Instant impact: Facebook messengers' instant articles

The latest in Facebook’s recent spate of Messenger updates, Instant Articles are set to streamline the experience of sharing and consuming the latest news.

After the platform’s introduction of automated chatbots this April, major news publishers were keen to develop AI systems that would deliver relevant articles via Messenger. The CNN bot, for example, builds up a custom list of ‘Stories for You’ based on the behaviour and keywords of the reader during ‘discussions’ with the bot.

Whereas previously, selecting an article in a Messenger discussion would launch the article in a web browser, Instant Articles means that the article will be visible directly through the Messenger platform.

While Instant Articles, hosted on Facebook’s server, have been available on Facebook walls for some time, including them in the Messenger app has the benefit of eliminating loading time. Facebook claims that articles will load up to ten times faster than they would via web browser, making it effortless to quickly scan the latest headlines via a bot, or glance over an article sent by a friend.

For marketers, however, this development gets a little more difficult. While publishers who make content available via Instant Articles are given a cut of advertising money made by Facebook, it’s hard to say whether that cut will compensate for the advertising lost on publisher’s own sites.

Furthermore, while readers viewing articles on a publisher’s website are likely to follow links to more site content, Instant Articles makes users more likely to quickly read an article before returning to their conversation. This could make it difficult for publishers to encourage and track engagement with their site content.

This makes the development of Messenger bots more important than ever for publishers who are keen to engage Facebook audiences. With 900 million active users, discussions via the Messenger app (whether with humans or chatbots) are about to have an enormous impact on how breaking news is shared.