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Guardian pulls out of Facebook Instant Articles over ‘woeful’ return as UK ad revenue for US giant booms

By Dominic Ponsford

The Guardian has stopped publishing content directly into Facebook via its “Instant Articles” project after chief executive David Pemsel revealed earlier this month that the financial returns were “woeful”.

The service was launched just over a year ago and saw publishers post their work directly into Facebook in return for a share of advertising revenue.

The benefit is that content loads far more quickly than when readers click through to external links. But the scheme means readers stay within Facebook.

The Guardian has taken the view that it can make more money by serving ads to readers on its own site, where it can also promote its membership scheme.

Guardian News and Media has also pulled out of Apple News, a similar project where publishers repackaged content for users of Apple devices.

A Guardian News and Media spokeperson said: “We have run extensive trials on Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News to assess how they fit with our editorial and commercial objectives.

“Having evaluated these trials, we have decided to stop publishing in those formats on both platforms.

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“Our primary objective is to bring audiences to the trusted environment of the Guardian to support building deeper relationships with our readers, and growing membership and contributions to fund our world-class journalism.”​

Most UK news publishers have embraced Facebook in recent years as a way of increasing their readership.

But that latest figures suggest that while online advertising is booming, nearly all the growth is going to Google and Facebook.

According to figures produced by the Online Advertising Bureau, digital advertising spend in the UK grew 17.3 per cent to £10.3bn in 2016.

Press Gazette estimates that more than £5bn of that money went to Google and Facebook versus £230m for national newsbrands.

Press Gazette’s analysis suggests traffic to local newspaper websites grew 40 per cent last year, but digital advertising revenue fell 3.4 per cent to £193m.

Press Gazette’s Duopoly campaign seeks to achieve a fairer share of online advertising revenue for news publishers.

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