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May 13, 2015

Facebook woos BBC & Guardian as it tackles old media hostility

Ad revenues put back into publishers hands after long-held complaints.

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Facebook is wooing news groups like the BBC and the Guardian as it launches publishing software aimed at healing hostile relations between old and new generations of media.

Instant Articles will allow the media to create interactive pieces on the social network as they seek to capitalise on an insurgent news market whilst accommodating for shortened attention spans amongst mobile consumers.

Michael Reckhow, product manager at Facebook, said: "As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook.

"People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook."

The social network claims that Instant Articles will make reading "as much as ten times faster" than the standard method of displaying mobile articles on the web.

The product will also add features hard to create on mobile web browsers, including improved zoom functions for images, auto-playing videos, interactive maps, audio clips and in-line commenting.

It is a move that follows long-held animosity between Silicon Valley and the likes of Fleet Street, with the latter recently complaining to the EU Commission that services like Google News exploit content from media sites.

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As such advertising revenue, a key part of the modern media business model, will be left under the control of the publishers , who can sell ads in their articles or can partner with Facebook in Instant Articles.

Publishers will also be offered a range of analytics tools, included comScore, which will allow them to track traffic and user engagement.

"It is great to see Facebook trialling new ways for quality journalism to flourish on mobile," said Tony Danker, international director at Guardian News & Media.

"The Guardian is keen to test how the new platform can provide an even more engaging experience for our readers. It is then vital that, over time, Instant Articles delivers recurring benefit for publishers, whose continued investment in original content underpins its success."

As well as catering to British outfits, Facebook will also extend the service to the New York Times in the US, BuzzFeed internationally, and Spiegel Online in Germany.

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