The Guardian is out. So is The New York Times.
Facebook has failed to keep the two of the most reputable newspapers on board with Instant Articles, the publishing platform where articles are uploaded directly to the social network.
But Facebook is not giving up. On Thursday, the social network added more ad placements in Instant Articles. Any publisher can now insert ads in the related articles section, located at the bottom of the page.
The format, which was running as a beta test since March, is another way Facebook is hoping to drive more revenue to publishers, while putting a bit more money into Facebook’s own pocket. The test partners have seen an “incremental increase” in average revenue per 1,000 page views, according to a blog post from Facebook.
When Facebook introduced Instant Articles in May 2015, it preached a better reading experience for users. The new feature boasted a super-fast experience for users. Publishing partners could take advantage of Facebook’s own rich-media tools.
Sounds good except for a little thing called ad revenue, which is how most media companies pay the bills. At launch, media outlets could keep 100 percent of the revenue if they sold the ads themselves and 70 percent if Facebook sold them. The articles didn’t have much in the way of ads, but Facebook promised things would get better.
They didn’t. Publishers weren’t finding success and began to walk away. While The New York Times was a launch partner, the media outlet dropped Instant Articles last month.
“The simple answer is [Instant Articles] simply wasnt performing for us on an advertising and subscription conversion front,” Kinsey Wilson, editor for strategy and innovation at The New York Times, told Mashable in April. “Were not testing an ideological position. We continue to work closely with Facebook and have a very strong partnership.”
Of course, not everyone is out of Instant Articles. Facebook now has more than 10,000 publishers using the system, growing more than 25 percent over the last six months. It pays out more than $1 million per day to publishers via Facebook Audience Network, the social network’s own ad network.
Facebook isn’t unaware that publishers are still deterred by the lack of revenue and subscription conversion. The company created the Facebook Journalism Project in January and has been on a listening tour for the last six months, hearing publishers’ complaints.
At F8, Facebook’s annual developers conference, Facebook hosted an off-the-record day of events specifically for publishers. Several attendees told Mashable the event was a failure, but Facebook is working on what it determines to be solutions.
Instant Articles has been a topic of debate at many of the largest digital publishing conferences. For example, Campbell Brown, Facebook’s first-ever head of news partnerships, spoke at ROAR, social media management company SocialFlow’s user conference held in May.
“For those who arent achieving that goal we want to work on that,” Brown said during her keynote. “If we can get the monetization right, we think it will be better for everybody.”
Facebook is also promoting other tools within Instant Articles. Publishers can build “call-to-action” units, where they can encourage newsletter sign-ups or Facebook Page likes.
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