Updates to Facebook’s News Feed algorithm threaten to favour Instant Articles.
When the Instant Articles product was announced by Facebook in May, there were concerns that this would be another nail in the coffin for organic reach.
In fact, many were also worried that the new format would be unfairly favoured by Facebook’s algorithms, leading to more reach for any content published ‘inside’ the platform, than for content that linked out to external publishers’ owned media.
Facebook made assurances, however, that Instant Articles will not receive preferential treatment.
However, considering the fact that approximately 70% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertisers, a successful Instant Article product would only encourage more publishers to buy into the new model.
This was alluded to when Facebook then announced that the News Feed would start analysing time spent on content as a part of its engagement rate.
Their logic, so they state, is that:
“you may scroll quickly through your News Feed and like a photo of your friend’s graduation, followed by sharing a funny post from your sister. You keep scrolling and happen upon a post your cousin shared detailing everything she did and saw on her recent trip. Her post even includes a photo. You spend time reading her post and the interesting discussion about the best places to eat that had broken out in the comments on this post, but you don’t feel inclined to like or comment on it yourself. Based on the fact that you didn’t scroll straight past this post and it was on the screen for more time than other posts that were in your News Feed, we infer that it was something you found interesting and we may start to surface more posts like that higher up in your News Feed in the future.”
You can’t disagree with that – sometimes good content doesn’t warrant an interaction, so a time on page measure helps to reward that type of content.
However, the ability to post lengthier, more detailed articles via Instant Articles – while the optimum Facebook post size is shorter than a tweet at 120 characters – means that the rich media and in-app load speed that Instant Articles offer will inevitably lead to them spending more time on that content.
Provided that time on page is used as a part of a larger algorithm to deduce just how engaging content is, there shouldn’t be a decline in the overall reach of your best content.
Just keep an eye out, though. Facebook likes to change its algorithms more often than we change the coffee filter.
Over To You
What do you think? Are Instant Articles getting an unfair advantage over external content?