How FEE.org Implemented Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook’s Instant Articles are a new way to create fast-loading articles within the Facebook app. We wanted it for FEE’s page because we wanted the boost in performance as well as engagement.

FEE.org runs the Umbraco CMS, and there was no Instant Articles plugin, so I wrote one and shared the code on GitHub. The plugin supports two methods of publishing content:

  1. The latest content is shared via an RSS feed that Facebook checks every few minutes: https://fee.org/instantfeed/
  2. Whenever content is published, the article is pushed to the Facebook Instant Article API.

For both methods, the body of the article is formatted using the special Instant Articles Format. One tricky aspect of publishing instant articles is that they require strict HTML5 syntax, which means no inline images or embeds. They also don’t use our sites stylesheet, so proprietary styles have to be replaced with native HTML5 tags. To render these elements, I use regular expressions and the Html Agility Pack to reformat the HTML.

If you want to adapt my code, you will need to update it to refer the relevant Umbraco properties, add the page id and correct access token to web.config, and update the analytics section in the html template.

Tracking the value of Instant Articles may be tricky. We do identify Instant Articles as a distinct source for Google Analytics, so we can measure their traffic, but it is difficult to isolate their impact, and will take some time for meaningful data to emerge. Facebook provides view counts for individual articles, but not aggregate Instant Articles statistics.

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Free the People publishes opinion-based articles from contributing writers. The opinions and ideas expressed do not always reflect the opinions and ideas that Free the People endorses. We believe in free speech, and in providing a platform for open dialog. Feel free to leave a comment!

David Veksler

Bitcoin advocate. Cypherpunk. Liberty maximalist. Enemy of fiat money, fiat food, fiat education. Founder of The Bitcoin Consultancy, Vellum Capital

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