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Facebook reveals Instant Articles, news tailored for mobile app

In another step forward in the social network’s quest to become the entire web for its users, Facebook has upped the ante with its news coverage, partnering up with nine selected media outlets to offer an Instant Articles feature.

Essentially, these news articles will be interactive, fast loading and easily digestible content tailored for the mobile app. As Facebook notes, news is currently the slowest loading content on Facebook, with a story taking an average of eight seconds before it pops up on your mobile phone’s screen – so this is about addressing that issue.

Michael Reckhow, Product Manager at Facebook, claims: “Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.”

How is this speed achieved? The articles are hosted directly on Facebook’s servers.

As well as being swift to load, the interactive elements of the articles allow users to do things like zoom in on high-resolution images just by tilting their handset, and enjoy extras such as interactive maps and audio captions (videos in the piece will auto-play, too).

The initial media outlets involved in this project include The Guardian and BBC News, alongside The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, Spiegel and Bild.

So what’s in it for these publishers, to persuade them to be drawing users away from their own websites? They can flog adverts inside these articles and keep the proceeds.

Chris Cox, Facebook’s Chief Product Officer, commented: “Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook. Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models.”

Mark Thompson, President and CEO of The New York Times Company, added: “The New York Times already has a significant and growing audience on Facebook. We’re participating in Instant Articles to explore ways of growing the number of Times users on Facebook, improving their experience of our journalism and deepening their engagement.”

Others aren’t so keen, though, with the likes of the Wall Street Journal saying they are taking a much more cautious approach to this idea.