Four ways Facebook Instant Articles will dramatically impact marketing

 

facebook instant articles

Something important is about to happen, and the impact on content marketers will be profound.

Facebook announced it would open up Instant Articles -– formatted and optimized to load almost immediately -– to any publisher without a special approval process.

To make it effortless for even small bloggers, Facebook announced in a post this week that it is teaming up with WordPress for a plugin that allows us to publish from our blog directly to Facebook.

WordPress powers more than 25 percent of all websites, according to Facebook, so making it easier for WordPress users to sign up for Instant Articles will certainly open the floodgates to an incredible new wave of content.

Let’s look at the implications for digital marketers.

1. A shift in distribution

Obviously, we are on the brink of a dramatic shift in how content is seen and discovered. Facebook wants to be a primary source of news and information and if their wish comes true, and it probably will, this company will be in charge of distributing our content to a large part of our audience. Their algorithm will decide who sees what we create. There is no transparency to this algorithm. We can guess whether our video content will do well this month or next, but we will never know for sure.

One of the beautiful things about the web is that it is scattered and fragmented — everyone can find their own path. And of course this will still be true to a large extent. But increasingly there is a far greater concentration of power in this area of content distribution than at any other time in our digital history. Facebook wants to build a content monopoly and there is probably no existing regulation or market force that can stop them.

2. A shift in monetization

Closely linked to distribution and content discovery is monetization. Facebook will promote the content that can make them the most money. This is probably bad news for most of us.

While we would like to think that the “best content rises to the top,” anybody producing content for a living knows this is a mythical point of view and it will certainly not be true once Facebook becomes the gatekeeper. Like any good business, Facebook isn’t obligated to promote the best content, it is rewarded for promoting the most popular content … and that would be quizzes, lists, and celebrity gossip (nine out of the top 10 articles shared on the web last year were quizzes).

An important power shift is in process. The “editors” now in charge are not accountable to journalistic standards, ethical standards, expectations for diversity of thought, quality, fairness, or the public good.

In fact, the people now in charge are probably not people at all but little bits of code that have a job to respond to dwell time and content profitability and reward their fellow bits and bytes accordingly.

If you’re in the celebrity gossip business this is good news. Perhaps Facebook will become the ultimate Trump network.

The good news is that Facebook might be able to accomplish what many of us have failed to do, create a direct monetization stream from content through ad revenue sharing. This is the promise they are holding out to the mainstream news publishers like The New York Times. Will it trickle down to the little guys? Time will tell.

3. A shift in the inbound model

The third implication is something I predicted last year — a dramatic shift in the inbound marketing model.

Inbound marketing refers to marketing activities that bring high-potential visitors in, rather than relying on sales people having to make cold calls to garner “outbound” leads. Inbound marketing content theoretically earns the attention of potential customers, makes the company easy to be found, and draws viewers to your website like a magnet.

Links to our content on Facebook and other platforms have played a critical part in helping people become aware of our content and drawing them to our website or blog.

But with Instant Articles, Facebook becomes a dead-end. Our content goes in, but those inbound links don’t come back out to our websites where our lovely products, services, and calls-to-action reside.

Why? Because Facebook doesn’t want you to leave Facebook … and links make you leave Facebook.

Google and Twitter’s response to this is its new partnership around the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project which recently launched. It’s also rumored that LinkedIn is working on a version of this, as well. Everyone wants to keep readers on their site instead of yours.

4. The Content Shock wave

I recently attended a conference at Columbia University where a spokesperson from Facebook tried to defend Instant Articles by saying Facebook’s global reach would help publishers find a new audience, even new subscribers. But early experiments showed that this is not the case. Why would somebody subscribe to the The New York Times (or your blog) when they can simply see it conveniently for free on Facebook?

The term “Content Shock” has become a popular way to describe the changing economics of content marketing. When content floods a niche, it becomes more difficult, and more expensive, to compete. It occurs to me that while this is undeniably a mega-trend, it is also a repeating cycle.

