- Facebook updated the software development kit for its Instant Articles (IA) platform with an extension to make publisher content compatible with both Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) and Apple News for iOS devices, according to a blog post by the company.
- The Facebook Journalism Project, a program designed to encourage discussion with publishers in shaping the social network's news features, inspired the idea to seek a solution to costly hurdles of creating content specific to different formats, Piyush Mangalick, a partner engineering director at Facebook, wrote in the post.
- The social media company says it will offer publishers a way to use custom style templates that aim to match the formats of competing platforms, including fonts, colors and captions. The Google AMP format is available now, and the Apple News version is set for release in the coming weeks.
The idea for the extension resulted from discussions with publishers concerned that making content compatible with different formats was time-consuming and expensive. It might also be a tacit admission that Instant Articles doesn't work particularly well independently, as both Google AMPs and Apple News serve as its main competitors.
While Facebook is trying to address some of the technical hurdles with publishing on its mobile site, the bigger issue is whether the streamlining will generate more money. Publishers have found that they can’t reel in revenue or drive subscriptions by working with Instant Articles, and Forbes, Hearst, The New York Times and others have backed out of the mobile-optimized format entirely, according to a report by Digiday. Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, CBS News, NPR, Financial Times and Vice News have posted little or no content through Facebook’s format either.
Perhaps these early results will push the Facebook Journalism Project to make additional changes that give publishers more control over their content and how revenue is shared. The Instant Article format prevents publishers from connecting more directly with readers while cross-promoting subscriptions, events, premium publications and email newsletters, fitting in with Facebook's larger walled garden strategy.
Facebook has shown more willingness to listen to content providers and make formatting changes, such as creating Instant Articles in the first place, but the critical issue continues to be about monetization.