
When you read an article on Facebook through a mobile device like a smart phone or tablet, you have to click on a link that takes you to an external web page. Users doing this have to wait around eight seconds for the article to load, which in internet terms might as well be hours! Following the Google Mobile update last month, the focus on mobile internet access has never been stronger and so it’s clear that some changes need to be made.
Thanks to the internet we are all living in a more fast-paced world, something that’s impacted on the attention span of the average internet user. We no longer have the patience to sit and wait for an article to load up – we expect it immediately.
So how will Facebook Instant Articles work? Instead of an external link, news stories will now run within Facebook for what the company describes as a ‘seamless loading experience 10 times faster than the current system.’ Since making the announcement several news sites have signed up to the initiative, including BuzzFeed and the National Geographic. For the European publishers that have signed up, articles will be published through the new system later in the summer.
From an SEO perspective, Facebook Instant Articles seems like it may be too good to be true. Concerns have already emerged surrounding the initiative, specifically how much user data Facebook will gain access to. Justin Osofsky, Facebook’s vice-president of media partnerships and global operations, claims that the initiative will provide further insights into how people read stories and how they engage with content. Facebook Instant Articles allows publishers to bring their branding through to the social network, giving readers the illusion that they’re on the site the article came from.
Facebook Instant Articles is also set to support traffic measurement including Google Analytics, allowing these publishers to access audience data, which then drives their advertising campaigns. On the whole, Facebook Instant Articles seems more like a new way for people to read content rather than completely transforming the way that articles are written and published, but it does suggest that the social network is on its way to being a major channel for the publishing of content; perhaps in the future it will be usable by individuals as well as major organisations like the BBC.
At Zebra Internet Services we’re always interested in any major changes to the way that content is produced and published online, but traditional content marketing efforts remain just as valid as they ever were and Facebook isn’t the only major publishing source out there. Of course, with mobile phones becoming so important over the last few years and Facebook dominating mobile advertising space, it’s definitely something that we’ll be keeping an eye on.
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Camille Taylor is Head of SEO and Online Reputation management at Zebra.