We look at Facebook engagement around the first ‘Instant Articles’ on Facebook. 
Yesterday saw the launch of Facebook’s long-anticipated ‘Instant Articles’.
The new format sees a chosen group of publishers able to post media-rich articles straight to the news feed. For now, Instant Articles are only available to iPhone users with the latest version of the Facebook app (Android is ‘coming soon‘).
Here’s what the stories look like in the news feed:

How did the new stories perform in engagement, compared to regular posts from each of the publisher partners? At NewsWhip, we’ve been following the arrival of Instant Articles closely, and were interested to look at engagement around the first posts, in terms of likes, comments and shares.
Through Spike’s Facebook Posts feature, which tracks interactions around links, videos, images posted directly to Facebook, we were able to get a sense of how people were reacting to Instant Articles for the first time. Engagement figures are for the first 24 hours of posting, and consist of a combination of Likes, Comments, and Shares.

The New York Times

Article: ‘A Life in Motion, Stopped Cold
Engagements on Original Post: 7,500
The first New York Times article was a longform piece about a Brazilian athlete. It was pretty long, and full of rich photography and video. In the first hours after the post, we noticed the post attracting a lot of attention in Spike:
Spike Instant Articles
Some of the engagements were comments from readers, who were overwhelmingly impressed by the new feature. As well as that, the original post has been liked over 5,500 times, shared more than 1,600 times.
Overall, while the story performed admirably in terms of engagements, it was not the best-performing New York Times post of the day. It did have healthy competition though – the most engaged post was a link to an article titled “College Student to Jeb Bush: ‘Your Brother Created ISIS’”.


Article: ‘13 Steps To Instantly Improve Your Day
Engagements on Original Post: 6,670
BuzzFeed’s first post was a list that promised to make readers’ feel ‘instantly better’. Of all the articles posted yesterday, this one looked like it was designed with Facebook mobile in mind, first and foremost. The vertical image cards are perfect for mobile, and the quick-loading gifs work smoothly.
Buzzfeed instant article
We didn’t record engagement around the post as being crazily high (6,600 interactions), but it did attract a high ratio of shares.
BuzzFeed have already said that they will be using Instant Articles to post sponsored content. How engagement around these posts and regular editorial content will stack up remains to be seen.

The National Geographic

Article: ‘Quest For A Super Bee
Engagements on Original Post: 24,000
Of the three publishers reviewed, the National Geographic’s Bees story performed the best in terms of overall engagements. It had over 19,000 likes, and almost 4,000 shares from the original post. Our data shows that the National Geographic routinely records huge volumes of engagement for a relatively low output, so Instant Articles seems to be a good fit.
National Geographic Spike

What Next?

Facebook has given publishers a rich media platform and the initial reaction from readers has been positive.
instant articles future
Part of this is because Instant Articles are fast – very fast. See this video showing the difference in load times between an Instant Article and clicking on a link in Twitter:

Now it’s up to publishers to see how they harness these new abilities to draw more Facebook users’ attention to their content. One factor that we’ve noticed is key for publishers looking to drive on-platform engagement is getting influencers to share the story. Publishers’ ability to target key pages for sharing their Instant Articles could prove vital in driving engagement.
In recent months, videos have been performing very well on Facebook. It’s easy to forget that auto-playing Facebook videos only started appearing in news feeds in the second half of 2014, before completely taking off and becoming the dominant content form on the platform.
What will Instant Articles look like in a few months, when more publishers start posting more refined, tested content?

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