Facebook: Instant Articles Underreported, Again

Critics are after Facebook for admitting to yet another a traffic calculation error. It’s the fourth time in the past three months.

In its Metrics FYI blog post updated on Dec. 16the social media giant said there was a discrepancy in how the platform measured traffic from news outlets and other publishers who use Instant Articles, which it launched last year.

The Instant Articles software allows the outlets to post its content directly and almost instantaneously to Facebook. According to the updated post, Instant Articles was undercounting traffic from iPhone users for the more than two months (Sept. 20 and Nov. 30). As for how much Facebook was undercounting, the Wall Street Journal reported it was by as much as 20 percent.

Facebook top executives have also acknowledged the blunder. Carolyn Everson, who oversees Facebook’s ads, said, “We did have an error. It was one of 14 [metrics] in our dashboard. We noticed it about a month ago, and we immediately notified clients and agencies and corrected the error. Thankfully, it did not have anything to do with advertising ROI [return on investment] or billing.”

ComScore gets the credit for reporting the issue, and Facebook did indeed note in the post that the organization was the one who notified them.

The reason this fourth blunder is especially embarrassing and concerning is because of Facebook’s recent aggressive efforts to attract media outlets to the platform specifically to use Instant Articles. The software is, as mentioned, almost instantaneous, while other websites can take close to two to four seconds. It gives publishers the option to sell its own ads and keep all the proceeds or have Facebook sell the ad slots for them but relinquish 30 percent of the revenue.

But for many outlets, those seconds can matter. The Atlantic had been hesitant getting in on Instant Articles, nervous that Facebook could change the original terms in the future. Other executives at a variety of outlets have called Instant Articles too big to ignore for a variety of reasons and technology advances. BuzzFeed, for example, says that Instant Articles pulls in 15 percent of its total audience from the software, but the majority is driven by other platforms like YouTube and Snapchat.


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