Facebook instant articles – the beginning of the end for publishers?

By May 21, 2015Uncategorized

By Guest blogger Peter Mackhé, dagensanalys.se

A large part of the world’s population are spending more time on Facebook than on all other media channels, even if we put them together.

There are a lot of different media channels throughout the world. But even if you put them together they cannot compete with Facebook and the sheer power of engagement that they have with people, and the dedication to be the best place for people to spend their time on the internet.

This is why Facebook Instant Articles sounds like a brilliant idea for publishers who want to step into the spotlight.

By using this service, Facebook Instant Articles, it is now possible for publishers to create fast, interactive articles on Facebook.

Then if you add the fact that Facebook also include all of their exciting services that they have developed and released for public usage, within such short time, it makes it hard not to jump aboard this train of success. I mean, who would not want to be a part of it?

You might as well be saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them”.

But sadly, the actual truth is that this might be the beginning of the end for the publishers who decide to go “all in” and publish articles on Facebook Instant Articles.

Here are three strong arguments why media publishers should reconsider:

 

  1. You give up the relationship that you have with your readers to Facebook. Some may say that this has already happened, and I have to agree about that fact to certain extent.Many who are not in the media business, may ask: does it really matter? As long as people read your articles, you have achieved and won the battle, right? The answer to this is, NO! I will develop my statement in my two next coming arguments below.

 

  1. By loosing direct traffic, you will lose subscription revenue. Paid subscriptions accounts for approximately half of the publisher’s total revenue (in some cases more, in some cases less). The subscription revenue is supposed to finance the editing process and work. Without the revenue, there is no delivery of the editorial work, and without that, there won’t be any news.That is why it is important for all media publishers to maintain and develop the direct traffic to their sites. By keeping the traffic, they can create a better relationship with their readers and also create new exciting digital services for them.

 

  1. If you lose direct traffic, you also lose revenue from advertisement. Now, you might be thinking that by using Facebook Instant Articles, the split will be 70/30 with the higher percentage favouring the publishers if sold through FB, and 100 percent if sold by the publisher. You will not lose ad revenue by the service.In theory, it should be as simple as one plus one. You will receive revenue from advertisement, both from Facebook, and from traffic from your own site. The question is however, why would the readers go to the publisher’s website if they already have read the article though Facebook?

 

By loosing traffic to your website, you loose the opportunity to sell ads, which is the second most important revenue source for all media publishers. And if you loose the relationship with your readers by forfeiting them to Facebook, you will struggle to create new services as they are more on FB than your website.

Once again: no traffic, no subscriptions revenues or revenues from advertisement, no money for the editorial process, no news. This is simply the beginning of the end. I think you understand what I mean by now.

The media publishers that currently have the largest share of readers coming through direct traffic, are pretty safe. They should focus more on search optimization and develop their own services that create a stronger relationship and higher loyalty among their readers.

However, those who rely to a greater extent on traffic from Facebook should feel a bit more nervous, especially with all the changes that are continuingly occurring. It is for example getting to the point where it is now impossible to create organic traffic and instead having to upload their articles on Facebook for free and then buy coverage by “boosting” their content.

You can hear how crazy it all sounds. Can Facebook Instant Articles make life easier for media publishers? I don’t think so.

Since no one actually has an answer for the future, we will just have to see how it goes. Already, big media publishers have joined the collaboration with open arms, I do however still believe that “All Business is Local”, including little Stockholm of course. So, Swedish media gather and create smart cross media services. Use different outputs such as news, magazines, TV, radio, books and put them together in whatever way you find relevant and blend them to create smart, local services for the users.

Facebook may be ahead for the moment, but the battle is not over. Publishers in Sweden still produce a lot of splendid content and have a strong relationship with their readers, use that advantage and create new fantastic ways to access it.

Peter Mackhédagensanalys.se