Text-based publishers aren’t the only ones experimenting with Facebook Instant Articles.
Starting this past Friday, the Turner Broadcasting System sitcom “People of Earth,” a show about a support group for alien abductees, published three Facebook Instant Articles, the fast-loading mobile template that Facebook launched in 2015. While most publishers use Instant Articles to distribute their regular news articles, the ones published by TBS were exclusive to the format: Visit the “People of Earth” Facebook page on a desktop, and you won’t find the stories.
This is a very small toe TBS is dipping in the water — “People of Earth” is wrapping up its first season on the air, and it has just 44,000 Facebook fans. But these articles are notable for being the latest example of a publishers and brands acting more like one another: In this case, TBS using a publisher’s tool to promote its show.
“We’re always looking to connect with our viewers in new ways,” said Dan Cho, the director of social and digital marketing at TBS, adding that the show’s season finale made it an ideal time to try the new format.
To date, Instant Articles has been used largely by traditional publishers to distribute journalism. The TBS articles are pure fiction — diary entries, written in the voice and perspective of one of the show’s characters. They also look and feel different from traditional publishers’ Instant Articles, with a grey background, autoplaying videos and custom elements.
Facebook has made Instant Articles available to brands after launching it with publishers, but few brands are using it because most lack the infrastructure and expertise to publish on a regular basis. An exception is Intel, for example, which used Instant Articles to distribute its branded content magazine, iQ, in June. IQ launched four years ago and publishes regularly, with help of a dedicated staff.
To create the posts, TBS enlisted Vaynermedia, which used an app called Steller that can publish directly to Instant Articles.
It’s unclear if TBS will repeat its use of Facebook Instant in the future. Meantime, it’ll gauge people’s time spent reading the articles and compare it to fans’ video completion rates of promo videos on Facebook, said Matt Seigel, a senior vp at Vaynermedia.