Instant Articles set to blur the lines between screen and print

How does Twitter affect print publications? How does YouTube impact the broadcasting industry?  

While media monitoring tools have helped solve some of the mysteries of the relationship between traditional and digital media, in many ways the connection between the two has been limited by the devices themselves.  

However, this could be set to change as Facebook continues to roll out its Instant Articles feature.  

What are Instant Articles?  

Essentially, Facebook's new feature is a different way for publishers to post content. It's capable of displaying all the material you'd expect, such as high-res images and autoplay videos, but also comes with some other bells and whistles. Among the most interesting features are interactive maps and the ability for users to read an article or explore an image by tilting their device.  

You can see the Instant Articles in action in this YouTube video from tech experts The Verge:

What are the advantages from a PR perspective?  

In addition to providing a more dynamic user experience, Instant Articles, when used in conjunction with media intelligence analytics, could also help PR and communication pros boost their brand exposure. How?  

Well, despite speedier processors and 4G connectivity, mobile users are often faced with significantly slower website load times compared to those on a desktop. This is problematic for organisations whose target market is largely comprised of smartphone and tablet users, as there's a high chance these people will simply abandon an article if it takes too long to load. Nielsen Norman Group found that users typically feel frustrated after a 1 second delay and will often leave a site immediately if it takes longer than 10 seconds to load.   

Instant Articles load up to 10 times faster than the conventional mobile web.

Facebook Instant Articles could potentially remove this issue completely. The new feature, which makes use of the same technology used to instantly display content in the Facebook app, can load articles up to 10 times faster than the conventional mobile platform. More readers means higher exposure, which in turn could translate into greater brand engagement.  

Who can publish Instant Articles?

Instant Articles are very much still in the testing phase. According to Reuters, only nine news publishers are currently able to post them, including the New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, though it's easy to imagine that more organisations will be able to join the foray should the trial prove to be a success. 

It still remains to be seen how PR professionals will be able to leverage Instant Articles to boost brand exposure, but it's nevertheless an exciting step forwards for Facebook and goes some ways to blurring the lines between print and digital media.

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