Facebook, this week, announced the launch of its Instant Articles feature for iPhone owners. The feature (symbolised by the lightning bolt in the right hand corner of an article) gives iPhone users a chance to read through thousands of articles in their news feed daily. The articles load faster and provide a richer experience than standard mobile web articles.
The company says it has been beta testing the feature with a small group of publishers and following the successful launch of its iPhone version, plans to launch an Android feature later this year. Among those running the feature are Instant Articles from NBC News which include autoplay videos. BuzzFeed rolled out Instant Articles let users engage more deeply with content by letting them comment on individual photos. National Geographic Articles feature geo-tagged images that open interactive maps.
In essence, the feature is an Instant Ad for publishers wishing to promote their content.
However, an article by Josh Constine in TechCrunch warns:
“Publishers are in danger of becoming dumb content in the smart pipes of platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The quest for smoother user experience portrays actually visiting a publisher’s site as friction. With content consumption being redefined, there’s plenty of eyeballs out there, but it’s getting tougher to win the hearts of readers.[…]But without ways to convert a platform’s users into loyal readers, the sustainability of publishing comes under threat. Publishers need to push portals to loosen their grip and strengthen these loyalty acquisition opportunities.”