Facebook adds new features to Instant Articles to encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes

Facebook today rolled out an improvement to its Instant Articles feature that now lets publishers include call-to-action units in their articles to better connect with readers, including those that encourage email sign-ups and Page Likes. The company also announced it’s testing two more units for publishers interested in offering free trials of their digital subscriptions and another aimed at promoting the installation of the publisher’s mobile app.

The changes are meant to make Instant Articles more appealing to publishers who want to take advantage of the power of Facebook’s distribution of their content, but who are also concerned how the platform has limited their ability to display the business-critical units they traditionally placed on their websites – like those that tout subscribers or increase reader loyalty, for example.

These features also come shortly after another recent improvement to Instant Articles last month, which allowed publishers to place more ads within each article than before.

The email call-to-action unit lets readers share their email address directly with the publisher on Facebook, in order to receive the email newsletters or other email updates the publisher may offer. Facebook’s advantage here is that it already has users’ email addresses on file, so it can make this sign-up process quicker. Instead of having to type in their email address manually, users can agree to share it with a click, the social network explains.

The unit can also be customized with text and other design options to match the publisher’s branding.

Some publishers have already been testing this unit, including Slate and The Huffington Post. The former noted the unit accounted for 41 percent of email sign-ups over a two-month period. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post said that the unit generated 29 percent of its Morning Email sign-ups over a three-month period, and these subscribers were just as likely to stick around as those it acquired via the web.

The Page Like call-to-action simply places a Like button unit in the article that also shows how many of the reader’s friends already like the Page in question.

Facebook says it’s currently testing the other units – free trials and mobile app installs – with a small group of publishers and partners. App install call-to-action units are very new, having entered into alpha testing as of this week.

The features came about following Facebook’s increased efforts to work more closely with its publisher partners through its Journalism Project. The project has promised a number of other features as well, like the story packages that bundle multiple articles together; journalism courses that teach reporters how to use Facebook tools like Facebook Live; investments in local news; plus PSAs to promote news literacy and features aimed at fighting fake news; among other things.

The fake news issue was also addressed this week – with a new link at the top of the News Feed offering 10 tips on how to spot fake news.