Instant Articles, a mobile publishing format, has always been an option open to all publishers since 2016. It has been a free alternative way of delivering news articles on Facebook ever since. As proven, Instant Articles are a lot faster than the traditional link posts. However, this insane speed of news delivery comes at a cost (Pun not intended).
In this guide, the terms “you,” “your” and “publisher” all refers to the publisher. As for people who are not publishers, features that you use on apps and devices are never as simple as they look. Do read on to know more about Instant Articles. This is a rough idea of how everything in the backend works.
Quick Crash Course: All You Need to Know about Instant Articles
It is claimed by Facebook that Instant Articles (IA) distributes posts and articles ten times faster than the standard mobile web. Of course, this is a rough estimate of the true savings on page load times and is dependent on factors such as post length, the host servers, etc. Anyone can sign up for Instant Articles via their configuration page. Signup and approval process is relatively quick and easy, and there are tonnes of integration plugins available for websites using Content Management Systems (CMS).
Articles will be loaded directly from Facebook’s servers, not the original host. This delivery method reduces the chances of server overload to almost zero. Even in the event where the website is experiencing downtime, phones with the IA functionality equipped can continue to view your articles. This ensures 100% uptime of your articles on Facebook mobile.
Last but not least, monetisation (Facebook Audience Network) can be done effortlessly the moment Facebook approves you. Ads can be served following IAB guidelines and inserted after every 250 words (default setting). Publishers can expect to earn a good amount of ad revenue with mildly attractive CPM rates with IA.
When to Use – User Experience and Ad Revenue
There has been a constant debate over whether Instant Articles should be employed at all. It is no surprise to see large publishing/media companies opting out from this initiative and revert to the old traditional ways. So when does one use IA for their articles? Think and discuss with your team about it before referring to Guidesify’s complete list of factors below. Our simple answer: Do A/B split testing and determine it yourself.
1. Length of Articles AKA Page Size
Writing a long article is good for business. According to a study conducted by Buzzsumo, long posts have proven to generate a higher level of engagement in terms of shares. However, long articles mean more text, more photos and possibly other large file size content types. This may take a huge load on your servers each time the article loads on the website.
Besides, if publishers were to set the site to load only one ad per page, they might incur losses from server costs instead due to lack of ad impressions (Normal people, please disable AdBlock!).
Verdict: Strongly recommended to deliver long articles with IA. Ad revenue will be maximised with Facebook Audience Network (FAN) via automatic ad placements. Publishers will also be able to ensure a better user experience for their readers. On the other hand, publishers should think twice for short articles as CPM rates might be better. In these scenarios, FAN revenue might not measure up to what they can get on their sites.
2. Growth Tools, Call-to-Action Units.
Facebook IA allows the use of non-intrusive call-to-action units such as the newsletter and page like units. These CTA tools are integrated seamlessly into several sections of your article natively and are claimed by many to be useful in generating leads.
A more comprehensive report and statistics of the tools can also be viewed under the Insights tab of the Facebook Page. However, it is claimed by some of our partners that the insights are a little glitchy and might not display at all.
Verdict: This is an easy one. Use if the mobile version of the site has no growth tools or funnels ready to generate leads. Don’t do it if you think your personal growth tools would perform better than the ones offered by IA.
3. Server/Hosting Plan
With the introduction of Social Media, the methods of news delivery of viral content have been radically redefined. It is often to see sites go down in a matter of minutes when a celebrity tweets your content. This is because your servers are unable to handle that large amount of traffic. With IA, going viral will not be an issue.
Verdict: Assess whether your server is capable of receiving large volumes of page requests. Large publishing companies can cope without IA as their sites are running on dedicated servers where there is usually a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
4. Traffic Volume
The amount of web traffic to your site determines the number of available monetisation options at your disposal. Large publishing companies, again, can live without IA by selling Ad space directly or through an ad exchange. This, in turn, allows them to cut out the middle man and keep the profits for themselves.
A small website, however, will find great difficulty to get accepted by any CPM network. Such networks have traffic and domain age requirements so as to filter out the inferior publishers.
Verdict: If your website is new or small, you would definitely want to give IA a try. IA welcomes everyone to use its publishing format, and its FAN monetisation platform can generate a little trickle of revenue from your articles. However, as your website grows over time, consider losing IA partially/fully and engage CPM networks such as Unruly instead.
UnrulyX is a CPM system which delivers chiefly branded content to your readers seamlessly in the form of video ads. Guidesify has written a full review of it based on tonnes of experimentation and hands-on experience with UnrulyX. Find out more here.
Facebook has been actively improving its publishing format to compete with the likes of Google and Apple ever since its launch in 2015. In recent news, it has been reported to the press that it will provide support and make compatible with the publishing formats of their competitors, namely Google AMP and Apple News.
So the question now is to use or not to use? Our simple answer to this burning question again: Try it and see for yourself whether it’s worth.