Facebook, the juggernaut of social media, is now going to funnel news articles to the 1.4 billion friends of Mark Zuckerberg.
The plan, according to the Los Angeles Times, is to have outlets such as the New York Times, NBC News and the Guardian publish stories and videos on Facebook’s new iPhone app with an extension aptly titled Instant Articles.
While it’s easy to scoff at the idea of having to get news from a Facebook feed, in an age of binge-watching from streaming sites and dating apps in which pictures are swiped for approval, this move is very appropriate. Instant Articles has the potential to be more informative to users than Facebook’s current attempt at keeping users in the loop, as the trending links that show up on the side of the website’s home page often focus more on celebrity news.
Having a Facebook feed that can insert actual news articles in between what friends are doing is a step forward to ensuring that something useful can emerge from social media.
A selling point on the app is the technology behind it, which allows for articles and videos to load instantly, reduces the chance of someone giving up on reading due to a pesky loading icon.
While Instant Articles may be counter-intuitive to saving printed news, computers and smartphones have become everyday items, and news outlets having an online presence is crucial to staying relevant. In an L.A. Times interview, Chief Executive of New York Times Co. Mark Thompson said he believes Instant Articles is a way to boost the number of Times readers and get more people engaged in the news.
To face the reality of the Internet, most news outlets already have Facebook pages and Twitter handles that allow users to see breaking news, get links to read up on the news or watch videos that condense stories. Instant Articles is simply the next step in getting news to those who may not make the time to actually read up on current events and need to have them injected into their social media feeds.
Knowing the option to fill a feed with news outlets currently exists, Facebook sought to create an expedited version of giving users a pool of stories to keep them well read. After all, Facebook has to compete with an Internet landscape with features such as Bing News, which snatches top stories from various outlets, and sites such as Reddit, which is composed of links to stories ranging from politics to entertainment.
While Instant Articles is currently only available on the latest iPhone app, hopefully it will not be long before it trickles down to those not in the Apple loop. Until then, the remaining Facebook users will have to stick with what they “like.”
Adam Mathieu is a senior majoring in studio art.