Back in February, Facebook announced that they were widening the availability of Instant Articles to all publishers. Instant Articles, are posts created and hosted within Facebook, optimized for consumption on the platform, with faster load times and custom presentation features. And while some see it as just one new feature among many, it is in fact, set to become a game-changer for content strategies.
Welcome to the era of "Distributed Content"
The flow and use of digital information is rapidly evolving. In recent years, search engines, and even social networks, have supplanted media publisher websites as primary sources of online news.
The next step? The transition from a platform that shares publisher's links, to a platform that features publishers' full content.
The path is simple: content creates habits, habits bring users back to your platform and drive engagement on the site. And isn't engagement the Holy Grail for social networks who are always searching to monetize their services?
With this in mind, Silicon Valley giants have been multiplying their initiatives on this front: Apple News, Google AMP, Linkedin Pulse, Twitter "Beyond 10K".
In this new landscape, Instant Articles could well mark a turning point. The reason? Zuckerberg's social network now has more than 1.71 billion monthly active users. With that staggering amount of support and reach, Facebook has the capacity to democratize very large scale new usages, and change consumption habits very quickly.
Seeking optimized experience for multiplied engagement
Instant Articles gives content producers a broad array of tools to optimize and significantly enrich their articles on mobile.
- Responsive interface
- Autoplay videos
- Voice of the author subtitled
- High resolution photos
- 3D drawings
"Player side" is an intuitive, immersive experience through Facebook Instant Articles. It allows users to "Like", comment (even on photos and videos within a post), or share snippets of text. And with so many active users, the potential reach of such content is likely very significant. Of course, content managers are drooling at the possibilities.
But that's not all. Beyond their billion-plus users, Facebook has another heavyweight asset - its algorithm. Users will have articles targeted to them based on their tastes and interests. And with more content being read on platform, that gives Facebook more data to better match users with the material they'll most want to see. Eventually, ths could see brands writing specifically for Facebook's News Feed algorithm in order to maximize their engagement.
With ROI analysis capabilities, brands can choose to use Instant Articles Facebook to develop their brand awareness, generate leads, and drive sales via the mobile channel. Depending upon their objectives, creative brands may use the Instant Articles in two ways: to leverage the visibility of the content that powers the "top of the funnel", OR to attract readers to their landing pages and product pages via smart calls-to-action.
Distributed Content: What are your options?
Brands and content managers need to understand that the business landscape has shifted.
As illustrated in the following graphic, content distribution used to be quite simple. Media and brands would publish on their website and/or blog and this would then be shared on social networks.
Now, the landscape is far more fragmented as brands take a much more strategic approach.
Obviously brand and media can still publish on their website and blogs, but this is no longer the main channel. Some media, like AJ+, no longer publish on their website. Instead, they optimize their content for each social media platform they employ. But news publishers aren't the only ones reconsidering their content distribution options. Many influential brands are making the leap as well. Slack, for instance, has abandoned their on-site blog in favor of Medium. They cited significantly more views in the past 90 days on Medium than the previous 18 months on their blogs as the logic behind the move.
But don't write-off "traditional" media channels just yet - you can still find some that have truly dedicated contributor's platforms (Huffington Post, Social Media Today, etc.) that showcase "expert sections" or various partnerships.
Furthermore, as messaging apps and artificial intelligence boom, we'll see more new "content chatbot strategies" and augmented reality apps, as well. Whether it's mobile gaming (familiar with PokemonGO?) or dedicated News apps like New York Times VR, these new channels are completely reshaping the way we communicate and create content.
It's no longer just about pushing narratives through content, but delivering truly memorable and immersive experiences with content.
The rise of content distribution strategy teams
To navigate this fragmented world, brands and news publishers need to have dedicated teams. So called "platform wranglers" or platform ambassadors are already popping-up with prominent media companies. Their role? To establish and own the relationship with major content platforms and provide editorial strategy direction.
In August 2015, Buzzfeed created a new team called "Distributed BuzzFeed" - twenty employees creating original content for social media platforms such as Tumblr, Imgur Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook etc.
In other words, Buzzfeed has a team of employees producing content that will never be published on Buzzfeed.com.
It's vital to remember that only a specialized approach can add value by segmenting content based on audiences and channels. Regurgitating the same old content across platforms simply won't cut it anymore.
The key to attracting, engaging, and motivating your audience is original content created exclusively for each platform. Simple.