Andy Mitchell, director of global media partnerships at Facebook called the rollout to additional markets in Asia, a “significant milestone” for both the product and its participating media partners.
"IA has been designed with extensive feedback from publishers," he added in a press release. “We’re excited to bring this collaboration to our publishing partners in Asia to help them distribute fast, interactive articles to their readers in the Facebook app.
As of today, APAC publishers now live include:
- China: CCTVNEWS (for international readers only)
- Hong Kong: Ming Pao Daily News
- Indonesia: Kompas.com, Merdeka.com
- Korea: SBS News
- Malaysia: Sin Chew Daily
- Philippines: ABS-CBN News, GMA Network, GMA News, INQUIRER.net, Rappler
- Singapore: The Straits Times
- Taiwan: Apple Daily Taiwan, Chinatimes.com, Next Magazine Taiwan
- Thailand: Kom Chad Luek
- Vietnam: WebTretho, VnExpress
Additionally, the following organisations have signed onto the programme and will begin publishing soon:
- Hong Kong: Apple Daily, Oriental Daily News, The South China Morning Post
- Indonesia: detikcom, Liputan6.com, Tribunnews
- Malaysia: Astro AWANI, Berita Harian, China Press, Harian Metro, Malaysiakini, New Straits Times, Oriental Daily News Malaysia, The Star Online
- Taiwan: ETtoday, Sanlih E-Television News, United Daily News Group, Vogue Taiwan
- Thailand: Dailynews, Kapook.com, Khao Sod, Nation TV, Prachachat, Matichon, MGR Online, Thairath
- Vietnam: Thanh Niên, Tuoi Tre, Zing.vn
Along with a faster experience, IA also introduces a suite of interactive features such as the ability to watch auto-play videos, explore interactive maps, listen to audio captions, and comment on individual parts of an article in-line.
All IA pieces are labelled with a lightning bolt icon and when a friend or publisher shares a link on Facebook, the enhanced experience is displayed automatically if an IA version is available.
Publishers are able to sell ads in their articles and keep the revenue, or they can choose to use Facebook’s Audience Network to monetise unsold inventory. They will also have the ability to track data and traffic through their current analytics tools.
In an email interview with Campaign Asia-Pacific, Mitchell said the split between direct selling and using Audience Network has been mixed.
“We knew it was important for publishers to have the choice—sell ads themselves and retain all of the revenue, or opt into the Facebook Audience Network,” he added. “We’re seeing publishers experiment and determine what works best for them.
IA launched in India in mid-November, with India Today, The Quint, Aajtak, Hindustan Times and The Indian Express as launch partners.
Asked about how the product has fared to date, Mitchell said that it was “still very early days” for India.
“But we’ve heard from publishers that they are happy about the experience they are able deliver to their readers, the results that they are seeing in terms of engagement, and the tools that they have to manage their ads and analytics,” he added.
Ken Cheung, head of media partnerships, APAC, Facebook said the team worked closely with early media partners in Asia to begin rolling out Instant Articles across the region.
“Looking ahead we're excited to partner with more publishers in Asia to bring the Instant Articles experience to more people,” he added.
Edi Taslim, digital group director of Kompas Gramedia in Indonesia, said in comments provided by Facebook that speed is especially important for people in parts of Indonesia who have slow or inconsistent internet speeds.
“It’s early days, but I think the speed and improved reader experience will lead to more people clicking on and reading our stories,” he said.
“The multimedia features of IA have also energised my team to create a lot more interactive stories with video, interactive maps and special features that will better engage our readers,” he added.
IA launched officially on May 12, with major publishers such as BuzzFeed, the New York Times, National Geographic, The Atlantic', NBC News, The Guardian, BBC News, Bild and Spiegel Online, as launch partners.
However it has been reported that the platform is now considering adjustments to IA, as publishers have encountered challenges generating revenue due to restrictions around the type and volume of ads that they are allowed to sell.
For example, the guidelines state that just one “large banner” ad sized 320 by 250 pixels may be included for every 500 words of content.
In addition, rich media ads are currently not allowed nor are Facebook-only campaigns and IA ads must be packaged with others across websites or other properties.
According to Statista, in each of the past 11 quarters, mobile ads have accounted for more then 90 percent of Facebook's revenue growth globally.
In the first nine months of 2015, all of the company's growth came from advertising on tablets and smartphones.
Mobile ad revenue now accounts for 78 percent of Facebook's total advertising revenue of US$4.3 billion and 74 percent of total revenue.
Asked for an update on the issue, and if there will be any updates to restrictions for Asian publishers, Mitchell said Facebook is currently working closely with publishers on it.
The company is now testing out changes to its ads policies, such as allowing more ads per article and ad formats that were barred previously.
“One of our principles from the beginning has been to work collaboratively with our publishing partners to understand their needs and shape the product,” he added. “We’re currently working to understand how publisher advertising in IA compares to the mobile web so we can deliver results, while maintaining a great reading experience for people.”
Mitchell said that the team has made numerous improvements to the advertising capabilities over the past few months and will continue to iterate based on publisher feedback to improve the product—feedback that will now include its Asian partners.
Google AMP and Android
While Facebook has been first to market with an offering of faster loading content via its mobile app, Google is also working on a similar offering.
In October, the search giant introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), its open-source program designed to make web pages load much more quickly on mobile devices. The feature is slated to launch early next year.
In a blog post, the company said comScore, Adobe Analytics, Parse.ly and Chartbeat have all stated that they intend to provide analytics for AMP pages within their tools.
In addition, Outbrain, AOL, OpenX, DoubleClick, and AdSense are working within the framework to improve the advertising experience.
Asked for thoughts on where that will leave IA once AMP goes into general availability, Facebook’s Mitchell said the company is “proud to have kicked off this conversation with the industry” about the need to provide a fast experience for reading articles on mobile.
“But it’s not an either/or,” he added. “And publishers don’t have to choose one or the other. They are solving the same problem for different audiences.”
He added that Facebook is building a platform that improves the ability for publishers to create engaging, interactive articles with video, high-resolution photos and more.
“We don't think that publishers should have to remove these fundamental parts of their stories to provide a fast experience,” he said “With IA, they can have both fast and engaging articles.”
For the record, Google has stated that AMP will support video, photos and other programming.
Another thing that Facebook is speeding up is IA’s availability on the Android platform, a critical component given the operating system’s dominance in the region.
StatCounter estimates that Android accounts for 67.4 percent of all smartphones in Asia, while iOS holds 11.3 percent.
Mitchell said the company will be rolling IA out to all Android users globally over the next few weeks.
Asked about what the platform has in store for smaller publishers in the region, Mitchell said the current focus is on gathering feedback and improving the platform during the beta phrase.
"We are starting with just a few publishers while we learn more about how people interact with these articles and scale up on Android," he added.
“We plan to make improvements with a goal to scale this to additional publishers in the coming months and get to where we can open up the programme to all publishers,” he said.