Website Design & Development

What are Instant Articles?

12th April 2016
What are Instant Articles?
Instant Articles “Lever[age] the same technology used to display photos and videos quickly in the Facebook app, articles load instantly, as much as 10 times faster than the standard mobile web.” They are fast and responsive, interactive and immersive, simple and scaleable, allowing for user control and customisation, and available on Android and iPhone. You'll know them by the white lightning bolt. Instant Articles is a new feature from Facebook which allows people browsing articles within its app to instantly download content – maintaining the features of the original content publisher’s site, but making it look slightly more minimalistic, so as to be more appropriate for a mobile device. It will incorporate rich media options like embedding zoomable photos, videos and maps with audio captions, plus contextual ‘Ambient Videos’. As soon as an Instant Article is picked up to show in your News Feed, a rich cover image and the article are pre-loaded into Facebook’s native app. In layman’s terms, this means that as soon as you click on an article, it will instantly appear on your mobile device: avoiding the usual download times and the impatience that users often experience when content they’re attempting to read takes ages to load. That’s all very well and good of course, but what does that actually mean? And what does it mean for you and your clients?What are Instant Articles?

What does this mean for you?

It means that mobile users get an optimised and stripped down version of your website content. The loading speed is instantaneous, which is incredibly important when we consider the impact increased load times have on conversions: nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and will abandon one that hasn’t loaded within three seconds. The downsides? Well, Facebook have said that they won’t keep your data, but given their track record it might just be the usual pact with the Devil we all enter when using social media. The good news is that not only will they provide analytics data but the Articles are also compatible with whatever current attribution and measurement tools you’re already using. And if you have ads running on your pages they will be incorporated into the pages - publishers keep 100% of the revenue if they sell them, and if Facebook sells them it keeps its usual 30%. Facebook are “shifting the reading experience away from individual websites and over to Facebook, which some users are edgy about. Facebook do seem to be going out of their way to reduce such concerns: after a meeting with Buzzfeed, they took into account the considerations someone might have on using Instant Articles (compatibility with measurement tools, control of design and monetisation of content) and addressed them in their software. It aims to offer “one of the richest mobile news reading experience[s] today” [Techcrunch]. There's no doubt that you'll be giving some control to Facebook. That's unavoidable. If you’re worried about diluting your brand by allowing Facebook to have access to your content then perhaps Instant Articles aren’t for you. But there’s a strong possibility that they're one of the next big things in the way we access content via mobile devices, and concerns about surrendering control to Facebook may be reduced by your need to be part of the zeitgeist.

How do I get Instant Articles?

Instant Articles are managed within the framework of a Facebook Page. To publish them you must have an existing Facebook page, or be the admin/editor of one. They're created with HTML5, so specifying page elements is done in a way that's similar to standard web publishing. Publishers can reuse code created for web-based articles to generate versions that work as Instant Articles, but the short answer is whoever is building and/or managing your website will be the ones that deal with the creation of your Articles. We'll be producing a "How To" guide on how to create Instant Articles, but if you're looking for someone to do them for you get in touch with us at info@cambrianweb.com

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