Facebook launches 'Instant Articles' with NBC, NY Times, BuzzFeed

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Facebook Launches Instant Articles

By TODD SPANGLER, Variety.com

Facebook announced deals with nine publishers -- including NBC News, the New York Times and BuzzFeed -- to deliver select articles "instantly" on mobile apps. A next logical step for the social giant would be to extend the program to Internet-video providers.

Under the Instant Articles program, Facebook caches content on its servers so that it loads up to 10 times faster than regular article posts, which take an average of eight seconds to access. The other launch partners in the program are National Geographic, The Atlantic, the U.K.'s Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild.

"As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook," product manager Michael Reckhow wrote in a blog post announcing the program. "We designed Instant Articles to give publishers control over their stories, brand experience and monetization opportunities." Publishers can sell ads in their articles and keep 100% of the revenue, or they can opt to use Facebook's Audience Network to monetize unsold inventory, in which case the social company takes a 30% cut of the revenue.

It seems likely that Facebook will offer a similar program to digital-video distributors, though it hasn't announced anything to date. The reasons are clear: Ad rates are higher for video content, and Facebook has placed an emphasis on driving more video onto the service - in the first quarter of 2015, it served an average of 4 billion daily video views.

Indeed, Instant Articles already lets publishers to deliver autoplay videos on mobile devices. Other features include interactive maps, audio captions and the ability for users to "like" and comment on individual parts of an article.

For publishers, the program promises a faster way to reach Facebook's global user base of 1.25 billion monthly active users on mobile. The company, with its massive reach, has become a critical way for media companies to drive traffic to their own properties.

"We're participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement," New York Times Co. president and CEO Mark Thompson said in a statement.

Instant Articles is initially launching on Facebook's iPhone app with stories from the Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic.

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