Facebook had been threatening to release its Instant Articles feature for about a year and earlier this week it did just that.
The social network’s almost timid release of Facebook Paper at the beginning of last year was the platform for the emergence of the internet giant’s news-reading application, which allows users to view articles from prestigious publishers such as ‘The Guardian’ and ‘The New York Times’ without leaving the application.
Whilst this seems all well and good on the face of it, concerns have been raised regarding the new app’s capacity to erode the power of publishers, as most of their views would come within the walls of Facebook.
There’s no doubt that Facebook’s intentions are good - there are so many publishers that rely on Facebook’s News-Feed for views, and with it often taking ages for them to load up, embedding articles within the app seems like a logical step forward.
It’s too early to say if the app’s going to be successful, it’s only been a few days after all, but Facebook will be hoping that they’ve learnt enough from Paper to make sure that the same mistakes don’t happen again. The main reason Paper failed was because it wasn’t synced with its main ‘big-blue’ app - it was a separate entity. This has been rectified with the release of Instant Articles and it’s hoped that this will be the catalyst for its success.
Although you could understand why publishers would be hesitant about handing over their content to Facebook, the current terms and conditions are flexible. There’s not going to be any commitment needed on the publishers side to post a certain amount of articles per day, or is there a specific timeframe they have to work with Facebook for. It was also announced that the publishers which post content directly to the app will keep all the revenue they sell against the stories.
This has led many commentators to ponder where the revenue stream is coming from. This was referenced directly in an article on Wired;
‘The technology comes first [at Facebook], and the purpose—including the revenue—often comes later. In this way, Facebook operates like so many Internet, except that unlike so many of its Silicon Valley competitors, Facebook actually finds its way to the money-making part of the process’
The success of Instant Articles remains very much in the air, as does the strength of the impact that it’s going to have on the publishing industry. One thing’s for sure however, Google will be waiting with baited breath to see how successful it's going to be, because it’s more than possible that they could implement something similar.