Facebook's attempt to absorb the publishing world with Instant Articles started small and slow, but it looks like that's about to change. Originally reported by Recode, The Washington Post made the surprising announcement today that it will publish "100% of its stories" to Facebook as Instant Articles. Facebook hasn't opened Instant Articles to all of its users yet, but that's still a big win for the platform since some publishers have approached it in trepidation; as of June, The New York Times, for example, was only ready to publish about 30 stories a day on Facebook.
Instant Articles have been controversial in the publishing world due to fears of ceding financial (and eventually editorial) control to a monolithic social network that already has immense leverage in directing traffic on the web. Of course, Facebook is just one of several Silicon Valley titans vying for control of the web's valuable advertising market. Facebook's gambit relies on delivering stories faster than anywhere else on the web, and the need of publishers to access the company's massive audience. The Post is the first to fully commit to that proposition. "We want to reach current and future readers on all platforms, and we aren't holding anything back," said Post publisher Fred Ryan. "Launching Instant Articles on Facebook enables to give this extremely large audience a faster, more seamless news reading experience."
"We aren't holding anything back."
You might think the fact the Post is owned by Amazon's Jeff Bezos would make the politics of publishing more complicated, but the newspaper under Bezos seems eager to experiment with lots of platforms. Amazon Prime members get a sweet deal with six months of free Washington Post access, but Facebook's deal seems even sweeter. The Post is just as interested in seeing what happens as an Apple News partner. "It is important for The Washington Post to be available everywhere a reader may turn to get news," Ryan said last week. "Millions of people use iPhones and iPads every day to get their news, and having the new Apple News app built into iOS 9 presents a huge opportunity for us to reach them."
So when will everyone get to read The Washington Post without ever having to visit the Post's own website? Facebook said today in a blog post that it would expand the number of people who can access Instant Articles "over the coming months." The company also announced that a dozen additional partners would join the Instant Articles program soon. Curiously, they're not all huge media companies; Recode reports that the viral conservative site IJ Review has partnered for Instant Articles alongside established brands like CBS, Hearst, and Time Inc.