Stalwart regional news title the Liverpool Echo recently conducted an experiment to discover the true value of its Facebook Instant Articles for advertising revenue and engagement. It wasn’t a complicated experiment. The method abided by that old IT fundamental, and the team simply turned them off and on again. They found that Instant Articles increased reach by 30%.

For those unfamiliar, the Facebook Instant Article is a format allowing publishers to create native articles on Facebook that load over 4x faster than mobile web. Reach, the Echo’s publisher, had been using Instant Articles since 2016. But, due to the accelerated rate of change for social and search best practices, Reach wanted to gauge their usefulness against click-throughs straight to their own sites or apps. These findings have come to shape the Facebook strategy for all of Reach’s regional titles.

According to official Facebook figures, Reach’s regional publishers (excluding those based in London) accrued over 35,000 newsletter subscribers between February 2019 and May 2020 via FBIA alone. The Liverpool Echo’s success has been so apparent that it accounts for just over 17% of total newsletter sign-ups across all of Reach’s titles in the same timeframe. 

Facebook Instant Article example on The Washington PostThis was made possible by the Instant Article-specific “call-to-action” buttons that Facebook introduced in February 2019, which help deliver newsletter subscriptions, Page Likes and app promos, all within Instant Articles. So far, Reach has used these buttons to grow its newsletters and drive Likes to its Pages. 

“We know our audience values newsletters, but promoting them has traditionally been down to pushing them through our websites or specifically writing stories about new launches. Using the CTA function in Instant Articles has given us another promotional asset and the take up has been very good,” said Reach’s head of social, Dan Russell. 

In December, Facebook claimed that the top 100 publishers using Instant Articles in the US and Canada saw 48% yearly growth of RPM (revenue per 1,000 impressions) in 2020. The Guardian, however, pulled out of Instant Articles in 2017, citing “woeful” revenue returns as the reason for its decision.

Today, over 50,000 publishers utilise Facebook Instant Articles to deliver their stories. Directing readers away from your brand environment will always mean losing control of your content to some degree. But, as part of a balanced revenue and growth strategy, the extra reach that could come from Instant Articles makes them worth experimenting with. Learn more about Instant Articles here.