Following a less than auspicious start, Facebook is pushing ahead with its ambitious plan to disrupt digital media, opening up its Instant Articles program to all publishers. In a blog post published Wednesday, product manager Josh Roberts media outlets “of any size, anywhere in the world” will now be eligible to create articles and draw eyeballs using the super fast-loading service. Designed with the intention of creating an “immersive reading experience for people on Facebook,” Instant Articles began with just a few big-name publishers, but is now ready to open the floodgates. Of course, whether the people will start rushing in is yet to be determined.
Instant Articles, which promises to be a faster alternative to traditional methods of reading news articles on your mobile device, works by pre-loading stories when you come upon them in your News Feed. Of course, being the advertising monster that it is, Facebook will monetize the platform by allowing publishers to sell ads within the stories themselves — if the media outlets choose to handle the ads themselves, they’ll get to keep all the money. If they ask for Facebook’s help, the social media platform will collect 30 percent of the revenue.
“Media organizations and journalists are an integral part of Facebook, and we’re committed to delivering products that will create the best experience for publishers and their readers,” Roberts writes. “With Instant Articles, publishers have full control over the look of their stories, as well as data and ads.”
Of course, while Facebook claims to be democratizing the process and allowing all sorts of publishers to utilize the platform, it’s unclear what “any size” really means. After all, as The Verge points out, creating Instant Article feeds does require a certain amount of technical know-how that smaller, independent blogs and even newspapers may not have. And as Peter Kafka of Re/code notes, “… When I asked [Facebook] reps there if [Instant Articles] included one-person operations — that is, someone typing their own stuff on a Tumblr page or Medium page or whatever — they said yes, with a tiny bit of hesitation” (emphasis ours).
So sure, as of April 12 of this year, Instant Articles will be growing up and growing bigger. But don’t get too excited just yet about what the implications of that expansion may be.