With readership shifting majorly to a mobile-first platform, the likes of Google and Facebook are focusing on reducing page load times for news articles. Google had initially rolled out its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) services to its Search platform, and publications were free to adapt it to make their pages load instantly and give readers a seamless reading experience. Recently, Google integrated AMP to Google News too, making its mobile-first intent very clear.
Google’s AMP is a similar initiative as Facebook’s Instant Articles, wherein pages consume lesser data and load instantly. Publications will possibly look to integrate both into their stories; seeing that Facebook has now become an essential tool for publications to reach out to a massive reader base.
While adapting to Google’s AMP standards is easier as it has to be implemented from the publication’s end, Facebook’s Instant Articles on the other hand requires publications to be approved by Facebook itself, till now. While some have already adapted to both, others are yet to do so.
Nandagopal Rajan, Editor-New Media, The Indian Express, explained the goal behind adapting to both the standards, and how he hopes it will affect readership. He said, “Our goal is to be available for our readers on all platforms and hence we are using both platforms effectively. Google AMP and Facebook’s Instant Articles increase our reach by removing the hurdles faced by users in low-bandwidth situations. With both, pages open in an instant and there is no delay. Hence we are not losing readers who would have earlier been put off by the wait to open a link.”
Digit, meanwhile, has been one of the first publications to adapt to AMP, but yet to join Facebook for its Instant Articles services. Shauvik Kumar, General Manager of Digit Online, stated how AMP is yet to make a massive difference, although it possibly is the best way forward. He stated, “We haven't seen a huge increase or decrease in our reader base due to AMP pages. However, it's been some months only, and other factors may also matter. That said, from the point of view of a publisher, we believe AMP pages are the way to go for delivering content to readers who do not have uber fast Internet connections. Hence, our goal with AMP is to simply create a very seamless experience, while getting Google Search favor in the process.”
While this sounds good for publications, it also signals a deeper fight between Google and Facebook to get more readers on to their respective platforms, thereby earning higher revenues. Publications, though, are staying clear of such conflicts and making the most of either or both of these platforms.
In contrast to some other publications, ScoopWhoop has been using Facebook’s Instant Articles, but not Google AMP, as of now. Ashish Magotra, Editor-in-Chief, ScoopWhoop, stated, “If anything, this seems to help Facebook more than anyone else as all the stories (regardless of platform) seem to have a similar look and feel. But you still need people to click on the stories and for now, that remains the biggest challenge in the online world where you have so many options.”
The rise of instant-loading articles will be beneficial for millions of readers, as it would save page load times significantly. While most leading publications are joining the services, the likes of Facebook and Google are looking to earn more revenue and gain higher readership. It is an intricate battle of services, publications and readerships, where each side would have something significant to win.