Content Marketing Blog

Google plotting open source alternative to Facebook Instant Articles

Google, the world’s largest search engine, is said to be planning its own alternative to Facebook’s Instant Articles.

Facebook said in May this year that it would be offering a small group of content creators the opportunity to publish exclusive content on its platform.

Content published via Instant Articles will load a lot faster and look better, particularly on mobile devices. Improving the experience of mobile users is a top priority for Facebook as an increasingly large share of online activity is moving to tablets and smartphones.

For the content creators there is the chance to tap in to Facebook’s hugely lucrative advertising network and its audience of 1.49 billion users.

Still no love for Google+

Google is yet to make a formal announcement about its own pitch to content creators, but reports suggest it is working on an open source alternative that would not be restricted to big, established publishers.

Instead, the search company is looking at how it can deliver some of the user benefits of Instant Articles outside of the Facebook environment to anyone publishing content from global newspaper groups to hobby bloggers.

Sources with close knowledge of the project told the business magazine Fortune that Google’s own social network, Google+, will not be involved.

Google+ remains a challenge for Google, with strong user numbers driven largely by the bundling of Google services and weak engagement stats.

The move by Google is a response to the increasing threat Facebook poses to its grip on online advertising revenue.

Google makes 4x as much as Facebook from ads

Google made a massive USD $17.7 billion in the second quarter of this year, up 11 per cent on the same period in 2014. More than 90 per cent of that figure came from advertising.

Facebook is similarly reliant on ad revenue but is some way behind Google having made just over USD $4 billion in Q2.

But while Facebook is making only around a quarter of Google’s revenue it remains a serious competitor for the attention of users.

When Facebook announced its second quarter results last month it also revealed that monthly active users had reached a record 1.49 billion and that 844 million people were accessing Facebook on their mobile devices every day.

It is by some margin the dominant player in the social media space with a membership almost 5 times bigger than Twitter. Facebook has also gobbled up newer, high-growth brands, such as WhatsApp and Instagram.

Facebook’s data is getting better and better

Facebook has a huge advantage over Google because it is able to learn about its users through the profiles they create, the content they share and the people they connect with.

Content creation, promotion and engagement within the Facebook environment is often behind a log-in, meaning Google and other search engines can’t get at it.

Facebook is therefore is an excellent position to develop increasingly sophisticated and profitable advertising products. It also has a great pitch to offer the best content creators, many of which are still searching for a sustainable revenue model.

The New York Times, for example, is the world’s most popular online news site and one of the most highly-regarded brands in publishing. Facebook may only have been around since 2004, but the company dwarfs The New York Times in terms of audience and revenue.