Facebook Starts 'Instant Articles' Program: Will It Change The Way We Read News?

By Kamal Nayan - 14 May '15 01:51AM

Facebook has kicked off its Instant Articles feature, which will bring full news articles from at least nine publishers right on the News Feeds of users. The articles are being hosted by Facebook and will load 10 times faster.

At first sight, the program can be upheld as an innovative way to attract Facebook's 1.4 billion active users but media mammoths that signed up for the program are playing it safe.

"The New York Times has been cautious about the Facebook program, viewing it as an experiment that could help it learn more about subscribers and potential subscribers who are reading its articles on Facebook," wrote Vindu Goel and Ravi Somaiya for The New York Times.

Other than Times, news outlets like Buzzfeed, National Geographic, the Atlantic and NBC News will participate in the instant articles project. Facebook has also included some European media companies like Guardian, BBC News, Bild, and Spiegel Online.

In order to view the uploaded content, users will still have to "Like" the Instant Articles page in order to see the pieces uploaded.

"As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles," wrote Facebook product manager Michael Reckhow on their site.

Facebook has also made new tools aimed at publishers. These include interactive maps, videos that play automatically as users scroll through a story and high-res photos that can be zoomed and can be viewed from any angle.

Publishers will also gain the ability to track the traffic and data of their articles through a variety of analytics tools that will be available to them.

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