Here is what will occur once Instant Articles becomes available to everyone.

The early adopters will see a huge boost in page views. Wow! This is amazing! Every content marketing blog will report that this is the new best practice. Get on board NOW!

And predictably, every company, agency, and mommy blogger will flood Facebook with their content to become part of the new gold rush.

As the supply of content goes up, and the “demand” of attention remains constant, the economics of Instant Articles will shift. Facebook will be forced to aggressively edit the Instant Articles stream because there will be too much content. Page views will drop, and the only way we’ll be able to get seen will be to pay Facebook to boost our Instant Articles. Sound familiar? Content Shock in action all over again.

And so the cycle continues.

Next steps: Adapt and adopt

Should you publish on Facebook? Of course. It’s time to build on “rented land” because we have no choice. It’s time to submit to Facebook because we would be foolish not to.

I was a guest on a podcast the other day and the interviewer asked me if there was any hope for small businesses in this intense content environment.

Of course there is. This competitive challenge is no different than what businesses have faced for centuries. Competition (in many forms) comes in and floods a market. To survive, you adapt, you adopt, you find a new way to maneuver. That’s what marketing is about, not sitting in front of a computer and posting the same links month after month.

Content marketing has been easy (maybe too easy) for a few years and the gravy days are over. Content marketing will still work, but it will work in new ways and it’s time to get to adjust. Great content is no longer the finish line, it’s the starting line.

Content Shock seems scary only because competing in a free market is scary. Succeeding in this new Facebook environment will require new strategies. Surviving in a competitive business world requires constant re-invention. So let’s get to it.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and lestudio1

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

All posts

  • Kitty Kilian

    I think the repeating cycles will also repeat faster and faster, learning is fast nowadays.

  • Kitty Kilian

    I think the repeating cycles will also repeat faster and faster, learning is fast nowadays.

  • Hey Mark,

    For years I’ve been using visualization to help my clients understand social platforms: Twitter is a road, LinkedIn is a networking event, Facebook is a comfy sofa that is hard to leave.
    It’s always been a challenge to compel Facebook users to leave the sofa. And with mobile usage, it’s even tougher.
    However, I feel there is opportunity for small businesses to harness the power of Instant Articles. The key is to build a fan base that contains only the people who are most likely to want, need and enjoy their content and those who are most likely to perceive value and purchase what they have to offer. Set aside some advertising dollars and promote the articles to their carefully-built fan base.
    I think it will work.

  • Hey Mark,

    For years I’ve been using visualization to help my clients understand social platforms: Twitter is a road, LinkedIn is a networking event, Facebook is a comfy sofa that is hard to leave.
    It’s always been a challenge to compel Facebook users to leave the sofa. And with mobile usage, it’s even tougher.
    However, I feel there is opportunity for small businesses to harness the power of Instant Articles. The key is to build a fan base that contains only the people who are most likely to want, need and enjoy their content and those who are most likely to perceive value and purchase what they have to offer. Set aside some advertising dollars and promote the articles to their carefully-built fan base.
    I think it will work.

  • Hi Mark,

    All good points, but I sense you almost would like to see some kind of “regulation” in this area. Even a mention of it here:

    “and there is probably no existing regulation or market force that can stop them.”

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth but do you favor a regulatory body having a say in the distribution of content?

  • That’s spot on, Betsy!

  • Hi Mark,

    All good points, but I sense you almost would like to see some kind of “regulation” in this area. Even a mention of it here:

    “and there is probably no existing regulation or market force that can stop them.”

    I don’t want to put words in your mouth but do you favor a regulatory body having a say in the distribution of content?

  • That’s spot on, Betsy!

  • Pingback: Four ways Facebook Instant Articles will dramat...()

  • Thanks, Stan!

  • Thanks, Stan!

  • Agree.

  • Agree.

