Distributed Content

Why Instant Articles on Facebook Messenger Is a Big Deal

Andreas Pfeiffer | October 06, 2018

Major Points

Facebook announced support of Instant Articles within Messenger.

Pages will display directly within the messaging app, without requiring a browser.

Instant Articles in Messenger will support ads placed inside the content.

This announcement underlines how important messaging will be in content distribution.

The news made barely a Blip on the radar of tech-websites last week: Facebook quietly announced that it now supports Instant Articles within its Messenger app on Android and iOS. But while the average consumer may be excused for not being all aflutter about the announcement, it could be a very big deal for publishers indeed.

Why is this announcement important I hear you ask? Because it shows, if need be, that Facebook does indeed have a very aggressive content strategy in place, and that the leading social network wants to stay relevant with younger users who tend to prefer messaging over “old-school” social media use. In fact, in terms of overall use, messaging apps have overtaken social media platform already, and apps such as WhatsApp, Line, Viber or Snapchat are playing an increasingly important role for publishers to reach new audiences. While the leading messaging app is Facebook-owned WhatsApp—over a billion active users—Facebook Messenger is a close second, with over 900 million users.

Facebook’s announcement comes in the wake of another, much more widely discussed evolution: a recently implemented, sweeping change to Facebook’s algorithm to favor posts from friends and family over news when it selects items to present to the user, thus undermining the visibility —  and economic viability — of posting content on the social platform.

To some extent one could see the move to support Instant Articles on Messenger as a gesture of goodwill by the company, trying to placate publishers who were justifiably concerned about the recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm. Social sharing is obviously hugely important in the contemporary content landscape, and the fact that publishers henceforth will be able to push Instant Articles through the second most important messaging platform on the planet should significantly increase the reach of content publishers make available on the platform. Even for the users, there is a clear benefit to the newly implemented changes: if you want to show an item of interest to your friends, the less effort they have to make to view it, the better. Which in turn means that reach of content posted as Instant Articles could grow significantly—and monetization with it, since Messenger will also support ads placed in Instant Articles.

But behind these rather obvious facts, a deeper trend is emerging: As messaging apps such as Snapchat are increasingly going beyond simple messaging to become content environments, what we can see shaping up here is nothing less then the future of social media: platforms that rely first and foremost on messaging and sharing of all sorts of content as an ongoing activity, and less and less as an simple on-line scrapbook of personal history.

In the end it is likely that both aspects will converge more and more over time, in other words, that Facebook and other social platforms will rely on increasingly sophisticated mechanisms of messaging — while messaging will acquire more and more features that are normally associated with social media. The “Memory” feature recently announced by Snapchat is a good example.

In any case, one thing seems obvious: messaging is poised to become a major force in content distribution. We have barely scratched the surface…