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Why we joined Facebook’s Instant Articles & Left – Amit Bhawani, Phone Radar

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By Amit Bhawani, Founder and Editor in Chief of Phone Radar

When Facebook had announced that the “Instant Articles” feature was available to everyone, we thought this was a good way to share our content with our readers: the idea being that the “Lightning” Icon was something that we started seeing more regularly on Facebook’s mobile app and we also wanted to try it out. As a blogger, it has become a habit to try out new things without thinking about the Pros & Cons.

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To get started here are a few points that lead us to take this step.

Why We Signed Up

1. Adopting New Feature: We wanted to be one of the first publications around the Technology niche that was sharing content under the “Instant Articles” feature. In the process of signing up, we even skipped a few steps that needed us to setup for monetising the content. We had presumed that there would be almost no revenue from these articles.
2. Magazine Format: We thought that the content would be shown in a better-looking design that was rich with media that we had added, removing all the sidebars and clutter. This could improve the user experience, though we do have a beautiful design when you visit PhoneRadar.com from your Smartphone.
3. Faster Loading for heavy content: Take this example of the Smartphones Software Upgrade Report that had multiple images. We thought it would take a while for readers to load the content, but Facebook could help in speeding things up.

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The Fear

According to Digiday, some publishers already see a 20% drop in their traffic, which is huge. Ironically according to that report, these publishers had signed up for “Instant Articles”. In our case, we thought that not opting for something that Facebook suggests would lead to lower reach and hurt us. We had already seen a rapid decline in the reach from our Facebook Page, now at approximately 2% to 3% compared to the total likes.

Why We Removed Instant Articles

It is surprising that while Netflix, Hulu, etc. are paying content creators money to signup with them and join the platform (Ref:: MIT), Facebook is almost getting everyone to post articles on this new feature for free.

The Instant Articles feature works in a manner similar to the RSS feed, where just the content is fetched through the feed and repackaged in a simpler design, alongwith the ads on Facebook. Apart from the blog content, we have specific sections on our website that we highlight through our mobile version (Ref: Phone Finder) that is will be hidden from Facebook readers.

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We have a Search Box that allows our readers to find any content from the domain. This is the same for the side menu linking to categories, sections that are not accessible to the readers when they visit the content on “Instant Articles”. We do not want them to just read a story and leave. We also want them to share the share the content on WhatsApp or via email. All of this is restricted by Facebook.

We tried Instant Articles and realized that it doesn’t work for us. In its current format, it only works for Facebook.

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