The news-perusing service is great for Facebook’s nearly 900 million daily active mobile users. For them, it means easier access to more news sources, and faster load times for everything from text to video. (Facebook says loading speeds are 10 times faster than the sites where the content comes from, but I’ll let you be the judge of that.)
The social giant also insists that Instant Articles is awesome for advertisers and publishing partners, but those claims remain less clear.
Facebook gives publishers 100% of the revenue from ads that run inside the service, while taking a reported 30% of revenue from ads it sells against it.
That math, combined with Facebook’s massive reach, has proven irresistible for many publishers. As such, Instant Articles is expected to support about 1,000 articles a day, from National Geographic to Time to USA Today.
Sure, plenty of critics are cautioning publishers to stand their ground. Recently, Michael Wolff addressed the Faustian implications of working with Facebook in the MIT Technology Review, and Ezra Klein argued that once media brands surrender distribution control to Facebook, they’ll never get it back.
At this point, however, Wolff and Klein might as well be howling at the moon. There’s no stopping Instant Articles now that publishers have jumped on board, and millions of users have gotten a taste of the service’s superior mobile experience.
Of course, Google, Twitter, and Facebook’s other challengers are doing everything possible to impede Instant Article’s advance.
In partnership with Twitter, LinkedIn, and others, Google recently unveiled “Accelerated Mobile Pages.” The awkwardly named service promises publishers faster delivery of their content over mobile devices, and unlike Facebook’s offering -- and Apple News -- AMP is designed to work across multiple platforms, is open-sourced, and available to any publisher who wants to participate.
But none of that changes the fact that Facebook remains central to most consumers’ digital lives, while Google appears to be going the way of the search bar.
Unless publishers can commit to a collective about-face (and the chances of that are slim to none), Instant Articles is here to stay.