Facebook Instant Articles: 4 ways publishers will use it for branded content

April 06, 2016

On April 12, Facebook will open up Instant Articles to all publishers. Instant Articles represent a faster mobile web experience for users wanting to consume news content they discover through Facebook. Articles are loaded inside Facebook versus a user clicking out to a publisher’s site.

Publishers are still experimenting with how they will use Instant Articles for branded content, and I believe Facebook is continuing to learn more about publisher business models. I think there will be 4 clear ways in which publishers will use Instant Articles to support their branded content business.

1. Native promotions placed inside of Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles: 4 Ways Publishers Will Use It For Branded Content

Running ads inside of Instant Articles is the primary means that publishers are monetizing their audience today. Facebook provides clear guidelines on how much is allowed (one ad every 350 words). Where most publishers are running display ads in this space, BuzzFeed has started running native ads and I expect many others to follow.

Here is an example of BuzzFeed running a native promotion for 12 Life Lessons We Can All Learn From “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” to promote a branded content program within an Instant Article placement. The user clicks out of Facebook and onto BuzzFeed’s mobile site.

We are currently extending support for our platform to enable publishers working with us to promote branded content inside Instant Articles in this manner.

2. Related articles placed inside Instant Articles

Facebook Instant Articles: 4 Ways Publishers Will Use It For Branded Content

At the bottom of each Instant Article, there is a Related Articles section showing 3 stories from the same publisher. By default, Facebook populates these stories (it’s not clear exactly how, my guess is through some sort of recommendation algorithm which they have plenty of!), although publishers can choose to manually curate which stories get promoted if they would like to.

Here is an example from The Telegraph (full disclosure: they are a Polar customer) who are promoting a sponsored post Why is House of Cards groundbreaking in the Related Articles section at the bottom of their Instant pages.

This is largely a manual process for publishers to curate and we are exploring ways we can help our customers here as well.

3. Branded videos placed as video ads

News recently broke that Facebook will also allow publishers to place one additional ad unit at the bottom of every Instant Article, which it estimated could increase ad impressions by more than 20%.

“In our conversations with publishers, these changes popped up as the biggest steps we could take to make the biggest impact,” said Josh Roberts, Instant Articles product manager at Facebook.

Publishers will soon be able to run autoplay and user-initiated video ads within Instant Articles and I fully expect branded video to be distributed here.

4. Branded content itself rendered as an Instant Article

Facebook Instant Articles: 4 Ways Publishers Will Use It For Branded Content

Facebook has not yet decided whether publishers can syndicate branded content into Instant alongside editorial content, however my guess is that they will allow it in the future. See, there are many ways publishers are promoting branded content inside Facebook today, including:

  • paid Facebook ads
  • organic posts on the publisher page
  • organic posts on marketer page
  • native promotions inside Instant Articles (explained above)
  • Related Articles inside Instant Articles (explained above)

If (or when) Facebook decides to allow publishers to render branded content articles as Instant Articles, anytime a branded content post is promoted anywhere in Facebook, it will link to an Instant Article version, providing the user with a better experience and also keeping them inside of Facebook.

When asked by AdAge, Facebook said they are “talking to publishers to learn about their business models and explore how we can make them work in Instant Articles.”, and BuzzFeed said “Branded content will render natively, we’re going to be easing into the market and making sure everything will be running smoothly.”.

Maybe they will announce this at F8, on April 12th?

Closing thought

There are clear growth opportunities within Instant Articles, as that will become a dominant consumption channel on mobile for publishers. Monetizing that audience needs to be a better experience than display advertising and branded content is a step in the right direction for sure.

“Publishers will continue to leverage all distribution channels at their disposal to support the high-quality branded content programs that are driving the growth of their business.”

Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar and a Founding Member of Publisher 2020.  He leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. Polar provides a technology platform that over 2,000 publishers around the world use to strengthen and grow their digital content marketing businesses. He is also passionate about leadership and finding focus and calm in a modern era. Connect with him on LinkedInMedium or Twitter.


JULY 2017

Polar’s Snapshot of Global Branded Content Performance presents the complete picture for major markets and publishers this past quarter.