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Facebook, Apple publishing platforms get more inclusive

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Facebook, Apple publishing platforms get more inclusive

Facebook Inc.and Apple Inc. are throwinga publishing party and now everyone is invited.

In 2015, both companies kicked off platforms — Facebook and Apple News —designed to entice publishers to upload content directly to the services insteadof redirecting to their respective websites.

Both platforms started with content from a group of high-profilepublishers, such as New York TimesCo., ESPN, CNN, National Geographicand The Washington Post. But in the lasttwo months, both have made moves to open their platforms to all publishers, regardlessof their size.

"Once you have a couple of major players telegraphing tothe world they're comfortable with this, then it makes sense for Facebook to saythis is an experiment where we feel consumers would want it," Gabriel Kahn,co-director of the Media and Economics Entrepreneurship program at the Universityof Southern California's journalism school, said in an interview.

Apple made its announcement March 15, less than seven monthsafter it launched Apple News, while Facebook said in February that it plans to officiallyopen Instant Articlesto all publishers April 12.

"[O]ur goal from the beginning was to open up Instant Articlesto all publishers and we're excited to be able to do that in a way that makes itfast and easy for all publishers to reach their audiences on Facebook," JoshRoberts, a product manager at Facebook, wrote ina Feb. 17 blog post.

When Facebook launched Instant Articles in May 2015, the companypointed to the current load times for articles and how it negatively affected theuser experience. Instant Articles was touted as a better way for publishers to createcontent that reached Facebook's global user base, which clocked in at more thana billion daily active users and 934 million daily active users on mobile.

"The Facebook trial was to get the big guys used to theprocess, get data on usage (especially who they were reaching) and inform decisionsabout how much content and what kind to offer," Rick Edmonds, a media businessanalyst at The Poynter Institute, said in an email interview.

Apple, meanwhile, is trying to raise the profile of Apple Newsafter it launched without much fanfare. Apple News is estimated to have recorded50 millionactive users as of March 2016. Part of the company's pushto remind people the feature actually exists involves billboards and digital ads.

Aside from just trying to increase exposure, Apple and Facebookalso have had to retool the platforms based on feedback from the first group ofpublishers.

With Facebook Instant Articles, publishers arguedthat the social media company's advertising policy was too strict to effectivelysell ads. The feedback prompted the company to loosen its policies around advertisingas well as adjust other aspects of the platform.  Facebook reportedly allows publishers to keep100% of the revenue from ads they sell and has a model that gives them 70% of adrevenue sold through the Facebook Audience Network.

The ad revenue models are similar between the two companies.Apple allows publishers to keep 100% of the advertising revenue they sell and 70%of the ad revenue Apple sells on their behalf.

Apple, however, reportedly has fieldedits own complaints with Apple News, such as frustrations related to a lack of integration and a demandfor more demographics data period. ComScore provides independent tracking of usagefor digital properties. 

Facebook and Apple are not the only Internet goliaths that areinterested in the space. AlphabetInc.'s Google has a similar feature available, dubbed the AcceleratedMobile Pages Project. The feature is an open source initiative that, unlike InstantArticles and News, has a built-in paywall feature.

At this point, it is not likely that publishers will pick justone to exclusively use because neither produces a steady stream of revenue yet,according to Kahn.

"Publishers are really going to have to get more comfortablewith a distributed publication strategy, and we're going to have to get a businessmodel that is going to make sense around that," Kahn said. "They're goingto have to have to live on multiple platforms."