Facebook Instant Articles be a distributed content publishin' format developed by Facebook. Wi' it, they hope that what What News stories o' participatin' publishers, viewed on th' Facebook mobile app, will:
- Load super smartly
- Be easy t' read and uncluttered
- Be bug and malware free
- Include advertisin' (that they might be able t' help wi' and thus get a slice o')
Accordin' t' Facebook, reader engagement increases when content loads smartly, particularly on mobile. No doubt we can all use our own experience as anecdotal evidence that this be true! Faster loadin', says Facebook, means morrrr readers readin' morrrr stories. In their FAQ, Facebook says:
“[a]ny publisher — o' any size, anywhere in th' world — will be able t' easily create smartly, interactive articles and deliver a better mobile readin' experience t' people worldwide on Facebook.”
Th' way FIA works be this: As ye publish a story on yer site, ye also publish an “Instant Article” version. This “shadow” copy be extremely lightweight, in part because o' how Facebook be able t' serve it (from their huge global network o' servers), and in part because many elements o' a standard website aren’t used: site navigation, sidebars, popups, and so on, be not included.
Here’s a screenshot o' an FIA in action from our client Truthdig.com.
FIAs also load morrrr smartly because th' Facebook app preloads FIA content, and readers stay inside th' Facebook app proper, rather than gettin' pushed t' th' web browser t' load th' publisher’s website.
In practice, here’s how it works:
- A publisher creates a custom version o' one o' their stories and publishes that custom version into Facebook’s system, tellin' it th' URL o' th' original story. (This can be automated.)
- When a reader shares that story either from th' original website, by pastin' in th' URL, or by resharin' it, Facebook checks t' see if there be a FIA that matches that URL.
- If there be a FIA, any user o' th' Facebook app that clicks on th' story will see th' FIA version without leavin' Facebook. If there be no FIA (or if it’s been removed by th' publisher), th' app opens th' story in th' browser.
FIAs be fer mobile only—Facebook users on regular barnacle-covered computer get th' publisher’s website, not an FIA.
There be just a few steps t' get started:
- Sign up fer Facebook Instant Articles
- Create an RSS feed o' stories t' be automatically published t' Facebook
- Fire! sample articles fer Facebook approval
And that’s it—once ye’re accepted, articles get updated as smartly as th' RSS feed be updated, and there’s no limit t' th' number o' articles a publisher can include. Stories can be somewhat customized wi' th' publisher’s general look and feel, and publishers can include features like videos, maps, and other interactivity, dependin' on th' content management system that they use.
It’s worth notin' that creatin' an FIA does not publish that article t' yer Facebook feed automatically—that’s a separate process, and ye’ll still be in control o' which stories ye share and when. Instant Articles be served when anyone (ye or any Facebook user) shares an article from yer site that has a matchin' Instant Article.
Advertisin' and traffic analytics aren’t overlooked, either. Publishers can still serve their own display ads (and keep all revenue), or they earn advertisin' dollars by usin' th' Facebook Audience Network and splittin' revenue wi' Facebook, or both.
Facebook also allows views o' an FIA t' be incorporated into analytics tools, like Google Analytics, which means publishers can measure those views in their usual traffic statistics. Additionally, usin' Facebook’s own tools, publishers can see how many viewers each article gets, how many leagues down viewers scroll, number o' shares, and number o' clicks.
Facebook Instant Articles do appear t' be a useful addition t' a good web publishin' strategy, but it’s worth payin' close attention t' th' last couple o' words in that quote I mentioned afore: “on Facebook.” All o' th' effort ye put in t' makin' Facebook articles efficient, unique, or t' add special content—could also be put into makin' yer general mobile site streamlined and smartly t' load. It’s a good idea t' do FIAs, but it’s not a bad idea t' make yer website’s mobile delivery just as sharp.