Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Guardian Pulls Out of Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News

A quick followup on a story I covered last week on publishers’ growing resistance to Facebook’s Instant Articles format. I wrote:

Instant Articles was seen by many as the future of news distribution, much like Apple News and Google’s AMP Project. However, while more people have been using Apple News after its iOS 10 redesign — as the Verge noticed — and AMP has become popular thanks to Google’s promise to elevate the format in search rankings, Instant Articles doesn’t really have the same kind of draw.

It appears that not all publishers are seeing the same kind of boost from Apple News as the Verge has, as Jessica Davies explains for Digiday:

The publisher had gone all-in on Instant Articles, running every single Guardian article via the format for the last year. It was one of first U.K. media owners to adopt the Facebook format, alongside BBC News in the spring of 2015. The Guardian was also among the first publishers to join the Apple News app when it launched in the U.K. in October 2015. It ran all its articles in the app.

[…]

The publisher ceased running content through both Apple News and Instant Articles today. The move is a clear sign of displeasure in how these platform-publishing initiatives have treated the business needs of the Guardian. Many publishers have complained the money they make off visits to IA pages, for example, do not measure up to what they get on their own sites.

I’d wonder how pulling out of Instant Articles would affect the Guardian’s visibility on Facebook, but it seems like we might have an answer courtesy Kurt Gessler of the Chicago Tribune. Earlier this week, he posted some stats showing that while more people “liked” the Tribune’s Facebook page since last year, the reach of its posts has dropped:

In December of 2016, we had only 8 posts with 10,000 reach or less. In January of 2017, that had grown to 80. In February, 159. And in March, a ridiculous 242 posts were seen by fewer than 10,000 people. And while late 2016 saw record lows in that lowest quartile, that 242 is far above any prior month in our dataset. And we were seeing a steady decrease in that 25,001 to 50,000 quartile. That had gone from 248 in January 2016 to 141 in March 2017.

Facebook made major changes to Instant Articles beginning in December in an attempt to give the rather stagnant platform a nudge. This timeline seems to coincide with Gessler’s observations at the Tribune. I doubt Facebook will make any changes to increase the reach of non-promoted or non-IA posts.

As far as Apple News is concerned, I’d love to hear more from anyone who’s seeing unusual spikes or dips in subscribers or traffic. I still haven’t converted this site’s feed to the Apple News Format, so I have no reference points available.