June 16, 2015

Weeks after the initial furor surrounding the publication of the first news stories within Facebook, the Instant Articles program went dormant.

Last week, Business Insider’s Jillian D’Onfro reported that the news organizations that had signed up to pilot the Instant Articles program — including The New York Times, NBC News, National Geographic and The Atlantic — hadn’t yet published any stories within Facebook beyond their initial efforts.

But that is going to change soon. Multiple news organizations within the pilot program plan to increase the volume of the Instant Articles they publish as the next phase of the initiative begins sometime before the end of the month.

Kinsey Wilson, executive vice president for product and technology at The New York Times, told New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan last week that the paper was preparing to publish “about 30” Instant Articles per day.

Contacted by Poynter, a spokesperson from NBC News Digital said that news organization plans to publish the same number of stories to Facebook’s Instant Articles feed as The New York Times before the end of the month.

The Atlantic also plans to redouble its Instant Articles effort, publishing “as much content” within Facebook’s feed as possible during the early days of the program’s next phase, said Emily Lenzner, vice president of global communications for Atlantic Media. The company’s goal is to test the benefits of the program and glean feedback that will better inform its overall strategy.

National Geographic, meanwhile, still hasn’t settled on a “long-term publishing cadence,” said Beth Furtwangler, ‎communications manager at National Geographic.

“Once we get our feed up and running, we’ll have a better sense of how frequently we’ll publish, keeping in mind the overall number of articles we publish on our website on a daily basis,” Furtwangler told Poynter in an email.

But don’t be prepared to read each Instant Article that’s been published. On June 8, Nieman Lab’s Laura Hazard Owen reported that Facebook was weeks away from a testing period that would see the articles revealed to just a portion of the social network’s users for data gathering purposes:

Facebook normally launches new products very gradually, to about 1 percent of users, so that it can A/B test and collect data, and that’s the phase that Instant Articles is about to enter, according to someone familiar with Facebook’s plans. Starting in a few weeks, the nine Instant Articles publishers — The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, NBC News, National Geographic, The Atlantic, BBC News, Spiegel, and Bild — will start publishing daily, but only a portion of Facebook users will see the articles.

Several other publishers — including Condé Nast and Hearst — have already expressed interest in joining the Instant Articles program when Facebook opens it up to other publishers. So far, the returns have been good: Citing CrowdTangle data, BuzzFeed’s Alex Kantrowitz reported that the initial run of instant articles generated more than four times as much engagement as other articles from their respective publishers.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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