Facebook’s long-awaited plan to directly host articles from news organizations begins on Wednesday.
The self-hosted editorial content called “Instant Articles” will feature news from nine media organizations including The New York Times, BuzzFeed, NBC News, the BBC, the Guardian and National Geographic.
The program will begin with a few articles, but is expected to expand quickly, according to the New York Times.
Instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would on a smartphone (they currently take up to eight seconds), and those with iPhones will see glossy cover videos and photos tagged with map coordinates.
“Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook,” Chris Cox, Facebook Chief Product Officer, said on the company’s media site. “Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”
Along with increased speed, the new option allows users to bring the story to life by zooming in, exploring high-resolution photos by tilting the phone, watching auto-play videos while scrolling through stories, exploring interactive maps, listening to audio captions and commenting on individual parts of an article in-line.
When it comes to advertising, news publishers can either sell and embed ads in the articles — and keep all the revenue — or enlist Facebook to sell ads, for which the company will get 30 percent of the profit.
The social media giant is also permitting news companies to collect data about the people reading their articles with the same tools they use to track visitors to their own sites, reported the Times.
“The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook. We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement,” Mark Thompson, President and CEO, The New York Times Company, said. “We have a long tradition of meeting readers where they are and that means being available not just on our own sites, but on the social platforms frequented by many current and potential Times users.”
Instant Articles is initially launching on Facebook for iPhone with a special set of stories published by The New York Times, BuzzFeed, National Geographic, NBC and The Atlantic, with more partners being added over the coming months.