After seven years of diligently providing quick news and rambling listicles, Meta is finally ending its Instant Articles service. The resignation is the most obvious indication yet of Meta’s shift away from hard reporting and toward video.
In an email to Gizmodo on Friday, a Meta representative confirmed the decision and stated that the company has informed publishers that it would discontinue supporting Instant Articles by mid-April 2023. This allows publishers around six months to come up with alternate plans. According to reports, readers of Instant Articles who would have otherwise stayed on Facebook will now visit the publisher’s web pages.
For those who are unaware, Facebook Instant Articles are native HTML publications designed for Facebook that are supposed to load particularly rapidly on mobile. Facebook stated that Instant Articles will “load and show 4 times quicker than the conventional mobile web” when it first introduced the format. Back in 2015, when reading news on a mobile device via Facebook’s app was one of the hottest commodities, it sounded very alluring to news providers.
Publishers that wanted to reach Facebook’s massive audience but didn’t want to deal with slow-loading mobile pages may benefit from Instant Articles, according to Facebook. That suggestion, though, had a cost. Partners had to put their material on Facebook’s servers and upload directly to the website in return for faster load times. Facebook gained right away from a surge in content and users.According to the proposal, news and engagement publishers would benefit from the size and more eyes from being on Facebook’s mobile app. When Instant Articles first came out, publishers had a choice between automatically inserting advertisements or using Facebook’s prized “Audience Network” ad network.
For Facebook, that partnership is no longer economically advantageous.
“Posts containing links to news items are currently fewer than 3% of what people throughout the globe view in Facebook’s Feed,” the spokesman told Gizmodo. Additionally, as we have stated this year, businesses shouldn’t overinvest in areas that don’t reflect consumer preferences.
Users’ growing preference for short form video content over text-based articles has been demonstrated by TikTok’s spectacular rise to the top of the social media ecosystem, as Meta has discovered the hard way. In the meantime, Facebook has become less and less interested in promoting news on its platform, especially after facing years of backlash from activists and academics for encouraging a surge of false information and obscene political content in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Early in the year, Axios reported that Facebook no longer intended to compensate publishers for content appearing on its News Tab.
However, even before Meta made the decision to turn off the life support, Instant Articles was languishing on life support like many other elderly Facebook products. The format was initially outlawed by the majority of the big news organisations, but in 2017, after Facebook officially declared its first significant transition to video, it began to lose favour. The resulting reorientation caused publishers to compete for crumbs of digital advertising revenue, which some have referred to as a “media slaughter.” According to the Columbia Journalism Review, by the beginning of 2018, more than half of the newspapers identified as Facebook Instant Articles’ first partners had given up on the format.
Other, less credible websites immediately stepped in to fill some of the holes left by authoritative news sources switching from Instant Article to other forms of dissemination. 29 Facebook pages and related websites were reportedly using Instant Articles to spread patently fraudulent news items, according to a 2018 BuzzFeed News investigation.