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Facebook prepares for a flood of new instant articles

Facebook prepares for a flood of new instant articles

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Facebook first introduced its new "instant articles" feature to its iOS app last month, but after a flurry of publicity, only a handful of the new articles have appeared, the majority of which were published on the day the feature launched. But that could be about to change. The Wall Street Journal reports that partner publishers are now ready to rapidly increase their output of instant articles, with The New York Times ready to put as many as 30 stories a day online in the new format. A Facebook spokesperson told the publication that the program would begin soon, but approval could come as soon as this week.

NBC News is intending to publish a similar number of instant articles a day, The Wall Street Journal says, while both BuzzFeed and The Atlantic are looking to make as much of their output available through the new feature as possible. The new articles, currently only available on Facebook's iOS app, are packaged with short video clips designed to load quickly on mobile devices. The new feature was introduced on May 13th with stories from National Geographic, The New York Times, The Atlantic, and BuzzFeed, but no publisher has yet put out a second story in the format, and the last story to appear on Facebook's hub page was published by The Guardian on June 9th.

Facebook says it always intended the rollout to be slow

Previously, a number of the partner publications had publicly expressed concerns about Facebook's role as a news distributor, with some of them questioning whether instant articles were the social network's attempt to make a grab for more content by keeping stories on its own site. But those concerns seem to have been soothed by positive results from the initial trial — the nine partner publishers are reportedly only waiting for the social network's go-ahead before they start flooding it with instant articles. BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said that at first, Facebook will only make the articles available to certain groups of users, to gauge their reactions, but that the publisher plans to build the option to share a story as an instant article into its content management system.

As for the delay between launching the feature and actually filling it with stories, Facebook said earlier this month that it had planned for a slow rollout all along, first gathering feedback on the original articles, then conducting a larger trial, before eventually allowing publishers to put out instant articles whenever they want. That second stage could be about to begin, but for now at least, the social network hasn't confirmed when our news feeds will start to see the new feature.