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Facebook’s Instant Articles open up to brands through Steller
Brands can use Steller’s publishing tool to create Instant Articles on Facebook that include interactive features like “call now” or “book now” buttons.
Media companies have had Facebook’s Instant Articles all to themselves since the social network introduced the fast-loading mobile content format last May. But now, brands are finally able to get their hands on one of digital publishing’s shiniest new objects without piggybacking a publisher’s access.
Facebook has opened up Instant Articles to mobile publishing platform Steller so that people, including brands, using Steller’s app to create visual-heavy stories can now distribute that content on Facebook through Instant Articles, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed.
The deal between the two companies is similar to Facebook’s tie-up with WordPress that was announced earlier this week, which extends Instant Articles to anyone who runs a self-hosted WordPress site or pays for WordPress VIP, a customer base that includes publishers like Re/code and CNN, as well as brands like UPS, Spotify, Intuit and Izod. It also preempts Facebook’s plan to officially open up Instant Articles to all publishers in April.
The extension of Instant Articles to brands offers a new way for marketers to distribute their branded content and a new opportunity for Facebook to profit from the money brands are increasingly putting into that content. As with any content a brand posts to Facebook, organic distribution is hard to come by. So brands would likely need to pay Facebook to get this content in front of people as ads, and they may be more willing to do so considering the upsides of using the Instant Articles format.
At a basic level, what’s possible for brands with Instant Articles isn’t that different from what’s already possible for publishers. Brands like Universal Pictures, which produced a series of stories on Steller with world-renowned mountain climbers and videographers to promote last year’s “Everest,” can now reduce the friction it takes for someone to open up one of those articles when it appears in their Facebook news feed, making it more likely that people will check out that content. And because people spend less time waiting for an Instant Article to load than on a normal mobile web page, they may be likely to spend more time with the content.
Brands may also be swayed by Instant Articles’ more interactive elements. For example, Instant Articles lets content creators include widgets, such as the email newsletter sign-up forms that publishers like The New York Times have begun adopting. But brands can use these widgets to get people who are reading their content to sign up for more than just a newsletter.
“Say BMW writes an amazing article about an upcoming car and at the end of the article [there’s a button that reads] ‘click here to schedule a test drive’ or ‘enter your email to get a BMW packet.’ All of these things are already possible in Instant Articles,” said Peter Denton, VP of marketing at Steller.
Other examples of interactive widgets Steller is developing for Instant Articles include a “call now” button that could be used by real estate agents, as one example, and a “reserve now” buttons for hotel chains. However, those interactive tools are still in development, Denton said. So is the ability for brands to use custom themes in their Steller-produced Instant Articles, such as using a brand’s logo, colors or fonts in the content. And when Steller does roll them out, brands might need to pay for the added features through a “freemium” model, he said.