Facebook recently opened up their 'Instant Articles' offering, allowing everyone to syndicate content via the fast-loading, mobile-friendly format. Through Instant Articles, content load time is drastically reduced, while publishers are also given access to Facebook's range of mobile-friendly design features, improving the overall user experience.
And while users benefit from an improved content experience, Facebook too wins out by keeping mobile users on-platform for longer - but what are the benefits for publishers in this equation?
Below are six reasons why publishers and bloggers should consider using Instant Articles.
1. Increasing number of mobile users
The number of mobile users increased dramatically in the last few years. 2014 was the first year where the number of mobile users surpassed desktop users, and now, it's truly a mobile world - just take a look at this chart from web data provider comScore.
And it's not just more users, people are also spending more time consuming digital media via mobile device.
This massive growth of mobile users shows now sign of slowing - according to the latest annual Mobility Report from Ericsson, there will be 6.1 billion smartphone users by 2020.
The current data and future predictions indicate your content needs to be mobile ready. It has to provide a great user experience and it has to load fast. These elements are exactly what Instant Articles provides.
2. Facebook is the most popular application
There are tons of applications available for smartphone users, but only a fraction of these apps are actually used by millions of people.
With your own branded application you not only compete against thousands of other apps available in the respective app stores, but once your app is installed you still have to manage somehow to get into that top used applications bracket. Since a typical smartphone user spends 80% of his time on five applications, it's a pretty big challenge to get in front of your audience via your own, custom app.
Facebook is the most used smartphone application and most of its users frequently use the app to stay up-to-date with current events (for example reading news). No doubt you already have a presence on Facebook, so it makes sense to stay within the platform and keep sharing your articles as you always have.
The benefit here is that you don't have to spend more resources on convincing your readers to change their media consumption behavior and start using your branded app, since most of them already use Facebook anyway.
Changing user behavior is difficult, but it's much easier to fit in their current workflow. Publishing Instant Articles reduces the need for your audience to change their media consumption habits.
3. Proportion of traffic coming from Facebook
I'm sure you already know how many visitors your website gets from Facebook.
If not, here are two really simple ways to get this information from Google Analytics.
From the left menu select "Acquisition":
Click "All traffic" and from the list select "Source/Medium"
The data is even more interesting if you check out the actual visitors coming from Facebook's mobile application - this traffic is tagged in Google Analytics as m.facebook.com.
This overview will give you a good estimate of the proportion of mobile traffic coming from Facebook - if it accounts for a significant part of your traffic, then you should consider using Instant Articles.
4. Bad page performance on mobile
If your website isn't responsive or has long load times, then it's time to do something about it.
You can work out your website's load time by using Google's official speed tester:
For getting more information about the responsiveness of your website use Website Grader:
Is your website considered slow? What does Website Grader recommend?
You can speed up your website for users coming from Facebook mobile application by using Instant Articles. Mobile users coming from other sources will still see the mobile-optimized web page.
5. Higher engagement
Facebook's reported that Instant Articles content tends to get higher engagement than classic mobile-optimized web pages. According to Facebook, Instant content is generating around 20% more clicks, and those users, one they do arrive, are 70% less likely to abandon the article.
Instant Articles are also generating 30% more shares than mobile web articles on average. Increased traffic means more shares, which will eventually help you to amplify your content's reach in News Feed.
6. Better monetization of mobile users
Instant Articles not only provide a much better user experience, but they can also help publishers to monetize those readers. Facebook's early experiments have shown that Instant Articles generate the same amount of ad revenue, on a per view basis.
Banners can be included after every 350 words and if your article contains mainly media content, than ads can't exceed 15% of the content.
Facebook offers two different options for sell ads on Instant Articles:
- Publishers do it for themselves (keeping 100% of revenue)
- Allow Facebook to handle ad selling (Facebook keeps 30% of revenue), but Facebook built-in targeting can be used.
As you can see, Facebook's working to make Instant Articles an enticing option for publishers and bloggers alike. Obviously, there are some downsides - syndicating your content via Instant Articles means that that traffic coming to your content will be in Facebook's hands, meaning Facebook will rule the game, while users won't visit your website directly anymore, which could make it harder to build relationships with them.
But at the same time, if you decide not to syndicate your content with Facebook, while others do, your website could eventually be seen as slower compared to Instant content. Once mobile users get used to fast loading times, present on posts with the Instant Articles lightning logo in the top right corner of the post thumbnail, it could stop them from clicking your articles on Facebook.