  • What’s the difference between what you said here and the opportunity presented by blogs five years ago or a YouTube channel? Perhaps comfort and familiarity with the space? Perhaps. But the challenge of rising above the noise is the issue, wherever you create the content, and especially on Facebook.

  • What’s the difference between what you said here and the opportunity presented by blogs five years ago or a YouTube channel? Perhaps comfort and familiarity with the space? Perhaps. But the challenge of rising above the noise is the issue, wherever you create the content, and especially on Facebook.

  • The point is not the distribution. It’s the monopoly. Monopolies are illegal. Nobody like the words “regulation” and “Internet” together. But the fact that Facebook could have such dominant control over the news and other forms of content is chilling. This is a major concern of those who study the journalism industry, for example.

  • The point is not the distribution. It’s the monopoly. Monopolies are illegal. Nobody like the words “regulation” and “Internet” together. But the fact that Facebook could have such dominant control over the news and other forms of content is chilling. This is a major concern of those who study the journalism industry, for example.

  • Well, FB Articles and anything Twitter, Google and LinkedIn does or will do along similar lines — these efforts would not really constitute a monopoly. Monopolies, as I understand them, involve exclusive control of supply or a service.

    Out here, we can use one, the other or none of them.

    One can also—and I’m not saying this with any sarcasm or sucking up—one could also read The Content Code and get their asses into gear in a multitude of ways, none of which would have to rely on FB Articles, etc. Your book is more than a road out for a business of any size.

    I’m not speaking on behalf of any of the four giants, just very eager NOT to see those two words come together (regulation and internet). Once they do, that slope is beyond slippery. And likely no turning back.

  • Well, FB Articles and anything Twitter, Google and LinkedIn does or will do along similar lines — these efforts would not really constitute a monopoly. Monopolies, as I understand them, involve exclusive control of supply or a service.

    Out here, we can use one, the other or none of them.

    One can also—and I’m not saying this with any sarcasm or sucking up—one could also read The Content Code and get their asses into gear in a multitude of ways, none of which would have to rely on FB Articles, etc. Your book is more than a road out for a business of any size.

    I’m not speaking on behalf of any of the four giants, just very eager NOT to see those two words come together (regulation and internet). Once they do, that slope is beyond slippery. And likely no turning back.

  • Kitty Kilian

    ‘An important power shift is in process. The “editors” now in charge are not accountable to journalistic standards, ethical standards, expectations for diversity of thought, quality, fairness, or the public good.’

    That is what has kept me worried and annoyed for a long time now. Forgot to tell you. That is why we don’t want Facebook to be our sole distributor or content.

  • Kitty Kilian

    ‘An important power shift is in process. The “editors” now in charge are not accountable to journalistic standards, ethical standards, expectations for diversity of thought, quality, fairness, or the public good.’

    That is what has kept me worried and annoyed for a long time now. Forgot to tell you. That is why we don’t want Facebook to be our sole distributor or content.

  • I don’t want to build my house on rented land. No, thank you sir… I mean Facebook!

  • I don’t want to build my house on rented land. No, thank you sir… I mean Facebook!

  • Connie Hampton

    How is this different from the free JetPack app called Publicize that I have on my WP Genesis site?

  • Connie Hampton

    How is this different from the free JetPack app called Publicize that I have on my WP Genesis site?

  • I’m afraid we won’t have much of a choice

  • I’m afraid we won’t have much of a choice

  • I’m concerned about the “unintended consequences” that could occur here.

  • I’m concerned about the “unintended consequences” that could occur here.

  • Best Lawn Mowing

    I’m all for advancement but anything you want to do as a business on Facebook always hurts the hip pocket. Once you open a business page hardly anyone see your posts unless you pay. I guess this won’t be any different.

  • Best Lawn Mowing

    I’m all for advancement but anything you want to do as a business on Facebook always hurts the hip pocket. Once you open a business page hardly anyone see your posts unless you pay. I guess this won’t be any different.

