Facebook Is Expanding Instant Articles & Washington Post Will Publish All Its Stories There

Facebook gives access to 21 new publishers and will start showing the mobile-optimized stories to more users.

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Facebook’s Instant Articles, launched with great fanfare last spring, has yet to make a big splash in the publishing world.

But it looks like that could change soon. Today, Facebook said it is giving access to 21 new publishers and will start displaying Instant Articles to more of its users. A reminder of what that means: Facebook says that Instant Articles display up to “10 times faster than standard mobile Web articles and feature tilt-to-pan photos, auto-play video, interactive maps, and embedded audio captions that let you explore stories in beautiful new ways.”

Currently, Instant Articles display only on the Facebook iPhone app (and only for 12.5 percent of users of the app). A Facebook spokesperson said today it will start giving access to more iOS users in the coming weeks and that access via Android devices will be coming soon.

On the publishing front, the Washington Post has decided to go all-in on the platform. Reported first by Recode, the Post said it plans to publish its full editorial output — about 1,200 stories a day — on Instant Articles.

“We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren’t holding anything back,” Washington Post publisher Fred Ryan said in a statement. “Launching Instant Articles on Facebook enables [us] to give this extremely large audience a faster, more seamless news reading experience.”

The Post’s surprising move seems to put aside worries from publishers — or at least one publisher — about ceding too much control to a third-party platform. Such concern was a big part of the conversation when Facebook introduced Instant Articles in May. Would Facebook, already a major driver of referral traffic, further press its advertising dominance at the expense of media companies struggling to make money from their digital operations?

That question is still out there, but since May, other major players have made moves that are similar to Facebook’s Instant Articles. Apple’s iOS 9 is loaded with the Apple News app, offering a news reading experience very similar to Instant Articles (and the revenue share is similar, too; publishers keep all the funds from ads they sell and give Apple or Facebook 30 percent if the platform company does the selling). Also this month, word got out that Twitter and Google are working on an open-source alternative to Instant Articles.

In a blog post today about Instant Articles, Facebook said there is nothing proprietary about the Instant Article system. It uses HTML5 coding and can be fed by an RSS feed from any publisher’s CMS.

Here’s a list of the new partners Facebook has signed on: The Huffington Post, Mashable, MTV, Daily Mail/Elite Daily, Business Insider, Hearst, MLB, Complex, Bleacher Report, MoviePilot, Vox Media, Mic, Gannett, Time Inc., Refinery 29, Bustle, the Dodo, CBS Interactive, IJ Review, NBA and the Blaze.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Martin Beck
Martin Beck was Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter from March 2014 through December 2015.

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