Meta is turning off support for Instant Articles, introduced in 2015 to speed up user access to publisher content within the Facebook app. Although some publishers still generate income through the native format, most seem happy with the idea of directing Facebook users to content hosted on their own websites.
- Facebook’s Instant Articles format, which has always been optional for publishers, was developed to improve the mobile-user experience with publisher content. Instant Article links open in a quicker-to-load, mobile-friendly format within the Facebook app.
- According to Meta, 37,000 Facebook pages currently use the seven-year old content format. It says that Instant Article pages load 4.9 times quicker than mobile web pages, and that Facebook users open 52% more articles if they are in that format.
- However, the company told Axios that it is killing off the format because it is underused. A Meta spokesman said:
Currently less than 3% of what people around the world see in Facebook’s Feed are posts with links to news articles… As we said earlier this year, as a business it doesn’t make sense to over invest in areas that don’t align with user preferences.
With support for Instant Articles being discontinued mid-April 2023, publishers will have about six months to make the switch to monetizing Facebook traffic directly on their own websites.
- One of the initial attractions for Instant Articles was that publishers could sell advertising within the app. Alternatively, Facebook would fill ad slots for an estimated 30% commission. However, several high-profile publishers, including The Guardian and The New York Times, abandoned the format early, citing disappointing revenues.
- Russell said there had been benefits to the Instant Articles format: ranking better in Facebook feeds due to faster open speed and better bounce rates. However, he said:
Some publishers will have benefited from the Ad Network integrations Instant Articles offered, but I’d imagine the loss will easily be muted by the gains made switching back to direct site traffic.
As Meta has signalled its waining support for publisher content on its Facebook platform, the industry has been working to improve website loading speeds to upgrade mobile-user experiences directly.
Many have also diversified their revenues away from Facebook as traffic from new social platforms like TikTok has grown. And many have always resented the loss of control and the resources required to maintain an Instant Articles presence.
Social media consultant Matt Navarra told Press Gazette the proprietary format was just another time-suck for publisher development teams. He said:
I suspect most publishers will not be shedding a tear over news of Instant Articles’ demise. Whilst it may create some additional work for them to remove Instant Article integrations, the upside of direct traffic to their sites and one less platform-specific format will be good news.