Starting today, Facebook is rolling out a feature to allow news organizations to host articles directly on the site (versus posting links back a website), dubbed Instant Articles. Despite the possibility that utilizing this feature might damage the amount of traffic the social platform sends back to a publisher’s website, major outlets like The New York Times and Buzzfeed have signed on to participate. While Facebook desktop users won’t notice as much of a visual difference, those on iPhones will notice motion graphics and photos drawing their attention to Instant Articles (along with quicker load times then a publisher’s mobile site). Facebook has offered pretty hefty incentives to get these big publishers to sign on, including allowing the selling and embedding of ads directly into content (with 100 percent% of the proceeds going back to the publisher) and collection of data on the readers of the articles. So what does this mean for content marketers and the news outlets they work with?
Engaging visual content is now a must (no, really): At this moment, Facebook is giving news sites a large amount of control over the content that is used in Instant Articles, including the design elements. This should make the readers’ experience less disjointed from what they are seeing on the news publisher’s traditional mobile website, while setting aside any fears the outlets might have about what they can present to an audience.
For content marketers, we must have a set of elements to tell our stories that are diverse and engaging – from videos to photos to text. By having all of these assets at our fingertips, we make it that much easier for a news outlet to be able to take our story and run it as an Instant Article, with little to no extra work. Additionally, this feature may push journalists to continue to veer from traditional interview and feature techniques, incorporating more of their own visual storytelling elements or requesting visual elements such as video interviews or motion graphics.
An increase in the content sharing and distribution culture: The death of Facebook is reported often and early, but three in 10 American adults still get a portion of their news from Facebook. The site is still a major factor in the content plans for most brands, but a feature like Instant Articles will make the need for an integrated content plan even more crucial. This new format lends itself to lightening-fast sharing and commenting, and brands must be ready to extend the life of those engagements by having a strong and responsive Facebook prescence of their own. As Facebook will now be keeping readers on the platform, brands must think of ways to not only utilize organic tools, but also Facebook’s robust targeting and advertising tools to continue to reach readers post-story.
Twitter now has real-time news competition: The debut of Instant Articles seems to be the next stepping stone (after Trending Topics), in Facebook’s journey to challenge Twitter’s dominance as the place to go for receiving and commenting on real-time news. As Instant Articles will now keep people on Facebook to read news (as opposed to taking them offsite), it has the potential to rival Twitter as a place to go and discuss events as they are happening, opening the platform up to higher levels of public conversations. Brands and content marketers must be ready with a plan to respond to the volume of comments and questions in a time frame that more closely rivals that of Twitter or risk getting lost in the deluge of news.
Blurring lines of what is media coverage: Several brands who work with content marketers still have very defined ideas of what is media coverage and the outlets they would like to be featured in/on (and they usually don’t count social media posts as coverage). Many of us had similar conversations with clients with the rise of online sources of news, and continued to work with them on the definition of coverage based on impact (ie: number of people that saw the piece and web traffic) and less on source (print publications).
As the media landscape continues to both grow and fracture, an Instant Article feature might actually get more eyeballs on a brand then a print or online feature in The New York Times. We as marketers must continue to stay on top of these news outlets for stories while also educating our clients to the changes and potential benefits. It will also be our job moving forward to adapt to the style of journalists that will be utilizing Instant Articles, crafting outreach that is not only specialized to the reporter, but also to this new publishing platform.
Impact on reporting and analytics: We as marketers must constantly be on top of the analytical data each piece of content we serve produces. As Instant Articles grows, referral traffic from Facebook should grow exponentially, as the referral traffic from some media outlets will decrease. It is up to us to educate ourselves and our clients on what impact we can see from Instant Articles and to properly analyze it as we would any traditional media story or social posting. The insights that could be gained from the new potential audiences these stories could reach will need to be closely monitored, as will the direct and organic traffic to a client’s website.
Crisis communication plans are critical: While news about your company can already reach Facebook’s billions by being shared via a link on the platform, the potential that Instant Articles presents to have negative news about a brand posted directly to the site from a trusted news source should make us as marketers sit up and take notice. A contingency should be put into all crisis communication plans to deal with any negative articles published via Instant Articles, to deal with comments or questions before the post spreads.
There are many questions left unanswered: How will publications choose what is an Instant Article versus a website article? Will publications have an “Instant Article team” to create original content or will current reporters just use the feature to repost already written online articles? Answers should take shape over the coming weeks and months, but what we do know is that Instant Articles has the impact to not only change how media outlets gather and report the news, but also the relationships between journalists and content marketers. While it will be some time before the success of this new feature will be determined, content marketers should start having discussions now with media they have relationships with, as well as their clients, to determine how this will impact media relations moving forward.
Are there any other potential issues/benefits that you can see for content marketers working with outlets utilizing Instant Articles?
Additional content provided by Anna Julow Roolf
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