The ad wars between the major tech companies continues unabated, and Facebook has made their latest move. Under pressure from publishers dissatisfied by the ad revenue opportunities in their publishing options, Facebook is tweaking Instant Articles to allow publishers to make more money.
According to Marty Swant in AdWeek, who spoke with a Facebook rep about the matter, the policy change lets publishers include up to 40% more advertisements per post in Instant Articles. The change, which began yesterday, will allow publishers to place an ad every 350 words instead of every 500 words in articles. Another very important change is that Facebook will allow publishers to offer Facebook-exclusive ad campaigns, which mean they can now offer ads to brands at more premium prices.
Swant states that, via Facebook's policies, "publishers [can] earn 100 percent of revenue from ads they sell or a smaller percentage if they choose to tap into the Facebook Audience Network platform." This increase in ad options should expand the field of possible publishers and advertisers that would best fit on the Facebook Instant Articles platform.
A third change will gives publishers the ability to control whether links in Instant Articles for a publisher's other content go to other pages in Instant Articles, or back to the publisher's website. These changes will allow publishers, who are suffering from ad revenue shortfalls due to things like ad blocking software and an almost fractal level of media diversification on the web, to expand their reach while gaining more options for bringing in ad dollars.
This move by Facebook is part of the ongoing struggle between Google, Facebook, and Apple to compete for publishers and ad revenue. Currently Google is trying to find a way to continue to bring in ad money, its core revenue stream, in an environment that allows things like ad blocking software and the freedom of the open web. Google's recent release of interactive ads on mobile is an attempt to get advertisers to stay where they are.
Meanwhile, Facebook and Apple are trying to get publishers on board with their own proprietary publishing options, Instant Articles and Apple News, respectively, which don't allow ad blocking software.
Publishers are in a tough spot. If they stick with Google and their own websites, they risk the ad revenue drop off that has come from so many people blocking ads in their browsers. If they go with Facebook or Apple, they can publish with the knowledge that their advertisements will be seen, but face restrictions on ad placement, and are forced to share revenue.
Bending to publishers' wishes is a smart move by Facebook, which currently has about 100 daily publishers on Instant Articles with more in the queue. Facebook knows it has to grow Instant Articles into a much bigger force in publishing before it can start dictating terms more forcefully.
Now if they can just start sharing revenue with the original creators when their videos get freebooted on Facebook, everything will be much better ...