More than half of Facebook’s instant article partners have reportedly abandoned the program.
The Columbia Journalism Review reports that over half of the publishers using Facebook’s “Instant Articles” feature have left the program. According to an analysis by the CJR, of 72 publishers that were identified as Facebook partners in 2015 an analysis of 2,308 links shared to the publishers Facebook pages, as of January 17, 38 publishers didn’t post a single Instant Article. The Instant Article system allows readers to view publishers content without leaving the Facebook app, aiming to create a more cohesive Facebook experience.
The service was initially advertised as an example of Facebook’s commitment to helping publishers spread and monetize their content across Facebook’s platform. One of the main claims was that Instant Articles would solve the issue of poorly optimized mobile websites by allowing Facebook to scrape and display the contents of articles within their own app. The publishers expected to see growth regarding engagement, scale, and revenue by delivering fast-loading news to their readers. It was reported by one of Facebook’s first partners, the New York Times, that the company went “to unusual lengths to court the publishers participating in the project.”
Michael Reckhow, Facebook’s product manager for Instant Articles, published a post that claimed the program was a way for publishers to regain control of their content and news production. Reckhow stated, “We designed Instant Articles to give publishers control over their stories, brand experience, and monetization opportunities. Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory. Publishers will also have the ability to track data and traffic through comScore and other analytics tools.”
When Instant Articles launched many publishers went all in on the project, such as the Washington Post who stated that they would “send 100 percent of its stories to Facebook so that all Washington Post content can be formatted as Instant Articles, giving readers a lightning-fast user experience for reading, sharing and commenting within the Facebook iOS app.” Fred Ryan, the Post’s publisher, stated, “We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren’t holding anything back.”
The 38 publishers that did not post an instant article to their page on January 17, 2018, were: Billboard, Brit + Co, CBS News, CBS Sports, Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Curbed, E! News, Eater, Entertainment Weekly, Fox Sports, Good Housekeeping, The Guardian, Harper’s Bazaar, Hollywood Life, The Hollywood Reporter, Marie Claire, moviepilot.com, National Geographic, NBA.com, NBC News, The New York Times, The Onion, People, Polygon, Racked, Recode, Refinery29, Rolling Stone, SB Nation, Seventeen, UPROXX, Us Weekly, Variety, The Verge, Vox, The Washington Post, and The Weather Channel.
Following Facebook’s recent update which saw a greater focus on family and friends in users newsfeeds, there seems to be even less incentive for new publishers to use Facebook’s Instant Articles feature.