Facebook’s walled-garden strategy worries some about over-reliance, but it is an effective tool for getting people through the door
One of the silliest mistakes a restaurant can, and often does, make is the ‘bathroom is for paying customers policy’. Maybe it comes from an inclination for decorum, or a worry riff-raff will abuse the privilege.
But, for every few people that come in, use the restroom and leave, somebody likes what they see and decides to sit down for a meal.
I used to work at a number of restaurants and more commonly than one would think, desperate people would walk in at 2PM to relieve themselves, leave, only return four hours later because they are now hungry and the “vibe seemed cool”.
If the restaurant denied that person entrance in the beginning, we would not be getting their business later.
This is, essentially, what Facebook Instant Articles are about to provide for the media industry.
Previously only available to the largest, most influential media companies, Facebook announced overnight the it will open its instant article service to the entire publishing industry at its F8 conference on April 8.
Instant Articles was launched in May and over the last nine months it has been onboarding more and more companies — but they have been companies like The New York Times, National Geographic and Buzzfeed.
Smaller companies viewed the discrepancy as an unfair disadvantage, but as the Poynter Institute pointed out, opening the technology to the entire Internet was long awaited.
Should the global media be clamoring to get inside Facebook’s walled garden?
Publishers can rejoice as the technology will boost engagement by eliminating the dreaded drop-out between the *click* and the load time as the article opens up in a new window.
On the flip side, the reader is not taken directly to the website but remains entirely within the Facebook ecosystem.
Facebook is working with comScore to allow publishers to track instant article reads as regular traffic, but it is very easy to imagine instant articles will damage bounce rate and the first-click traffic may not translate to secondary page views. A user who comes in from Facebook is likely to return to their feed rather than click around the website.
But, like in our restaurant, concerns of bounce rate and page views do not matter — just get the reader in the door!
Many might come in, read an article, and leave. But a few may remember that website with “the cool vibe” and decide to sit down for a nice meal later on.
Which brings us to the food — advertising.
Facebook is giving companies a carrot to get them on board by allowing the publishers to keep 100 per cent of the revenue for direct-sold ads.
Once inside the platform, the social media giant hopes said publisher will be intrigued by the Facebook Audience Network. Facebook will sell ads through its its third-party network and take 30 per cent of advertising revenue as a fee, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In the official statement, Facebook said:
“Facebook’s goal is connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them. Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.”
Facebook might already be the most important traffic generator for many media organisations. Instant Articles is simply accepting this reality and improving upon it. Sure, it forced companies into the walled garden, but most were actively trying to scale the walls anyways.
So open those restroom doors, let the people in. You don’t have to buy anything, but for those who stay, what would you like for dessert?
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