Cillian Bracken Conway
10th Dec, 2015

Facebook is changing its advertising policies and approaches for Instant Articles, following publishers' dissatisfaction over generating ad revenue and other challenges they encountered.

Wall Street Journal reported that the social network will now allow more ads to be served within shorter articles. From the previous 500-word threshold that Facebook enforced, one ad can now be placed for every 350 words. The social network has also introduced a tool that will place ads automatically for every 350-word content. According to Michael Reckhow, product manager of Facebook Instant Article, the move will help publishers avoid "leaving money on the table by under-serving ads". The adjustment will also ensure that maximum ad load is reached for every Instant Articles content.

Facebook is also allowing publishers to sell Instant Article ads at a premium. When Instant Articles was introduced to iPhone users last October, it restricted publishers from selling Facebook-only campaigns. They must be packaged with other inventory and properties across their website. Chief revenue officer of Washington Post Jed Hartman complained about the many factors that must be analysed to determine potential for monetisation. “You have fewer impressions per page view than we presently do, so you have to balance that”, he said. Such feedback, and more from other publishers, prompted Facebook to experiment on new approaches on Instant Articles.

Another factor that Facebook has implemented is allowing publishers to highlight and link to specific articles found on their own websites, whether branded or sponsored posts. They can manually control the link that will appear from the "related articles" section found at the bottom of Instant Articles content.

Instant Articles is a platform where media companies can directly publish content to Facebook feeds instead of links. This resulted in direct traffic to their online properties and faster loading of content and stories. When it was launched, 9 publishers partnered with Facebook, including National Geographic, The New York Times, and The Atlantic, with each of them sharing one Instant Articles story.

Image of a smartphone with a sample Instant Article story from National Geographic displayed on the screen

100% of revenue generated from ads within Instant Articles is given to publishers if they sell the ads themselves and only 70% if Facebook sells it on their behalf. Restrictions on advertising format and volume of content apply, whether ads are sold by publishers or Facebook.

Over 100 publishers from all over the globe have signed up for Instant Articles. Policies of the Facebook feature are tweaked based on feedback from publishers. “We’re continuing to listen to publishers about what they want from Instant Articles”, Reckhow said. The social network promises to continue to listen and to continue adjusting the policies. The goal is to compare Instant articles with advertising on mobile web so Facebook can deliver results, while ensuring that users’ reading experience is maintained at high quality.