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Facebook slots ads in Instant Articles’ Related Articles sections

Facebook’s Instant Articles format is supposed to be a better, faster version of the web’s standard article page. Now it’s adding what has become, for better or worse, a hallmark of digital publishing’s current state: ads within below-the-fold “recommended articles” boxes.

On Thursday, Facebook announced that all Instant Articles publishers can feature ads within the “Related Articles” section appearing below their actual articles. Facebook had started to test these ads in March 2017 and had seen that they generate an “incremental increase” in the amount of money publishers can make per thousand page views, according to a company blog post published on Thursday.

Facebook describes these ads as “native” ads, even though they’re really not. Here’s an example that Facebook included in today’s blog post:

The ads appear to be the same photo-and-link ads that typically appear in people’s Facebook feeds, but now they’re placed among a feed of article links. In fact, to feature an ad inside an Instant Article’s “Related Articles” section, a publisher must be part of Facebook’s Audience Network that Facebook uses to syndicate its news feed ads across an ad network of third-party sites and apps. And when publishers configure their Instant Articles to feature these ads, they are instructed to select “Banner” as the format.

There are no requirements that an ad link to a piece of branded content, a Facebook spokesperson. The only requirement is that ads link to a landing page, which appears to mean any URL. And the ads are limited to photo-and-link formats, so no native videos that play inline.

Advertisers buying Instant Articles inventory from Facebook cannot control whether their ads appear within the “Related Articles” section or not, though they can choose whether to run ads in Instant Articles or not and can block specific publishers or categories of content from featuring their ads.

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About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.