Facebook Instant Articles, Cards, and a developing native web

Posted on May 13, 2015. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Today Facebook launched a test with Publishers which I’ve been following for quite some time given it’s proximity to our work here at Wildcard. The program enables Facebook to render 3rd party content from publishers like the New York Times, BBC, and Buzzfeed natively within Facebook. So when your friends share a link to the NYT in Facebook, instead of having to click it and get sent out of Facebook to the NYT website, the articles content is displayed in the Facebook app…it feels like it’s part of the app…and you don’t have to wait to load a webpage…does that sound familiar? The New York times says “the so-called instant articles will load up to 10 times faster than they normally would since readers stay on Facebook rather than follow a link to another site.”

I’m really excited to see FB take such a strong position that links to webpages is an unacceptable user experience on mobile. For us at Wildcard, we have built the technology to enable any app, including our own, to display 3rd party content natively in the same way that this Facebook trial does. We built the tools for publishers to push their content in in this format, we built the tools for an app to display it alongside the content from their own API seamlessly, and we built our vision of what this native web consumption experience can feel like to consumers in our IOS app. The thing that we have not done yet, which Facebook obviously put a ton of time and energy into, is figure out how the money flows to publishers in a way that aligns the users’ experience in a discovery channel like FB or Google Now and the publishers top line. The NYT makes money off of display ads on webpages…and those ads don’t follow their content into environments that render it natively…and while the publishing world is aware that they need to think beyond this form of monetization…giving up this revenue this quarter or next in exchange for other value like native app installs, subscription, etc…is a tall order for most top line focussed businesses. It’s a pretty thorny problem…where Snapchat discover (which also hosts publisher content natively), and Facebook have the scale to monetize on behalf of CNN or the NYT and then provide a rev share to ease the pain into what is obviously an inevitable future, Groupme or Foursquare might not. But Groupme users should be able to read the NYT 10x faster like they do in FB now…and Foursquare users should be able to read the Eater review 10x faster like they do in Facebook…even “native” monetization solutions like outbrain and taboola that could follow publishers’ content around to these new discovery environments rely on real estate that surrounds an article…which is not available when content is rendered in a 3rd party app.

We’ve been thinking a lot about what native monetization looks like for CNN or NYT beyond the FB specific program or the Snapchat specific program, under the assumption that all apps will be able to display their content 10x faster in a native app based internet…but frankly we aren’t big enough to be the defining force that answers this question over the next 24 months. I think the question will get answered in this time frame…we can and have built the infrastructure to enable such a reality…and I’m hopeful and excited to see giants like FB hacking away at the business model for publishers to win while graduating from a mobile webpage based mindset….because loading webpages on phones is simply unacceptable.

Today is just another step in the direction of replacing links to webpages with native renderings of content and experience. Call it a card…call it an instant article…call it a rich pin…I don’t care…it’s a win for users and a deep confirmation of the future I’ve been obsessed with for the last 2 years.

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    I’m a NYC based investor and entrepreneur. I've started a few companies and a venture capital firm. You can email me at Jordan.Cooper@gmail.com (p.s. i don’t use spell check…deal with it)


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