  • Instant Articles are not yet open until April 2016 so you can’t publish the Instant Articles by any means at this point

  • Instant Articles are not yet open until April 2016 so you can’t publish the Instant Articles by any means at this point

  • Pingback: De citit în weekend()

  • Guess I am not clear on what Instant Articles on Facebook is. I have been publishing content on Facebook since the beginning. Tell me something about how it’s different than it is now.

  • Guess I am not clear on what Instant Articles on Facebook is. I have been publishing content on Facebook since the beginning. Tell me something about how it’s different than it is now.

  • Pingback: A balanced view of using Snapchat for marketing()

  • Instant articles is publishing the content on your own site, and Facebook consuming that and presenting it to users within the scope of Facebook. This is mainly for mobile use cases.

  • Instant articles is publishing the content on your own site, and Facebook consuming that and presenting it to users within the scope of Facebook. This is mainly for mobile use cases.

  • The idea here is to build your house on your own land, on your own site, and Instant Articles will be a feed of that. This is essentially going to be a fancy form of RSS.

  • The idea here is to build your house on your own land, on your own site, and Instant Articles will be a feed of that. This is essentially going to be a fancy form of RSS.

  • We’ve adapted to ‘LinkedIn published posts’. We’ll adapt to ‘Instant articles’. And to ‘content shock’. Future ‘influencers’ on these platforms will talk about the death of blogging :). Old wine…
    The key is our ability to adapt.

  • We’ve adapted to ‘LinkedIn published posts’. We’ll adapt to ‘Instant articles’. And to ‘content shock’. Future ‘influencers’ on these platforms will talk about the death of blogging :). Old wine…
    The key is our ability to adapt.

  • Pingback: Weekly Picks: 5 Articles I Loved This Week()

  • Pingback: Instant Articles - Quickstart in 19 Punkten [Infografik] - Social Media Konzepte()

  • Comfort and familiarity with the space shouldn’t be underestimated! But of course I agree about the main issue being how to rise above the noise. The easier the content is to create, the harder it is to stand out (We’re all becoming Buzzfeed trying to stand out!), and Facebook makes it insanely easy to create as it increases barriers to standing out, and itll gradually ‘freeze out’ everyone who doesn’t accept and adapt their content to this model or whichever others they roll out in the future.

  • Comfort and familiarity with the space shouldn’t be underestimated! But of course I agree about the main issue being how to rise above the noise. The easier the content is to create, the harder it is to stand out (We’re all becoming Buzzfeed trying to stand out!), and Facebook makes it insanely easy to create as it increases barriers to standing out, and itll gradually ‘freeze out’ everyone who doesn’t accept and adapt their content to this model or whichever others they roll out in the future.

  • Rob Ainbinder

    Instant Articles concerns me. If we submit, what happens to our ability to display related content, request email sign-up or, show an ad for our latest book? It occurs to me that with Instant Articles we reduce and possibly eliminate the ability to convert readers via our primary platform.

  • Rob Ainbinder

    Instant Articles concerns me. If we submit, what happens to our ability to display related content, request email sign-up or, show an ad for our latest book? It occurs to me that with Instant Articles we reduce and possibly eliminate the ability to convert readers via our primary platform.

  • Pingback: B.I.G'S BLOG()

  • Only your posts are going to be fighting with the neighborhood cat’s funny video for attention! Interesting times… PS: True story

  • Only your posts are going to be fighting with the neighborhood cat’s funny video for attention! Interesting times… PS: True story

  • Very true.

  • Very true.

  • There is no question the Internet will eventually be regulated. It is a utility like water or electricity now, it is essential for commerce (SEC), it is vital to homeland security and national defense. And it is being controlled by a smaller and smaller number of companies. I’m not saying that will be good or bad but it will have to happen.

  • There is no question the Internet will eventually be regulated. It is a utility like water or electricity now, it is essential for commerce (SEC), it is vital to homeland security and national defense. And it is being controlled by a smaller and smaller number of companies. I’m not saying that will be good or bad but it will have to happen.

