Twitter follows Facebook in exploring long form content – presenting great opportunities for publishers


Katie Hartley, Group Account Director in the Publishing Team at Amplifi @ Carat, examines the potential of Twitter going 'long form' - hot on the heels of Facebook's new Instant Article offering. Could this be a bonus for publishers?

Katie Hartley Media Product Director Amplifi Twitter Facebook social social media Publishing

Twitter are reportedly working on a new product that would see it join the ranks of its contemporaries, with an approach to keeping publisher content on their platform. This follows the 2015 beta test of Facebook Instant Articles, the launch of Apple News and the announcement of Google’s planned AMPs (accelerated mobile platforms) all which all have the propensity for huge scale.

Whilst not confirmed by Twitter, the story seems plausible.  A clear benefit of keeping content within the platform is, of course, a greater opportunity to keep the users on the platform too – rather than providing links to the publisher site which does the opposite and makes for a less convenient user experience. Surely from a Twitter perspective, there is no downside.

Referred to as ‘beyond 140’  it is claimed that the tweets will appear in the feed as they do now, but a with an accompanying click option to enable article expansion revealing up to 10k words of content –  arguably, Twitter’s answer to Facebook’s new Instant Article offering.

Internally, we have had a particularly keen eye on Facebook's test of Instant Articles, given the high proportion of referrals Facebook accounts for on publisher sites., the analytics tool used by many digital publishers across the globe, reported that as of June 2015 Facebook had surpassed Google as the top referring site for the publishers in the network. For The Telegraph, Facebook now delivers up to one million views a day to its website.

Whilst still very much in its infancy here, the US testing of Facebook Instant Articles has delivered strong results.

It has lived up to its claims on load speed - the Wall Street Journal cite the average load time as a mere 0-300 milliseconds vs the usual 3.66 seconds – and this it seems has proved popular with users. A November test with New York Times showed the Instant articles to be shared 3.5 x more than articles posted in the traditional way and achieved 2.5 more likes and 5.5 x more comments. 

If this can be taken as an early indicator for how UK users will take to the product, then it is an extremely positive one and could spread the already vast reach of publisher content even further. Given Media and Entertainment Posts in their traditional form already enjoy higher shares than any other sector (according to Salesforce research), this shift will be coming from an already high base.

Perhaps more interesting though, is the new moments that the offering of publisher content wholly within the social networks will create.

If we consider the strong engagement already achieved through publisher content -  the trust and perception readers for these credible brands - and then overlay this with a recommendation from a Facebook friend or Twitter handle you choose to follow, then this additional endorsement will make for an extremely compelling context. 

Whilst sharing publisher content on these platforms isn’t anything new, the New York Times example shows us that the scale of this could increase dramatically due to the user convenience – they have had a good experience and are keen to share it.

The power of context has more recently enjoyed renewed appreciation in the industry, with Enders, Millward Brown and Rory Sutherland particularly supporting it. These publisher and social network partnerships could do well to capitalise on this and make their case heard.

Of course publisher content distributed this way can only be a success if it works commercially for publishers and therefore it’s pleasing to hear that Facebook have acted upon their early concerns over monetisation and have amended their initial stipulation on Ed:Ad ratio accordingly. Of course there are much more complexities to be considered – how will it work for those publishers currently charging for content consumed online?  Payment must be crucial to their model but introducing it here would take away from the speed and convenience of the products. Could Facebook consider introducing a payment model more similar to Blendle where users ‘pay as they go’ in these instances but only need register their payment details on the one platform, on one occasion?

Should the terms and a commercial model work from a commercial point of view, then these partnerships should have a happy future ahead – certainly from an advertising point of view, the opportunity of scale and enhanced engagement is an appealing one.

Katie Hartley Media Product Director Amplifi Twitter Facebook social social media Publishing
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