Facebook Hopes to Appease Publishers with More Ads in Instant Articles
Will more advertising flexibility be enough?
To appease publishers who have been disenchanted with its Instant Articles publishing platform, Facebook announced in a recent blog post that it would allow more flexibility with publisher-generated advertising. Publishers can place ads manually or, if using Facebook’s Automatic Ads Placement feature, they will now have three options to choose from. Ads can appear every 250, 350 or 500 words. Previously, the limit was 350 words.
“As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we’ve been in ongoing conversations with the news industry to better serve the needs of publishers and people engaged in news on Facebook. We’ve heard from publishers that having more flexibility and control over their business strategies on our platform is important. One way we’re evolving our products to grant more control is with an update to monetization in Instant Articles,” said Harshit Agarwal, product manager, in the post.
“Looking ahead, we’re working with our partners to explore additional ad placements and formats within Instant Articles that drive revenue for publishers and performance for advertisers while maintaining a great reading experience,” Agarwal added.
Since Facebook launched its Instant Articles publishing platform two years ago, its relationship with publishers has been tenuous at best. Facebook has tried adding new features, including monetization opportunities like branded content and advertising, but when the social media giant admitted it had been over-reporting Instant Articles traffic by an average of 7 to 8 percent since August 2015, publishers became even more leery of serving its news to readers via Instant Articles.
It’s a tricky balance. Of course, publishers want readers to go to their own sites to view their articles and perhaps browse other stories, read native content and see other ads, but publishers know that Facebook is the top social media site where readers get their news. According to Statista, in February 2016, Facebook was the leading social media network used weekly for news by U.S. consumers with 45 percent of the total. YouTube was a distant second at 19 percent.
Facebook needs to find a way to keep publishers happy, and it needs to rebuild the trust it lost when the faulty metrics were discovered and as claims of fake news and biased news have proliferated. Facebook’s first real recognition of the need for compromise was with its launch of the Facebook Journalism Project. This is an extension of that, but this is just the beginning if Facebook hopes to keep publishers on board and willing to work together. At the same time, smart publishers will continue to experiment with digital tools like Instant Articles to strike their own balance between the print and digital worlds.