Facebook announced this week that it will start hosting articles from publishers, possibly as soon as this month. The new feature called ‘Instant Articles’ reportedly already has major media partners such as The New York Times and BuzzFeed. In a bid to get publishers to jump in, Facebook is offering revenue sharing from ads. Why would Facebook want to host news articles? Less and less of us are making it to our computers to browse a news site, increasingly news is coming to us on our phones via social media, whether it’s the latest trend on Twitter, someone sharing to our Newsfeed or just browsing the front page of Reddit. For Facebook, hosting articles means a chance to even further increase the amount of time spent on the website, and subsequently opportunities to advertise and collect data.
For consumers, the end result is mixed, on the plus side this means that we’ll no longer have to wait up to eight seconds every time we click on a shared article as our phones struggle to load a heavy media site. On the other hand, it does seem as though a little more control is being wrested from us. The ever mysterious News Feed algorithm will no doubt ably determine the ‘relevance and importance’ of its partner publications.
For publishers, this is another seismic shift, or at least the result of one. News organisations have for a long time controlled their own publishing and distribution, but those days are disappearing. What people consume, when and how they access it, is increasingly more in the hands of social media. Front page news, is no competition for top of the News Feed.