Instant Articles: A revolution in journalism

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose social network launches the Instant Articles initiative today. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, whose social network launches the Instant Articles initiative today.
(Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

Today, Facebook is launching its Instant Articles initiative, where news organizations will be hosting content on the social network’s site.

The official confirmation comes in a blog post from Facebook after previous reports, most notably in March from the New York Times, prompting rampant speculation as to what role Facebook would have, and how it would exactly affect the relationship it had with publishers.

There are nine publishers taking part, including the Times, BuzzFeed and the BBC. The feature is to start on Facebook’s iPhone platform, but expand in the coming months, the social network said, noting more publishers would also be involved in due course. Additionally, publishers are to take the revenue generated from advertisements in that content. Facebook says it allows publishers to provide a better experience for readers.

In that blog post, Mark Thompson, the chairman of The New York Times Company, said the move was significant because of the Times’ audience on the platform.

“The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook,” Thompson said. “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.”

With the release of this initiative, this opens a new chapter in social media journalism, especially Facebook’s role, and will be a revolution in the relationship between the consumer and the news organization.

Dick Costolo may be leading Twitter into a news production age if they acquire Circa. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

Dick Costolo may be leading Twitter into a news production age if they acquire Circa.
(Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

While it is early and the number of partners are limited, the move by Facebook, and indeed speculation of acquisitions and experiments by other social network sites, notably Twitter’s rumored acquisition of Circa, and Snapchat’s decision to hire Peter Hamby as head of news which is likely to affect its Discover feature, this will lead to a change in the thinking of journalism in the social media age.

Facebook has taken the bold step by becoming more than just a way to curate discussion on the news. It has become the news.

Today’s launch of Instant Articles will have significant implications on journalists working on the web. The relationship between social media and editorial content has changed, and while whether if it is positive or negative remains for the moment uncertain, it will change not just how we think about a story, but how we can engage with our audiences.

This is an important time for journalists near and far to consider this initiative and the future of their role in social media journalism, not just on Facebook, but on other platforms, for more moves like this may be on the horizon. We owe it to not just our colleagues in the profession, but ultimately our audience, to be ready for what is ahead, whether you write for a newspaper, produce for TV or radio or for online.

Facebook has shown us what is ahead in social media journalism, and perhaps for the industry as a whole. It is up to us to how we respond to it.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. Veeneman also blogs for the web site ChicagoNowYou can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s unless otherwise indicated, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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