Social networks are no more distributors, they are the new publishers. The fastest growing media company which also happens to be the most popular social network in the world, Facebook wants to hold the baton. Facebook’s Instant Articles debuted earlier this year as a new product for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on the social network.
Globally visible from Facebook’s iPhone app, Instant Articles associated with rich-media stories from The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, and six other outlets to begin with.
In a latest development, Facebook has informed that it is giving access to 21 new publishers and will start displaying Instant Articles to more of its users. Washington Post is one of the celebrity publishers that has decided to post every single article on the platform. That would mean about 1200 stories a day on Instant Articles.
“We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren’t holding anything back,” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in a statement. “Launching Instant Articles on Facebook enables to give this extremely large audience a faster, more seamless news reading experience.”
The other publishers who have decided to sign up include Mashable, MTV, Daily Mail/Elite Daily, Business Insider, Hearst, MLB, Complex, Bleacher Report, MoviePilot, Vox Media, Mic, Gannett, Time Inc., Refinery 29, Bustle, the Dodo, CBS Interactive, IJ Review, NBA and the Blaze. Hopefully these won’t be the last ones considering shaking hands with Facebook.
Facebook recently touched a billion users in a day, why would any publisher say no to such a lucrative deal? BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti recently revealed that his company gets 27% traffic from Facebook native video, 6% from Facebook and 21% from Snapchat.
To further lure publishers, Facebook tweaked the News Feed. Till some time back the overly complicated News Feed used to consider liking, commenting and sharing as major factors in determining the mix. But very recently Facebook added time spent, after its research showed that people don’t always like or comment on stories that they find meaningful. Describing how the algorithm will show content, Facebook informed it is going to find out the kind of content one spends more time on the News Feed.
Initially publishers had concerns but later they shrugged all concerns and have been eager to publish on the network.
Washington Post’s decision to give in to Facebook is also influenced by the growing concerns of losing revenues to ad-blocking. Ad-blocking will lead to almost $22 billion of lost advertising revenue this year, according to the report put together by Adobe and PageFair, a Dublin-based start-up that helps companies and advertisers recoup some of this lost revenue. That represents a 41 % rise compared to the previous 12 months, and the levels of ad-blocking activity now top more than a third of all Internet users in some countries, particularly in Europe, the report said.
With Apple’s iOS – iOS 9 including ad blocking capabilities for the mobile Safari browser, Washington Post declared war on the ad-blockers. The publisher decided to prevent users from reading content on its site if they are using ad block software which is harming crucial advertising revenue for the publisher.
Readers were intermittently redirected to a subscription page if they were using ad-block apps which asked them to sign up to its newsletter in order to read content. The website is also asking readers to disable ad-block so they can continue through to the content.
Speaking to BuzzFeed, a Washington Post spokesperson said that “without income via subscriptions or advertising, we are unable to deliver the journalism that people coming to our site expect from us. We are currently running a test using a few different approaches to see what moves these readers to either enable ads on The Washington Post, or subscribe.”
Publishers have been surviving for years now solely relying on an ad business model, but it isn’t going to be the same anymore. And mobile makes the puzzle even more challenging. Switching to Facebook is one of the experiments by not just Washington Post but rest of the publishers too.
Facebook gives them humongous reach, preference on the News Feed, technology and revenues too. According to Facebook, Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory. Publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools. While Facebook has avoided the ad revenue break down, a previous report from Wall Street informed that publishers are keeping 100% of revenue if they sell them, and Facebook keeps its standard 30% if it sells the ads.
A Facebook spokesperson has also said it will start giving access to more iOS users in the coming weeks and that access via Android devices will be coming soon.
Not just Facebook but starting from Apple, Google, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn every social network wants to be publisher so that users spend maximum time on their networks. But for now Facebook is the preferred one for its eye-popping reach.
Washington Post has made a smart move by shaking hands with Facebook right now, why wait till the network decides to cut down on referral traffic.