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Why BuzzFeed Is 'All-In' on Facebook Instant Articles, and Why the New York Times Is Not (Video)

It has to do with the money.

Asa Mathat for Vox Media

Last spring, a group of publishers that included the New York Times and BuzzFeed started pushing content to Facebook directly through its Instant Articles program. At the time, there was a lot of handwringing about whether this meant that media companies were effectively giving audiences entirely over to Facebook, and what that meant for independent media companies.

Well, the sky hasn’t fallen. But publishers are leaning more and more on Facebook for distribution, and the word is that they have warmed up to Instant Articles.

BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen and recently appointed New York Times video chief Alex MacCallum gave a bit more detail on how their companies are doing on Facebook at the Code/Media conference at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, Calif.

Nguyen said that Instant Articles “can be a great user experience for the user reading a story,” and explained a bit why BuzzFeed was “all-in” on the program.

“We see [that user experience] having a positive impact on many metrics,” Nguyen said. “Going forward, the challenge and opportunity for Facebook is that Instant Articles needs to provide us with some of the other kinds of things that, as publishers, we need to have. And a lot of that is about monetization and data and control over certain things.”

Nguyen then pointed out that BuzzFeed has a lot of sponsored content, and that Instant Articles doesn’t really accommodate it. MacCallum, on the other hand, said that the New York Times wasn’t pushing all of its content to Instant Articles.

“A lot of the storytelling tools they have are interesting to us, and that goes to the experience itself. We aren’t entirely in, and that’s, in part, for business-model reasons. We’re a subscription model,” MacCallum said. “We just generally send our most social stories, and identify what’s most popular on Facebook, which is opinion, and send our entire opinion report and other stories.”

But Instant Articles isn’t the only key Facebook program that publishers are enamored with. Nguyen said that Facebook video has been a “big growth driver” in “reach, time spent, any way you look at it.” She pointed toward BuzzFeed’s Tasty Facebook page, which posts videos of food and has garnered over 39 million likes since launching last fall.

Watch Chartbeat’s CEO explain Facebook’s dominance over mobile traffic

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