Ad blocking costed publishers USD 22 billion in 2015, says a recent Hubspot study. Not great news to consume being a publisher myself. Ad blocking has been a global problem since 2015 and the industry is still finding a way to tackle it as advertisement is the biggest source of income for a majority of publishers. Interestingly, last year also saw the emergence of social networks evolving from just being distributors. Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat all want to be the new age publishers so that you spend maximum time consuming content on their networks.
Facebook introduced Instant Articles for a generation that wants to consume content on the go. Using Instant Articles, publishers can now show Facebook mobile users fast-loading posts while still also showing them a limited amount of their own ads (or use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize their content) and measure pageviews through tools like Adobe Analytics, Chartbeat, comScore and others. Today it opened up the Instant Articles format to all developers.
According to data released by Facebook, the program appears to be delivering on that promise. Facebook users are opening Instant Articles 20% more frequently than mobile Web articles and sharing 30% more Instant Articles, on average, the company said. Facebook said users are also 70% less likely to abandon an Instant Article immediately “because they’re not stuck waiting for it to load.”
With ad blocking problems and users spending more time on social networks, publishers are today left with no choice but to give in to social networks. While the jury is out on Instant Articles, publishers are trying it out and Facebook is giving them more carrots. Google has also launched Instant Articles competitor in the form of AMP.
In fact Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg keynote at F8 (video here) that elaborated the company’s next 10 year road map of “Give everyone the power to share anything with anyone” found some interesting mentions that should be important to people who are in the business of publishing.
Bots on Facebook Messenger
As expected, Facebook launched the Messenger Platform at F8 that enabled businesses to connect with people, and a new bot support for the platform. This isn’t a surprise when over 900 million people around the world and over 50 million businesses communicate on Messenger.
During his keynote Mark shared an interesting metric that might have already given nightmares to telecom operators. Facebook’s two messaging services, when combined, saw more activity on a daily basis than SMS or texting. That is, Messenger and WhatsApp see 60 billion messages sent daily versus 20 billion for SMS!
David Marcus, VP of Messaging Products writes, “We’re excited to introduce bots for the Messenger Platform. Bots can provide anything from automated subscription content like weather and traffic updates, to customized communications like receipts, shipping notifications, and live automated messages all by interacting directly with the people who want to get them.”
Along with Messenger Send/Receive API, discovery tools Facebook introduced Wit.ai’s Bot Engine that will enable developers to build more complex bots that can interpret intent from natural language, and continuously learn to get better over time.
Mark gave two examples during his keynote to show the power of the bots, one showed how you can deliver flowers without even calling all on the Messenger. The other example focused on how CNN bot was delivering news digest with carousel of stories. The user has the ability and gets more information from the bot. These bots get smarter as they learn more from user actions with time.
Facebook might have introduced bots today but the publishing world is already getting used to such mechanisms. Messaging app Kik with 275 million registered users recently launched a bot store for brands and publishers to build their own bots that deliver services to users. Washington Post is already building chatbots to deliver news and Quartz’s news app is not only delivering news but also having friendly conversations with users.
Facebook may be a bit late but sheer numbers and its supremacy on the Internet is already making publishers rush to get their bots on the Messenger. Publishers including CNN, MIC and Business Insider were ready with bot launches right after the F8 announcement. “The direct-to-consumer aspect has big potential for us to connect directly with our readers. We’re really excited about the possibilities from a publishing perspective but also from a technology perspective, which has big innovation potential,” Mic said in an e-mail to Digiday.
Bookmarking comes to Facebook
With more and more publishers joining the Instant Articles program, the ability to have a save button is really the need of the hour. Not to say that there is a “save for later” feature available by Facebook but it isn’t a quick action like you will find in bookmarking apps like Pocket.
Facebook says that 250 million people take advantage of the save feature every month — and the company has revealed a new strategy to make that number grow. Facebook is introducing a ‘Save to Facebook’ button for the web. Publishers can now add the button to their standard article templates, and whenever a user taps the button, it will save the article or video directly to their Facebook queue.
A big competitor to apps like Pocket and Instapaper. However, Facebook for now isn’t striping articles of their formatting and advertisements like the bookmarketing apps. This should be good news for publishers who drive great amount of traffic from Facebook.
However, as a reader I may not be interested in using the Facebook feature for wider web which Pocket does quite efficiently but it will be used when I am inside the closed gardens of Facebook.
Rights manager to combat freebooting
Facebook boasts about 8 billion views per day, a number that is making everyone crazy and with Facebook Live Videos available for everyone the madness has just begun. But you still see original content creators avoiding Facebook and sticking to YouTube. Apart from the monetization fact, video creators and publishers have stated Facebook freebooting is their biggest concern.
Copyright credit to creators or freebooting is the act of downloading someone else’s copy-righted material, often from YouTube, and uploading it into Facebook’s native video player. You really don’t want to see your hard work being ripped off, uploaded by someone else on Facebook and become popular.
A report from ad agency Ogilvy and Tubular Labs found that 725 of the 1,000 most popular Facebook videos in the first quarter 2015 were re-uploads of content from other sources. The most-viewed such video raked in 72 million views, while all 725 re-uploaded videos hit a grand total of 17 billion views.
Facebook understands that this is a big problem and last year it had announced about building a new “video matching technology” beyond the existing system, intended to curb freebooting.
Facebook has now officially launched Rights Manager, its version of YouTube’s Content ID. Facebook shares Rights Manager, a set of admin and workflow tools that help publishers and creators manage and protect their video content on Facebook at scale. “With Rights Manager, we want to give video publishers the confidence that their content is protected across Facebook, as well as provide them with increased flexibility and greater control over the use of their video.”
Rights Manager isn’t openly available yet, but content owners can now apply for access here.
With Rights Manager, publishers can upload content libraries and publish live video as references for Rights Manager to check against, including videos they are not sharing publicly on Facebook. Rights Manager then monitors for potential infringement of that content across Facebook.
Along with creating rules, whitelisting specific pages, among others, Facebook is creating new Rights Manager API. “We’re rolling out an API for Rights Manager to improve bulk uploading for publishers and to allow media management companies to support partners in managing, monitoring and protecting their content across Facebook.”
Additionally, Facebook has allowed app developers to now add a quote-sharing tool to their apps, more options for streaming video to Facebook Live and AI to read news articles. While it is still not clear what it means as of now but Mark in his keynote made a mention that ‘Facebook is developing artificial intelligence to better read and understand the content of news stories.’
Facebook is already using an artificial intelligence system to automatically caption photos in an effort to increase the accessibility of its website and apps. The feature, called “automatic alternative text”, uses image recognition technology developed through machine-learning to identify the objects pictured. The technology will do a great deal towards making the Facebook app more usable for blind and visually impaired visitors.
Mark’s keynote might have focused on the future with drones, satellites and lasers but if it wants to be the biggest dominant publishing platform, it can’t ignore publishers. “We want to support the business model of publishers no matter what that business model is,” said Will Cathcart, Facebook’s vp of product management, during a panel with publishers at F8 in San Francisco.