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When a social media outlet has 1.4 billion daily users, it wields a tremendous amount of media power. Facebook has those kinds of numbers and now the social giant is essentially forcing the publishing industry to go along with the concept of Facebook's new Instant Articles feature. The company's track record of being a good business partner is sketchy at best and the media companies getting involved in this venture all understand the risks. The problem is that they have no choice.
What Are Facebook Instant Articles?
It used to be that if you wanted to read an article from the New York Times, you had to click on a link that took you to the New York Times' website. The concept of instant articles eliminates that need as now the articles will be hosted directly on Facebook. Instead of going to the media website, all 1.4 billion users can now just read the content on Facebook. This also applies to pictures, videos, and any other kind of media content that used to be hosted on media websites.
So What's The Issue?
According to the New York Times, most (if not all) of the media outlets that are voluntarily participating in this program are doing so with great hesitation. The reason for the hesitation is that Facebook is essentially going from being one of the largest media referral sites on the Internet to a site that hosts its own media content. The media websites will be missing out on millions of web hits each day and that means a significant loss in revenue for all of the media partners.
So Far, Instant Articles Are Limited In Scope
According to the Independent, the first phase of Facebook Instant Articles will only be implemented on the iPhone Facebook app. While that reaches a considerable portion of the Facebook audience, it does not expose the media companies to the full possibilities of 1.4 billion people suddenly abandoning their websites. Facebook does have plans to offer apps for other mobile platforms and to bring instant articles to the desktop platform as well in the near future.
What Is The Return For Media Companies?
The instant articles arrangement allows media companies to collect user information from anyone who interacts with the content, but that information could be limiting since it only applies to the Facebook users. Facebook is also allowing media companies to keep 100 percent of the revenue they generate with their own embedded advertising in these instant articles, or Facebook will do the advertising for a fee. It sounds like a great arrangement, but Facebook's history would indicate that this media-friendly arrangement may not last for long.
Zynga is a game developing organization that relied almost exclusively on Facebook for its revenues. When Facebook changed some of its search algorithms and rules about how businesses can interact with users, Zynga lost a huge portion of its revenue. When instant articles become popular, there is nothing to stop Facebook from changing the rules again and bringing the entire publishing community to its knees.