Facebook has made updates to its software developer kit so that publishers can design articles that now work across Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP and Apple News. The update came out of Facebook’s Journalism Project, where Facebook heard from publishers they found it challenging formatting stories to suit multiple platforms.
However, most major publisher’s concerns with Instant Articles have been about monetization and the control of data, rather than any overheads related to tech implementation.
“Most of the bigger publishers can absorb this pretty easily,” said Martin Ashplant, digital director at news publisher The Metro, adding that platforms like WordPress already have plugins for all three. Equally, publishers have been posting to these platforms for 18 months or more and so have already built out their capabilities.
Publishers have complained the money they make off visits to IA pages, for example, do not measure up to what they get on their own sites. Facebook, for its part, has introduced more ad formats into and has been testing units that allow publishers to drive subscriptions and email newsletter sign-ups through IA.
“It doesn’t negate the negatives,” said Simon Haynes, digital director at Northern & Shell, publisher of the Daily Star and Daily Express tabloid newspapers, which ceased publishing to Instant Articles six months ago due to lack of transparency around whether IA diluted natural Facebook referrals.
“It’s a reaction to what happened to Instant Articles,” added Haynes. “I don’t think Facebook is trying to woo publishers back, Facebook’s revenue won’t be impacted massively by the Guardian coming off Instant Articles. It’s good PR; there’s no tangible way in the way they are treating content. The question is why didn’t they do it in the first place?”
For smaller publishers who cover more specific topics, and who have more resource constraints, Facebook’s SDK update will be a welcome improvement. Smaller publishers may be more willing to accept the current value exchange with IA.
For Spanish news publisher El País, this is a huge leap forward. “It means that the big technological players in distributed content are collaborating with each other,” said managing editor David Alandete. “If they make these formats fully compatible across sites and apps, publishers will have an incentive to stay, since more distribution means more advertising share.”
One publishing executive, who wished to remain anonymous, said this was a clever political move on Facebook’s part. “It insulates Facebook against charges that it wants to build a monopolistic walled garden because its walled garden can now be linked to Apple’s and Google’s; but this new approach makes the most sense if you publish all your content into Facebook Instant Articles, not just a subset of it.”
According to Andrew Girdwood, head of media technology at agency Cello Signal, it doesn’t appear as if Facebook’s SDK update means that Facebook will act as a linchpin for publishing to AMP and Apple News, so publishers that post across all three platforms will be able to continue doing so if they then want to retreat from Facebook Instant Articles but not on the other platforms. Although, this depends on the terms that Facebook sets.
On the other hand, this is still a way for Facebook to own off-platform distribution. “[Any developer] would be daft to use anything else, so they will have the lion’s share of the market,” said Girdwood. If Google issues an AMP update next week, it’s up to Facebook how quickly it integrates it, if at all. “Facebook can control that throttle of quality and speed that they add functionality, but they have to get the balance right,” he said. “But they desperately don’t want Google to control it. There’s a lot of competition in mobile-friendly articles. This is round one of the battle.”
According to Facebook, there are around 9,000 publishers currently using Instant Articles.
“It is not Facebook’s job to fix publisher’s broken business models,” said the anonymous publishing exec. “The fact that anyone even contemplated it indicates the desperation with which ad-supported publishers will jump on new revenue opportunities.”
Bloomberg Media will debut five new podcasts with iHeartMedia this year
Bloomberg Media and iHeartMedia are releasing five podcast shows this year, part of a three-year co-production and distribution podcast deal to create over a dozen new original shows.
Member ExclusiveMedia Briefing: What publishers’ latest earnings reports say about the state of the media business
In this week's Media Briefing, media editor Kayleigh Barber analyzes the latest quarterly earnings reports from BuzzFeed, IAC's Dotdash Meredith, News Corp's Dow Jones, Future plc, Gannett and The New York Times.
The pluses and pitfalls of team-led return to office approaches
Publishers like Dotdash Meredith, Dow Jones, theSkimm and NBC News are adopting team-specific RTO policies, designed to make the return to in-person work more accommodating. But they can also create complications.
SponsoredHow companies are improving career mobility to mitigate the Great Resignation￼
Matt Bartels, principal and media practice lead, Alexander Group The pandemic left an indelible mark on businesses around the world. This abrupt market force challenged leaders to reevaluate their business model, think creatively, work collaboratively and aggressively invest in their future or risk becoming obsolete. Unexpectedly, the global workforce reevaluated their lives while re-envisioning their […]
Q&A: How Vox Media’s branded content studio is working to integrate its podcast ad capabilities post-merger
Three months after Vox Media and Group Nine’s branded studios merged, the newly combined Vox Creative is using the different podcast ad formats it offers to integrate audio advertising into advertisers' campaigns, according to svp Yosef Johnson and executive producer of audio Annu Subramanian.
The Rundown: As e-commerce grows, the eCommFronts address data and communication issues
Night Market, which specializes in guiding clients through e-commerce and retail media offerings and inventory, hosted its third annual eCommFronts beginning Tuesday through today.