Instant Articles News
Data Deep Dive: Article Performance Methodology

Today we announced a new tool for publishers to measure Instant Articles' impact on referral traffic from Facebook. The tool will be available to publishers who have published enough Instant Articles and mobile web versions to measure the difference.

To help publishers better understand how this data impacts their business, we want to share our underlying methodology for how we think about this measurement. We worked with Nielsen, the global measurement leader, to validate our methodology for measuring the lift in article views Instant Articles publishers are seeing.

Setting Up the Analysis

Directly comparing format types among so many variables on Facebook is challenging. That's why we carefully set up a parallel environment to try to isolate people's response to Instant Articles from their responses to other factors, like news cycles or story topic.

How we compare Instant Articles to mobile web views

When we compare Instant Articles to their mobile web equivalents, we're measuring article views in two groups: a test group of people who can see Instant Articles and a control group of people who can only see the mobile web version of articles. In both groups we set up backend events to record when people tap on links from the Facebook app that result in viewable articles and determined if the view was on an Instant Article or mobile web version.

Our goal was to measure how people respond to Instant Articles. Comparing article views between our test groups allowed us to measure the lift (more article views) on Instant Articles. Pre/post analyses of implementing or removing Instant Articles can conflate other variables and result in misleading conclusions.

Observed Trends from the Analysis

As we reported last year, we found people view more Instant Articles than mobile web articles on average because people abandon articles less and share them more. Here are some of the other trends we learned in our analysis:

Competition for attention in News Feed drives people to easy to consume formats. More people, Pages and post formats are driving this competition for people's attention on Facebook: News Feed offers on average over 3,500 stories daily, per person, and the number of individual domains publishing posts has increased 50% year over year. While this competition may impact total traffic from News Feed to a publisher over time, we see consistently that people view more Instant Articles than mobile web links in a given 30-day period.

News cycles contribute to swings in traffic to links. Politics, sports leagues and other seasonal fluctuations in attention to links can complicate pre/post analyses of implementing or removing Instant Articles.

The volume of Instant Articles people see also impacts how often people click on links. At the publisher level we've seen a learning effect at play: as people see more Instant Articles from a publisher, their propensity to click on Instant Articles over mobile web links increases. In an early look at the data, we also found people's propensity to click on Instant Articles over mobile web links is growing over time - we're exploring ways to better understand this.

Regional differences influence article views across regions and markets. Last year we found regional variances in mobile traffic can be attributed to a couple of key factors: network connectivity and mobile device. We looked at article view numbers on a regional level earlier this year, and here is what we found:

On average, people in the following regions read more Instant Articles than mobile web equivalents:

  • US and Canada click and read over 25% more
  • Europe click and read over 30% more
  • Middle East and North Africa click and read 80% more
  • Southeast Asia read and click 60% more
  • Latin America read and click 60% more
  • India read and click over 75% more

Traffic lift for all links on Facebook told us the presence of Instant Articles had a halo effect on non-Instant Articles links. For example last month we found people who see Instant Articles click more on mobile web links than people who see only mobile web links in their feed. Mobile link consumption overall on Facebook has increased with Instant Articles.

Conclusions

Our analyses showed on average, people read more when they see Instant Articles than when they see the mobile web link equivalents. People are responding to articles in this format. We’re continuing to invest in ways to help people read more articles from publishers on Facebook. Over the next few months we'll share more about some of our efforts to help readers find more publisher content within articles as well.