Facebook recently made Instant Articles available to all users of its iPhone app, with Android beta testing underway.
Instant Articles allows publishers like BuzzFeed, The New York Times and similar websites to distribute content directly to the Facebook news feed via RSS. It also allows you to customize your content to make it more interactive than ever before.
Here are seven things you need to know right now about Facebook Instant Articles (join me after a quick video):
1. Instant Articles Serves Content at Lightning Speed
Instant Articles tackles the problem that many publishers have with their slow-loading websites, which is especially frustrating for mobile users. By many accounts, the content via Instant Articles loads in under one second.
A lightning bolt icon in a user's news feed shows which content is available in Instant Articles (signifying faster load times to entice a click through).
2. Some Worry It Will Steal Their Website Traffic
Some are stressing that Instant Articles will take traffic away from websites because there's no need to visit publishers directly to view the content.
But that's offset by the increased sharing of content that publishers are seeing with Instant Articles (versus posting the link to their Facebook pages manually).
And, since the content via Instant Articles is assessed by the same signals as any content in the news feed, more shares can work in the content's favor.
Also, Facebook has partnered with comScore to "enable publishers to count Instant Article views in the Facebook app as regular traffic to the publisher, just as on the mobile web." (More answers to FAQs like that here).
Bonus: Each article published via Instant Articles has the same URL as the original content on your website, so anyone can open the article when it's shared with them - no matter what platform they use.
3. Only Select Publishers Are In, But Plans to Open It Follow
As of today, Facebook is working only with a handful of select publishers to distribute content through Instant Articles, but says it's looking forward to extending the program in the future so any content publisher or blog can participate.
4. It's Really Simple to Distribute Your Content
Automated publishing of your website's content to Facebook is easy through an RSS feed that contains the full content of each article (plus manual content editing as needed).
5. You Can Create Stunning Content Like Never Before
Once you're part of the program, Facebook offers some amazing features to make your content an experience for readers. Instant Articles uses HTML5 and allows you to create articles that contain autoplay video, audio captions, interactive maps and much more (it also provides support for social media embedding, ads and analytics).
6. You Get All Sorts of Goodies About Your Audience
Instant Articles gives you access to analytics like reach, engagement, time spent on the article, scroll depth and engagement with rich media. Facebook said the goal is to "provide the same data that publishers are used to having about visitors on the mobile web."
7. Publishers Can Monetize Their Content via Ads
Facebook Instant Articles invites publishers to host and monetize their content by selling banner ads in their articles and keeping the revenue, or making use of the Facebook Audience Network, which supports several ad formats.
For publishers that have subscription models (aka "paywalls"), Facebook says it's currently in talks to see how Instant Articles might support their business model.
I really like this new feature and urge publishers to get on board as soon as possible. Early adopters usually benefit disproportionately from big, new features like this.
Interested? Learn more or sign up with Instant Articles here.