Facebook Adds Audience Acquisition Widgets to Instant Articles to Woo Publishers
Facebook is trying to make Instant Articles, the mobile-optimized pages featured within the Facebook app, more appealing to publishers. That is likely in response to a list of grievances publishers have against the platform which have propelled some to stop publishing to Instant Articles all together. Those grievances include the lack of referral traffic to publishers’ sites and the difficulty to monetize content on the platform. In an effort to retain and attract publisher participation, Facebook has made two “call-to-action units” that aim to improve audience acquisition available to all publishers. The call-to-action units were previously available only to select publishers in a beta program. Facbook also announced that additional monetization features are forthcoming.
The Email Sign-up unit is a one-click, email sign-up feature. Publishers can embed a newsletter ad into an Instant Article and the reader’s email will automatically populate within the unit. Readers only need to click the “sign-up” button in order to begin receiving publishers’ newsletters.
Rodale’s head of digital partnerships Diego Sanchez said at the FUSE Forum on Distributed Content that the lifestyle publisher began testing the beta function earlier this year and has seen positive results. “We’re seeing a very high percentage of new-to-file from that submission experience,” Sanchez told Forum attendees. Likewise publishers like The Huffington Post and Slate have seen substantial sign-ups from Instant Articles, Facebook reported. The Huffington Post has generated 29% of its subscriptions for HuffPost Morning Email from Instant Articles. Slate reports even larger gains, with 41% of its list growth coming from the email sign-up feature.
The other unit Facebook rolled out is the Page Like call-to-action unit that enables publishers to embed a like button in their Instant Articles. When readers click the like button, they are automatically subscribed to the publisher’s Facebook page and will receive updates and posts from that publisher in their news feed. Facebook says this feature will help publishers build direct relationships with Facebook users and move them down the audience acquisition funnel.
Facebook also said it will continue to roll out new widgets to help publishers grow audiences and even sell subscriptions. Some features in the works include a free trial unit and mobile app install unit, both intended to encourage readers to test publisher content typically found behind a paywall and download a publisher’s app.
The call for greater partnership with publishers seems to be a new stance for Facebook. As both Sanchez and Little Thing’s EVP of Digital Justin Festa indicated at the FUSE Forum, publishers have had little insight into Facebook’s Instant Articles endgame, and have provided limited input into its development. “Facebook is a mystery sometimes,” said Sanchez. “Sometimes you get access to beta, which is great, but I feel less clear on the future of how they’re going to be developing that product than I do about [Google] AMP.” Whether the new “call-to-action units,” are the panacea for publishers’ doubts remains to be seen.
Read the complete Facebook announcement here.