Facebook Moves to Keep Users on Site
With over one billion monthly users, it’s safe to say Facebook is a successful Internet empire. Yet, it is always looking for ways to improve. The latest strategy: how to keep more users on the site. This may not seem like a problem for Facebook, but its new initiatives show just how far Facebook wants to go.
Facebook’s Search Engine Feature
You find an article you want to share, but copying the web address, opening the Facebook app, and pasting it in the status box can be a nag. To combat this, Facebook recently launched a search engine tool for iOS and some Android users. The feature allows users to easily include websites and articles when they update their statuses. The goal is for this feature to prevent users from leaving Facebook to find content on sites like Google.
How it works
- Open a new status update
- Click the “Add a Link” paper clip icon that can be found next to the options to add photos, tag friends, or insert a location
- Search for videos or articles using keywords (results are sorted by relevance, publish date, how many shares it has, and how shareable it is)
- Read/preview the content
- Select “Add Link to Post”
Not only does Facebook want users to search for content from its app, but it also wants articles to be loaded inside the app instead of link to outside websites. This will decrease load time for the user.
Facebook calls this content Instant Articles and explains the concept this way: “Rather than loading an article using a web browser, which takes over 8 seconds on average, Instant Articles load using the same fast tools we use to load photos and videos in the Facebook app allowing articles to load as much as 10 times faster than standard mobile web articles.”
Facebook’s launch partners included The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC News, BBC News and The Atlantic. Bob Cohn, President and Chief Operating Officer of The Atlantic told The Wall Street Journal that he thinks it will be a positive experience for readers and advertisers, and “if for some reason it isn’t, we still have control over how many or how few stories we put into the instant article template.”
What are the pros for publishers?
Facebook hopes to lure publishers by making the process of transferring HTML articles to Instant Articles very easy and by providing helpful preview tools. Plus, content doesn’t have to be exclusive to Facebook, so it can be available on their sites as well. Instant Articles will count as traffic to the original publisher, not just Facebook, making it possible for publishers to keep an accurate track of audience statistics. Facebook will also provide performance data on articles, so publishers will know what content is resonating with readers.
Perhaps the most alluring feature that Facebook offers publishers is its deal on ad revenue. Publishers can sell their own ad space on Facebook and keep 100 percent of the revenue. Conversely, Facebook can fill the ad space, keep a 30 percent cut and give 70 percent of the profit to the publisher. The Wall Street Journal points out that Facebook’s option may be the better way to go. With advanced targeting capabilities and access to what users ‘like’, Facebook’s customized ad experience may generate more revenue than publishers’ efforts.
What are the cons?
According to HubSpot Blogs, many publishers want complete control over the user’s experience, and they aren’t sure of the effects of handing over this baton to Facebook. It may be more difficult to keep readers. For example, readers are more likely to click another BuzzFeed article if they are on BuzzFeed’s website. If they are on Facebook, then readers could move on to content from National Geographic. Another downfall is that Instant Articles may result in fewer inbound links which could lead to less search engine traffic for publishers. This will result in more Facebook traffic, but less organic traffic.
Facebook still needs to make improvements based on feedback it receives from the initial group of publishers. But, both publishers and readers are impressed with the products.
According to Bryan Goldberg, the founder of Bustle.com, publishers are excited about the prospect of Facebook’s Instant Articles. With impressive photography, an interactive experience, and tempting revenue dynamics, he argues that the final result “couldn’t have been better.” Similarly, Joe ‘Lazer’ Lazauskas from Contently said National Geographic’s first instant article—“Quest for a Superbee”—is “filled with immersive cinemagraphs, videos, photos, and audio narration, creating possibly the most stunning mobile reading experience [he’s] ever experienced.”
These features and others such as interactive maps and the ability to comment on specific sections of the article help transform the way articles are read. As Shezad Morani, Creative Director of NBCNews.com, says in this video, “This is a living, breathing article that is beyond just words.”
See for yourself. The world of Instant Articles is waiting.