Facebook has confirmed that it will host content from news publishers on its mobile app, which will allow users to read articles without having to click through to another website. The move could open a new stream of ad revenues for content companies, but risks increasing their reliance on the social network.
Nine launch partners - The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, Spiegel and Bild – are part of the Facebook scheme called "Instant Articles."
The articles will be interactive and include the ability to view videos, maps and photos by tilting your phone, and even comment on or like a single line in a story. Facebook claims the in-app stories will load 10 times faster than when people click a link to an article on an external site.
"Fundamentally, this is a tool that enables publishers to provide a better experience for their readers on Facebook," Facebook's Chief Product Officer, Chris Cox, said in a press release.
"Instant Articles lets them deliver fast, interactive articles while maintaining control of their content and business models."
Reports about the service surfaced earlier this year amid concerns that it could take eyeballs away from publishers' sites and hit advertising revenue.
But Facebook has tried to make its terms appealing to news publishers, allowing them to keep all of the revenue they gain from selling advertisements in their articles on Facebook.
If the publishers have unused ad inventory – space for ads -- they can sell it through Facebook's own network, and keep 70 percent of that revenue.
Instant Articles publishers will also be able to track its traffic on the social media site with analytics tools.
The opportunity is particular prescient as Facebook already eclipses Twitter as a source of referral traffic for news websites. That, coupled with the fact that a rapidly increasing number of users are consuming news via mobile devices, will likely make Facebook's initiative appealing to publishers.
"We have a long tradition of meeting readers where they are and that means being available not just on our own sites, but on the social platforms frequented by many current and potential Times users," The New York Times Company President and CEO, Mark Thompson, said in a statement.
For Facebook, the scheme will help keep users on its app for longer -- a key focus for the company, given that over 70 percent of its advertising revenue now comes from mobile.
Of course, there are also risks for news publishers -- if Facebook changes the terms and conditions of the service down the line, for instance, or if a publisher's operations on the social networking website begin to take traffic away from its own website. Unsurprisingly, content organizations want the initiative to be sustainable.
"It is then vital that, over time, Instant Articles delivers recurring benefit for publishers, whose continued investment in original content underpins its success," Tony Danker, international director of Guardian News & Media, said in a statement.
But Facebook has moved to assuage those fears.
"We don't want to try and devour, and, like, suck in the Internet," Facebook's Cox told Re/code in an interview earlier this year. (Tweet this)