FBIA: 5 Benefits and 3 Negatives

FBIA (Facebook Instant Articles) is a new system from Facebook that offers publishers a number of benefits over traditional mobile browsing. But there are also some negative aspects to it. In this blog post, we are going to be going over the 5 key benefits of FBIA. We’ll also be presenting the 3 primary negative aspects of FBIA.

These benefits and negative aspects are all from the publisher’s perspective. AdPlugg integrates with FBIA and we’ve talked with a large number of publishers about their experiences and concerns with the platform. This has given us a great deal of insight into the pros and cons that publishers are weighing when making a decision as to how to proceed with the FBIA platform.

Benefits

Benefit 1: Increased Traffic

Articles that are served by FBIA have a little lightning bolt shown over their featured image (see the image above for an example of what it looks like). As users get more familiar with the benefits of FBIA, they may start to notice (and watch for) the lightning bolt. Articles with the lightning bolt will likely get more clicks and reads over time as the user will know that the article will provide them with a fast and consistent experience (as described below).

Benefit 2: Faster User Experience

FBIA is up to 10 times faster than mobile web browsing. FBIA is faster because the content is shown in the Facebook app without having to load and render your whole website. FBIA also caches and pre-loads your article’s content. You can learn more about FBIA speed in our recent post Why Is Facebook Instant Articles Faster?. By providing your users with a faster user experience, they will be more likely to read your articles. This goes along with Benefit 1 above – articles that have the lightning bolt will be known by the user to be faster.

Benefit 3: Better User Experience

For many users, articles served by FBIA provide a better user experience. This is in part due to their speed (as mentioned above) but also is due to the article being presented in a familiar interface that is simple and easy to navigate. Facebook Instant Articles allows publishers to “brand” the presentation with their logo, colors, etc but the navigation, etc remain consistent across all publishers. This is in sharp contrast to articles that go to a third-party site that might have unusual navigation, issues with the user’s device, etc.

In regards to advertising, Facebook limits the ad density of the article and restricts ads from popping up and doing things that some users might find annoying. While this may have negative effects for the publisher (see below), it results in a more consistent experience for the user.

Again, as users become more familiar with the lightning bolt – they will recognize it as a symbol of a consistent, simple, and familiar user experience.

Benefit 4: Lower Hosting Costs

FBIA works like an RSS feed reader. Instead of each user accessing your website – resulting in the download of html, css, js, images, etc – FBIA just pulls your article content and images from your feed. Often the content is only pulled once per article instead of potentially millions of times (once for each reader). This results in a much lower hosting cost for the publisher as you have considerably less data and files to serve.

Benefit 5: Improved Availability

Facebook has a massive infrastructure and a huge team of engineers working 24/7 to ensure that their systems are up and available. If your site goes down on a Saturday night, how long will it take to get it back up? How many engineers do you have working on Saturday nights? With Facebook’s reported 99.9% uptime, your articles will likely have better availability on FBIA.

Negative Aspects

While there are a lot of benefits for publishers that use FBIA, there are also some negative aspects.

Negative 1: No Third Party Ad Network Ads

FBIA offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to advertising with one major caveat: FBIA only allows you to serve network ads from the Facebook Audience Network. So while you can use a service like AdPlugg to serve your own directly sold ads, you can’t serve ads from a third party ad network such as Google AdSense into your FBIA feed. For publishers already selling ad space directly to advertisers, this may not be a big deal. However, if you rely on third party ad networks, this could be a major hangup for you. You can read more about what kinds of ads you are allowed to serve into your FBIA feed on the FBIA Terms of Service page.

Negative 2: Ad Density and Format Restrictions

As mentioned above, Facebook restricts the number of ads and the format of ads that can be served into Facebook Instant Articles. While this can result in a better experience for the user, it can have negative ramifications for the publisher. By limiting the number of ads that you can serve, publishers may take a hit in how much revenue they can generate per article.

Some ad formats perform better than others. And because of this, publishers are able to charge a premium for the high performing formats. By not allowing high performing formats such as popup ads (which have been proven to have above an average click through rate), publishers are going to be again put into a situation where they can no longer earn as much per article.

Negative 3: Decreased User Engagement

When a user reads an article via FBIA they never actually visit your website. While there are advantages to this for both you and the user (as mentioned above) this also results in some negatives in terms of user engagement. You never get a chance to present your site as an entity unto its own (beyond a source of Facebook content) to the user. You also never get a chance to get the user to subscribe to your newsletter and do other things that would be typical if the user were to visit your website.

Conclusion

When deciding “Should I use Facebook Instant Articles” the publisher needs to weigh the pros and cons. This article should help serve as a good reference and starting point for what the major benefits and negative aspects of FBIA are.

Have a benefit or negative aspect of FBIA that we’ve missed, please post it to the comments sections below.