How UK publishers are using Facebook Instant Articles
Another 13 U.K. publishers are signed up to start using Facebook’s Instant Articles, including The Daily Telegraph, The Mirror, The Daily Mail and The Economist, Sky News, sports site 90min.com and The Sun.
The BBC and the Guardian were the first U.K. partners, and there are plenty more waiting in the wings.
It’s still early days for The Guardian, having only launched in beta in the spring, but Tony Danker, chief strategy officer and Guardian News & Media, said: “We have experimented with interactives and recently started adding opinion pieces to Instant Articles. We’re looking forward to adding more content and gaining further insight into how these articles are discovered and shared.”
We were given a sneak peek at how some of them are approaching it.
Although The Economist has a hybrid subscriptions and advertising model, focus will be on using Instant Articles to showcase the publisher’s journalism, which it can then convert to paying subscribers in the long term, although ads will run within some of the articles.
It will publish a mix of items, like it does already with its Apple News articles (see examples of layout above). This will include highlights from each weekly print edition, together with some longer-form explainer pieces and chart-based articles. There will also be some news stories and a mix of audio and video. The plan is to publish four or five daily items.
“Our biggest challenge is reaching people who we think ought to be Economist readers but aren’t, either because they haven’t heard of us or because they think we only write about economics, when in fact we cover all aspects of global affairs,” said Tom Standage, The Economist’s deputy editor and head of digital strategy. “Social media is the most effective way we can enable more people to encounter and sample our journalism, and we see Instant Articles as an opportunity to extend our reach further.”
Trinity Mirror now owns Local World, which makes it the biggest regional newspaper publisher in the U.K., with almost 30 million consumers. Although it has undergone a digital overhaul in the last year to match its print success, it needs to constantly explore new distribution and monetization revenues, according to Trinity Mirror Solutions strategy director Piers North.
“Although there will always be prioritization, given limited resources, the footprint of Facebook means it is hard to ignore,” he added.
Trinity Mirror is already live with Instant Articles for three of its titles: The Mirror, Manchester Evening News and WalesOnline (below).
The plan is to publish a couple of articles a day per title, but this will accelerate “considerably” in the first quarter of 2016 if the publisher sees decent results.
Trinity Mirror Solution’s strategy director, Piers North, said: “It’s no secret all publishers are facing a two-pronged challenge when it comes to mobile: engagement and monetization. As a result, we are interested in and open to exploring anything that may assist on those two fronts. Facebook Instant Articles are part of that exploration.”
As far as content type, don’t expect to see too much difference in terms of what Trinity Mirror already publishes to platforms. But it will monitor views and engagement to adjust if content isn’t as well received, according to North.
Four-year-old football platform 90mins.com is also one of the partners. It claims 35 million unique visitors globally, 4 million of whom come from the U.K. Chief revenue officer Duncan McMonagle said destination sites are on the wane, and therefore publishing directly to Facebook is a priority, especially given mobile represents 85 percent of its audience.
90min.com will take a different approach to its usual short content and focus on longer-form, thought leadership-style pieces and original video. The football platform, which has offices in London, Tel Aviv and Manilla, will go live with content in the coming weeks. The plan is for half a dozen stories to publish a day initially.
The company is entirely ad funded, with clients including Nike in its roster. Although the trial is more of a “product experience” for 90min.com, they will be monitoring closely what ad revenue can be generated and will run ads within the articles.
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