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Facebook speeds up news reading with Instant Articles

Facebook has begun rolling out a new feature called Instant Articles that promises to change the way you read news on your phone.

Many people consume their news through links on Facebook, but those linked stories take on average eight seconds to load up. On mobile, that’s an age – apparently if you have a few stories lined up.

At a very base level, Instant Articles lets you view linked stories instantly on Facebook. Tap on the thumbnail and the whole story will just be there: text, images, even videos all ready and formatted for mobile.

Of course, in order to achieve this, the news publisher itself has to cooperate with Facebook by building its news stories appropriately. Part of the Instant Articles reveal sees Facebook providing the tools for publishers to do just that.

These tools introduce a suite of interactive features for publishers to implements, such as the ability to zoom into and navigate high resolution images by tilting your phone.

Videos, meanwhile, can be made to autoplay when you scroll to them. Maps can be interacted with, little audio snippets can play at the appropriate point. You can even comment on individual parts of the story without having to navigate to the full website.

That’s the front-end stuff. Perhaps more appealing to publishers will be the back-end arrangements Facebook has made with Instant Articles.

Publishers can feature ads in these formatted articles without having to share the revenue with Facebook. Meanwhile if they don’t have an ad for a section, they can make use of Facebook’s own Audience Network. They will also have the ability to track traffic and other data through analytic tools.

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At launch, Facebook has a number of top publishers on board to support Instant Articles. These include The New York Times, National Geographic, BuzzFeed, NBC, The Atlantic, The Guardian, BBC News, and Spiegel and Bild.

Expect to see more following, and for the general news-reading experience on Facebook to become much less of a chore.