  • I think that is an outdated notion. Your “own land” may be an archive of your content — and there is some value to that — but the party will be on rented land.

  • Exactly.

  • I think that is an outdated notion. Your “own land” may be an archive of your content — and there is some value to that — but the party will be on rented land.

  • Exactly.

  • All that goes away. That’s the point I was trying to get across. On the brink of a new day

  • All that goes away. That’s the point I was trying to get across. On the brink of a new day

  • Excellent points, Mark. Only time will tell how marketers and publishers are going to shape up with this new trend of instant articles and Accelerated Mobile Pages. We simply have to “adapt and adopt”.

    @Rob: I think I have seen some articles showing related content below the main article, can’t remember though. Regarding email signups, I think a text link/image link might work in this case [similar to LinkedIn articles]. What do you think @Mark?

    Also, as Mark said, FB has been successful in creating a direct monetization stream from content through ad revenue sharing but will it benefit small publishers too?

  • Excellent points, Mark. Only time will tell how marketers and publishers are going to shape up with this new trend of instant articles and Accelerated Mobile Pages. We simply have to “adapt and adopt”.

  • thanks for the clarification.

  • thanks for the clarification.

  • Thanks for sharing some very interesting thoughts on the topic Mark, and also the comments below. I thought you were leading up to “Don’t do this!” but you finished with an “Adapt and Adopt!” – and I think that is the best advice possible. Change happens, whether we like it or not, and we do have to change ourselves accordingly.

  • Thanks for sharing some very interesting thoughts on the topic Mark, and also the comments below. I thought you were leading up to “Don’t do this!” but you finished with an “Adapt and Adopt!” – and I think that is the best advice possible. Change happens, whether we like it or not, and we do have to change ourselves accordingly.

  • Submit to our Facebook overlords. : )

  • Submit to our Facebook overlords. : )

  • Susan Wassel

    Hi Mark- Great article! I’m wondering about implications for brands from a search perspective. Right now, Google doesn’t seem to be using Facebook social signals in their algorithm when it comes to search rankings. Facebook’s search graph also threatens to take on Google search. As a consumer, I personally love the idea of Facebook (or some entity) as my one stop shop. As a brand marketer, I have to “pay to play” anyway whatever the platform. New creative elements like Facebook Canvas also give brands the opportunity to create mini branded environments not unlike websites that are less expensive to create and update than branded websites. Email sign up can also be accomplished within the Facebook environment. Are branded websites soon to become obsolete? Will we search Facebook for everything from cat videos to how to rotate your tires? Mobile (where we’re all headed) can’t capture cookies anyway. Would love some perspective from any Facebook fortune tellers out there.

  • Susan Wassel

    Hi Mark- Great article! I’m wondering about implications for brands from a search perspective. Right now, Google doesn’t seem to be using Facebook social signals in their algorithm when it comes to search rankings. Facebook’s search graph also threatens to take on Google search. As a consumer, I personally love the idea of Facebook (or some entity) as my one stop shop. As a brand marketer, I have to “pay to play” anyway whatever the platform. New creative elements like Facebook Canvas also give brands the opportunity to create mini branded environments not unlike websites that are less expensive to create and update than branded websites. Email sign up can also be accomplished within the Facebook environment. Are branded websites soon to become obsolete? Will we search Facebook for everything from cat videos to how to rotate your tires? Mobile (where we’re all headed) can’t capture cookies anyway. Would love some perspective from any Facebook fortune tellers out there.

  • Pingback: SparkAvenue -()

  • Pingback: Facebook Instant Articles: Time To Change Your Content Marketing Strategy? - Creative Studios()

  • Pingback: Are you ready for the mega-shift from social media to private media? | experts' corner()

  • Pingback: Are you ready for the mega-shift from social media to private media? - Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}()

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast that I co-host with Tom Webster.

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Close