For all the furore around news organisations putting their content directly onto Facebook prior to the launch of Instant Articles, since the pilot scheme began many media commentators have taken a positive, if muted, approach to the idea. As pointed out by Pew Research Centre that might be because it’s becoming increasingly clear that Facebook’s dominance of the mobile ad market is a strong lure to publishers looking to generate digital revenue.

Mobile ad revenue was 37 percent of all digital ad revenue in 2014, according to eMarketer data, and all indications are that the proportion of mobile ad revenue compared to the total is only going to grow over the next couple of years. Meanwhile, at Facebook, that proportion was closer to 73 percent. For publishers who’ve struggled to make any inroads into digital revenue and who are seeing more and more of their readers coming from mobile, that makes Instant Articles seem like a way to get ahead of the curve when it comes to digital.

But, as director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism Emily Bell makes clear in a write-up on Journalism.co.uk, the initial reasons for publishers’ reticence to publish directly to Facebook remain: “While Bell noted that the description of Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm is “relatively benign” – claiming to present posts to users depending on who posted it, what type of post it is and the number of interactions it received – details of how the algorithm actually works are not known.”


The crowded environment of technology reporting seems like a difficult market in which to launch, especially to the extent to which Dennis Publishing has set its targets. The publisher wants the new brand – a mix of tech reporting and explanatory pieces about how technology will benefit the reader – the be generating 2.5million monthly uniques by the end of the year. To put that in context, the already well-established TechCrunch (founded in 2005) pulls in 12million uniques.

Part of that ambition could be because Alphr reportedly doesn’t have a particularly niche audience in mind, but is seeking to attract both male and female readers regardless of their jobs. As The Drum puts it, the mission statement is “providing a provocative voice in the UK market covering all technologies that are changing people’s personal and business lifestyles”.

Presumably, then, the idea is to grow the digital pure-play to scale over the course of the year to make it attractive to advertisers. As deputy managing director of Dennis Technology Tim Danton explains: “”There could be cases where Dennis will help solve an advertiser brief, beyond offering standard advertising alone. So for example, if an advertiser has an app they want to push, we could potentially create ways in which users could skip a couple of steps in the process after they download it…the whole point is this site is about cutting edge technology and we want the advertising experiences to reflect that.”


The above articles are original TheMediaBriefing analysis, and initially published in our daily morning newsletter. 

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