A year ago, Facebook was cautiously testing the waters for a plan to host content made by a few big Web publishers like BuzzFeed and the New York Times.
Now it’s going to host content from everyone.
Facebook will formally throw open the doors to its Instant Articles format in April at its F8 developers conference and start hosting content from publishers all over the world.
It is pre-seeding the announcement now, presumably so that in a couple months it can say that a gazillion publishers are already on board. For the record, Facebook says it’s currently working with hundreds of publishers, but won’t offer a specific number.
There’s not much else to say about that bit of news: As has been well documented, the concept of publishers putting their stuff on other people’s platforms has gone from scary concept to well-accepted (if still kinda scary!) practice, very fast. (Welcome, Choire!)
Also well documented: Publishers that shared stories on Facebook’s Instant Articles platform were initially underwhelmed with the money they were making from those stories, but Facebook is working hard to fix that. As it should.
Here’s the one thing that interests me: Facebook says it is opening up Instant Articles to publishers of “all sizes.” And when I asked reps there if that included one-person operations — that is, someone typing their own stuff on a Tumblr page or Medium page or whatever — they said yes, with a tiny bit of hesitation.
Actually, every time I asked a Facebook rep about that theory they would take pains to point me to “Notes,” a little-known product that allows Facebook users to create posts that look like Medium posts. But Notes isn’t positioned as a place for professional publishers to distribute their stuff. It’s supposed to let you “recap your summer vacation or an important time in your life to update the people you care about.”
More specifically, Notes doesn’t have a mechanism to provide creators with actual money, and that is the point of Instant Articles: Either you can sell your own ads that appear on Instant Articles and keep all of the revenue, or you can let Facebook sell the ads and share the revenue*.
That is, in theory, if you wanted to create a new publishing platform from scratch (hey there, Bill Simmons), you could slap up your own placeholder page on the Web, then import it to Facebook, and then let them take care of distributing it to 1.6 billion people and selling the ads.
Presto! You’re an instant publisher, at scale.
Good theory, right? For the moment, Facebook doesn’t want to go near it. But it’s possible. And I bet we’ll see people try it soon.
* This ad split has been reported at 70/30, but sources say Facebook has never committed to an actual split, and the numbers may fluctuate.
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.