It's been almost a month since Facebook debuted its new "Instant Articles," and while it's too soon to tell if the initiative is increasing reach for participating publishers, early data suggests the posts -- which are designed for sharing -- are garnering far more engagement than usual.
The first batch of Instant Articles are collectively performing 4.3 times better than standard posts from their respective publishers, according to CrowdTangle, a company that tracks social engagement by plugging into Facebook's API.
The data provides an early, tentative answer to one of the most pressing questions about Instant Articles: Do publishers who use them have an advantage over those who don't? For the publishers working with Facebook on the initiative, it seems that there is an advantage of greater engagement -- though it's impossible to draw any definitive conclusions given media attention around it.
To calculate the performance of the first batch of Instant Articles,* CrowdTangle measured the total interactions (shares, likes, and comments) of a publisher's first Instant Article and compared them to those of that publisher's last 100 standard Facebook posts. Here's the breakdown:
Total interactions: 2,306
Relative score: 4.23x times better than average
The New York Times
Total interactions: 11,944
Relative score: 9.3x times better than average
BuzzFeed (Yes, we are participating)
Total interactions: 13,810
Relative score: 2.4x times better than average
Total interactions: 36,228
Relative score: 1.3x better than average
Total interactions: 8,647
Relative score: 4.3x better than average
It's worth nothing that the first batch of Instant Articles clearly appeal to different audiences and likely elicited varying levels of attention as a result. An article about bees from National Geographic will naturally generate different engagement than one from the New York Times about an olympic athlete's struggle with injury.
Reached via email, Facebook Product Manager Michael Reckhow cautioned against reading too much into any early engagement numbers on Instant Articles. "The five articles we published at launch don't represent a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions about engagement or how Instant Articles will perform," he wrote, adding that the program will soon ramp up dramatically.
"In the next few weeks, our partners will begin publishing a larger volume of Instant Articles each day and we will continue to measure the performance," Reckhow said.
*The Guardian also published an Instant Article this week, but it's too early to draw comprehensive data on that story.