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Guardian drops Instant Articles

News, 25 April 2017
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LONDON: The Guardian has joined The New York Times in deciding not to publish stories via Facebook Instant Articles just weeks after its chief executive said the platform's reach was worth it even if the financial returns were "woeful".

"We have run extensive trials on Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News to assess how they fit with our editorial and commercial objectives," the Guardian said in a statement.

"Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing in those formats on both platforms. Our primary objective is to bring audiences to the trusted environment of the Guardian to support building deeper relationships with our readers, and growing membership and contributions to fund our world-class journalism."

The newsbrand will, however, continue to use Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages, according to Digiday, which noted that the title recently revealed that 60% of its Google-referred mobile traffic came via this route.

Only last month, chief executive David Pemsel spoke of the need for a "symbiotic relationship" between Facebook and publishers.

"What you can't do is just say, 'We're not going to collaborate with them. We're not going to talk to them'," he told Mumbrella, noting that while such platforms fully appreciate how news content is shared it is less obvious that they understand the economics of news.

Facebook is "great for reach and it's a brilliant way to be able to extend our audience and our traffic and build a much more global reach," Pemsel said. But, "the economics financially for us were woeful".

At that time he added that "we will keep pushing Facebook to come up with new ideas", but it now appears those ideas didn't materialise.

When it launched two years ago, Instant Articles divided opinion over the division of advertising revenues.

At last year's Guardian Changing Media Summit, a Washington Post executive stated that Instant Articles "is working very well for us" although that comment was not based on income.

"If you compare our performance on Facebook prior to Instant Articles and our performance now with Instant Articles, we have seen a dramatic uplift in the number of people who come more than once every week to our stuff," said Jeremy Gilbert, director of strategic initiatives at the title.

"Publishing on Instant Articles brings recirculation or deeper engagement – it comes with the number of articles and the length of time spent with each article."

Data sourced from Digiday, Mumbrella; additional content by WARC staff

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