By Beth Loyd and Jason White, News Partnerships

Across the country, local news publishers and broadcasters are finding that the quick load times and immersive storytelling features of Instant Articles help readers engage with their content more than ever before. Whether it’s two-year old digital upstart Billy Penn, TEGNA Media, which owns and services 46 television stations nationwide, or Gray Television, a company that started as an Albany newspaper in 1897, local publishers believe regional content is uniquely suited for Facebook. And after several months of publishing near all their articles in this new, immersive format, they believe Instant Articles is an incredible way to deliver that content to readers.

Discover how several local news publishers are using Instant Articles to change the way they publish and monetize stories.

Publishing Made Easy

For many local publishers, delivering a quality multi-platform storytelling experience can be challenging at times. But the simple setup and publishing options of Instant Articles make it easy for small newsrooms looking to publish quickly without changing workflow.

  • For Gray Television, a company that owns and operates local television stations in more than 50 markets, its primary goal was to give readers a better reading experience without having to change how reporters do their job. After getting all of their stations set up in less than two months with Instant Articles, the digital team reduced any extra workflow to a single checkbox within their existing CMS. As a result, Gray’s reporters, editors and producers can more easily focus on delivering relevant content to their communities. Then, once they’re ready to publish, they simply check a box to give readers this brand new reading experience.

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Lifting Local News

When a great article starts to take off on Facebook, the speed and native engagement options of Instant Articles has the ability to amplify the story’s reach. Some local publishers use Instant Articles for that added lift, while others use it in conjunction with other Facebook tools to increase overall engagement.

  • Two year-old Philadelphia news site Billy Penn started publishing 100% of its eligible articles as Instant Articles in March 2016. This led to its highest traffic months ever, with Instant Articles as its biggest referrer. Traffic spiked 610% between February and August and the site doubled its number of returning visitors. One article in particular, “Meet The Philly Genius Who Turned a Dumpster Into a Pool,” was shared on Facebook by everyone from People magazine to the Daily Mail and even the Weather Channel. “People with shared local connections talk to each other through Facebook. News Feed is the ultimate way for our content to get discovered and Instant Articles is the best way for our stories to get shared,” says Chris Krewson, editor of Billy Penn.
  • TEGNA Media has a history of maximizing engagement on Facebook. TEGNA’s 9News in Denver, Colorado had the top performing local news video post of 2015 with 170 million views, and KVUE in Austin, Texas has the top video so far among local broadcasts in 2016 with over 67M video views. TEGNA added Instant Articles to its suite of tools and has started publishing nearly all its content on the platform. The company has seen engagement improve and is outpacing last year’s number of 22.7 million total likes, comments and shares across all stations — a total that, in 2015, was similar to that of The New York Times, Washington Post, and NBC.com.

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Monetizing Local Followings

Instant Articles help monetize the active and growing Facebook audiences local publishers have cultivated over the last several years. The immersive native experience drives more distribution than the mobile web, and the high-quality ad formats generate value for advertisers and revenue for publishers.

  • TEGNA stations used to rely on links to the mobile web to monetize audiences on Facebook. However, slow loading times on the mobile web led to a drop off in audience between Facebook and TEGNA websites. The company now uses Instant Articles to keep audiences engaged, and primarily monetizes through Audience Network. So far, the clickthrough rates on Audience Network have outperformed all other ad networks. “The ad experience is compelling for both audience and advertiser,” says Andy Schneider, its Chief Digital Officer. He notes the company is drawn to Audience Network because ads load nearly instantly and the design fits seamlessly within Instant Articles.
  • Within six months of launching Instant Articles, Gray Television has generated more than $250,000 in revenue entirely through Audience Network. They anticipate Instant Articles revenue to grow even more as the company begins rolling out local, direct sales initiatives.
  • Billy Penn has been successful selling Instant Articles inventory directly to local advertisers in the Philadelphia area. The publisher has seen clickthrough rates for direct-sold ads are four times higher on Instant Articles than the mobile web. Local advertisers have directly told the publisher that they prefer the format because the clean, focused design environment of Instant Articles reduces competition for a reader’s eye.

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