Ten times faster loading speeds: Facebook rolls out Instant Articles in Hong Kong to keep readers glued to its mobile app

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 05 December, 2015, 8:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 December, 2015, 8:01am

Facebook users in Hong Kong can now read news articles that are directly hosted by the social media site’s mobile app for iPhones after the company rolled out its Instant Articles feature across Asia last week.

This means articles issued by Facebook’s media partners will now launch 10 times faster on the app, which should appeal to users frustrated by the average loading time of eight seconds when using a mobile browser.

Users can also zoom in on photos, while publishers can include features such as interactive maps and audio captions.

In Hong Kong, content from the Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily News is currently available in the new format.

Content from other publishers such as the South China Morning Post, Apple Daily and Oriental Daily News will begin publishing soon, Facebook said.

The move on Thursday comes as Facebook hopes to entice users to spend more time on its app and, hopefully, click on more of its mobile ads. By reducing the loading time of stories, it is betting that fewer users will get bored and head elsewhere.

Mobile ads on Facebook’s News Feed are the company’s main source of revenue. Advertising accounts for 95 per cent of the company’s income.

Various features in the Facebook app, such as video auto-play in News Feed and a display of trending topics, are designed to keep users glued.

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The choice to roll out Instant Articles in Hong Kong comes as little surprise, especially as people in the city are spending more and more time on their phones.

A recent study by research firm TNS showed that smartphone users aged between 16 and 30 in Hong Kong spend 2.8 hours a day on mobile devices.

Facebook has also partnered with over 20 media publishers in 11 other countries to roll out Instant Articles, including South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia and China.

Although Facebook is blocked on the Chinese mainland, state-owned broadcaster CCTV News ranks as a media partner of Instant Articles as it seeks to establish itself as a primary source of news with a Chinese perspective for overseas readers.

It has also launched an advertising campaign on Instagram, Facebook’s photo and video-sharing subsidiary. The broadcaster ran 15-second video clips to promote itself to international audiences.