Tech: What We’ve Learned From Facebook Instant So Far

by May 14, 2015

Facebook Instant is here. Predictions on how the new feature will affect the media world have abounded since its first posts were published by media notables, including The New York Times, early Wednesday.

Under Facebook Instant, publications that sign deals with Facebook can publish their articles directly on the social media site.

What they get in return, theoretically, is more clicks and interactions from the world’s biggest social network, and another way to make advertising revenue beyond their own sites. 

If the rollout proves successful, more publishers will likely ink deals with Facebook out of necessity.

The Times was the first publication to be featured on Facebook Instant on Wednesday. The paper published an article about a Brazilian Olympic gymnast who was severely injured during a skiing accident.

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If you use Facebook’s mobile app, you’ll notice that the Times’ posts for its first Instant story look different. The first shows how many views the video has received, and the second has a different preview than most Facebook posts.

Although it’s not visible here, both also have autoplay on Facebook hosted videos,  and the mobile load times are lightning fast.

The advertising revenue breakdown is also very favorable for publishers. If a media organization sells an ad using Instant, it keeps all of the revenue. If Facebook sells the ad, the publication still gets 70 percent.

“Most publishers do a terrible job of making money off mobile traffic and social traffic, and they have a very uninspiring set of user data,” Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, told the Times. “They don’t know much about their users. Facebook promises to tackle all three of these problems.”

Here’s the initial list of organizations that are using Facebook Instant: the Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, The Atlantic, NBC News, Guardian, BBC News, plus German’s Bild and Spiegel Online.

As of 12 p.m. ET Thursday, National Geographic’s Mutant Bees story has performed the best on Instant with 19,800 likes and counting. The Times’ Brazilian gymnast article has 5,800.

For more commentary and story ideas about Instant, we highly suggest you read The Awl’s John Herrman on the subject.