The concept received a big boost when Facebook announced a chatbot platform in its Messenger app last month, with launch partners that included CNN, The Wall Street Journal and Poncho, a new weather service.
But since then, the list of bots hasn’t expanded much beyond the handful of publishers and brands that were already available at launch.
Facebook also hasn’t done much to promote the chatbots beyond the initial announcement. They pop up for a portion of Messenger users who typically see them when they search for people and groups, but everyone else has to really dig to find them.
Resource is another issue. Building a basic bot doesn’t require an awful lot of effort on the developer’s part; some developers have managed to get a fairly simplistic chatbot up and running in less than 20 minutes.
But a rushed build can lead to a generic bot, and a bot’s search feature is only as good as the publisher’s data about its content, which can provide more personalised recommendations for users.
Founder of online community, Bustle, Bryan Goldberg said: “Bots sound like something fun with which to experiment – but will not immediately change our core focus.
“Video marketing is a massive initiative that is going to require more substantial resources and focus on the part of publishers, so chatbots will likely take a back seat for the time being.”
That said, some publishers see an advantage in being one of the first to move into the bot space. Many are trying hard to distribute their content, and bots are a good investment due to the fact that you can link back to your own site, unlike in closed systems such as Facebook Instant Articles.