Facebook sets its sights on journalism, sets high bar for media relations

Facebook has mastered photo and video sharing, and now its brand managers are moving to the written word. Here’s how Zuckerberg is leaving his competitors in the dust.

Facebook’s Instant Articles is a game-changer for social media managers.

Recently, Facebook opened up Instant Articles to all publishers.

Instant Articles is Facebook’s new way to natively load articles within Facebook’s app using an adapted RSS feed. Native articles, adorned by a lightning bolt in the top right corner, load in half a second—10 times faster than if a Facebook user were to click out to a website.

They really do load instantly. They furnish a great layout and user experience. If you pay attention to online news, you’ll know this is Facebook’s third push for native media: first photos, then videos and now, written content.

Mark Zuckerberg announced Instant Articles a year ago and Facebook has been improving it ever since. Facebook started with the biggest publishers: BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, The New York Times and Washington Post. BuzzFeed has seen its Instant Articles engage more people than any of their standard link posts, and Gawker’s founder tweeted that Instant Articles boosted daily unique-clicks to its website.

Now Instant Articles is available to anybody with a Facebook page and a blog. Small blogs and publications can get ahead of the game and find out how best to use the new product. Not only can publishers create and distribute mobile-friendly content, but they can monetize the ad space in each of their articles. Publishers sell their own display ads, keep 100 percent of the revenue and capitalize on Facebook’s Audience Network, their programmatic ad network (which considering the user-data Facebook has, is killer). Of course, there will be winners and losers. It’s up to you to figure out what works best for you. WEBCAST: Get social media “next practices” from the big four platforms.

But when I look at Instant Articles, and the other new updates they’ll announce today at their F8 conference, I ask myself: Has Facebook achieved what AOL could have done a generation ago? Has Facebook become a layer on top of the Internet?

If you think about our behavior on AOL in the early to mid 90’s, people never left AOL to go on the World Wide Web. After they logged in, not only did they have email and instant messaging, but they were also on a page that provided slightly curated news, weather, videos, images, games, and articles. Users had no reason to leave AOL to explore the Internet. Sound familiar?

If Facebook pulls this off, they will be the layer of media consumption above the Internet. Instead of going to Time, Inc., or Sports Illustrated, you’ll consume content in Facebook’s native environment. There will be no reason to leave Facebook’s app.

An all-native interface that overlays the World Wide Web is the ultimate goal for an internet company, a goal nobody thought possible after AOL lost its foothold. Facebook is very close to this goal. If Zuckerberg had acquired Snapchat 18 months ago, or if Facebook were to build an OTT (over-the-top) network to compete with Netflix, Facebook would control the Internet.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a CEO, entrepreneur, investor, best-selling author and speaker. A version of this article originally appeared his blog.

(Image Bhupinder Nayyar, via)

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