Facebook said on Wednesday that its Instant Articles feature is now available to all Android users, and that more than 350 publishers around the world are now using it. The feature involves Facebook hosting news articles for publishers so that they display better and load more quickly on mobile devices.
Facebook (FB) has been working on the Instant Articles roll-out for most of this year. After a series of small demos, it announced in October that the feature was available for all iPhone users. At that point, most of the partners were U.S. newspapers and magazines (including Time Inc., which owns Fortune magazine).
Now, the company says it has over 350 newspapers, magazines and websites that are publishing their content directly to Facebook through Instant Articles. The list includes several publishers in China, Australia, more than a dozen each in India, France, and Germany, as well as multiple partners in Spain, the United Kingdom (including the Daily Mail and the Economist) and several countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Facebook says that more than 100 publishers are distributing their news through Instant Articles daily. At least one of those publishing partners—namely, the Washington Post—has taken an all-in approach and is distributing 100% of its news output through Facebook.
The benefit of the Instant Articles program is that the articles load more quickly than do traditional links from most news sites, and that means they also get clicked on more often and shared more often. Facebook hasn’t said whether this will influence how they are displayed in its news feed, but it’s not hard to imagine that it will have an effect.
Although it may not be directly related, the Washington Post has seen a fairly dramatic upturn in social traffic since it joined the program, to the point where it recently passed the New York Times in terms of unique visitors per month.
Some media companies are concerned that handing over so much control to Facebook will only increase its power over their audiences. Google (GOOG) recently launched an attempt to provide an open-source version of Instant Articles, with a project it calls Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP. Using freely available code, publishers can make their sites and articles load faster without having to hand control over to a third party.