The 20 publishers participating in Facebook’s “Instant Articles” platform aren’t entirely unhappy with how things are working, but their feedback isn’t entirely the classic Facebook thumbs up, either.
“Facebook is experimenting with new advertising approaches for its Instant Articles platform after publishers encountered challenges generating ad revenue because of restrictions imposed by the social network,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
Instant Articles lets media companies publish content directly to iPhone Facebook feeds instead of using traditional links to lure users to their own websites.
While kinks are still being worked out, “publishers including The Washington Post, New York Times, and LittleThings.com are finding it difficult to extract as much revenue per article from Instant Articles as they do from pages on their own websites.”
Why? It’s due to tightly constructed Facebook rules that dictate the type, sizes, and volume of ads; in addition, “rich media” ads — the animated or interactive ads so common now — are not allowed.
But while the Facebook rules reduce the number and sizes of ads the publishers can count on for monetization, the social site’s numbers are so large it would be hard to walk away.
“You have to analyze many factors to determine the monetization potential. You have fewer impressions per pageview than we presently do, so you have to balance that, and you don’t have all the animation we can sell on our own site,” said Jed Hartman, chief revenue officer at the Washington Post.
It appears that compromise may be in the offing.
According to the WSJ, Michael Reckhow, Facebook’s Instant Articles product manager, “said the company received feedback from publishers and is now testing out changes to its Instant Articles ads policies, such as allowing more ads per article and ad formats that were barred previously.”
Facebook’s command of mobile advertising is impressive. Mobile accounted for 78 percent of the $4.3 billion in ad revenue it generated in Q3 2015. And Facebook execs want to keep Instant Articles an easy and unobtrusive news-reading experience for users on mobile.
In the final analysis, it will be all about the immense traffic Facebook directs.
“The hope is that Instant Articles gives publishers way more traffic to make up for the lower monetization potential,” said Joe Speiser, co-founder of LittleThings.com, which publishes “feel-good” stories and videos largely optimized for social sharing.