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Amping the Mobile Experience

You want to read the news on the go. So, you launch Safari on your phone and wait. And wait. And wait. And then you get distracted by Facebook and iMessage, never find out what happened at last night’s debate, and eventually bomb at trivia night.

The unfortunate reality we all know is that the mobile web experience can be a poor one. The problem, most often, is that mobile pages are bogged down with bad caching and pre-loading all images — not to mention all the advertising to load.

Last year, The New York Times measured the load times on the top 50 news sites and found that over 50% of the data came from advertising content as opposed to editorial. “Not all of the news websites were equal,” they concluded. Considering many readers will abandon a website if the content doesn’t load within three seconds, we’re inclined to agree.

Introducing AMP

This isn’t an unfamiliar problem, and Google was more than aware of it, so they set out to right this wrong. Last year, they introduced the Accelerate Mobile Pages project (endearingly nicknamed AMP), an open-source initiative with the goal of allowing u publishers to create optimized content for mobile.

Think of AMP as a stripped-down version of HTML, designed to make pages super lightweight for maximum speed. It uses streamlined CSS, with no custom JavaScript support — instead you have built-in libraries for common activities, such as lazy loading.

Pages built with AMP can load four times faster and use 10 times less data than a comparable non-AMP page. This is great news not just for readers, but for publishers, who will lose fewer visitors to load fatigue. (And have we mentioned yet that SimpleReach supports AMP traffic within our platform?)

Building your AMP pages

You can build your AMP pages to live within your own ecosystem. Major CMSs, including WordPress and Drupal, have plug-ins for AMP, and Chrome has a built-in tool to validate your AMP compliance. To make the AMP experience even speedier, Google will host publishers’  AMP pages so that they’re cached — for free!

Google has also announced that AMP pages will get prioritized within search results in the form of a carousel, and may get a “Fast” moniker of sorts so that readers will see which results will deliver their content with the quickness. As such, building your AMP pages to spec is important to get these perks.

Monetizing with AMP

Since AMP is an open-source initiative, the publisher will keep all the revenue it generates. But how will publishers monetize with AMP? Sure, they can still use all the display ads and recommendation widgets they want, but these may have a counter effect: Inserting advertising scripts on an AMP page that  will just slow it right back down. The thought is that eventually these non-standard providers who have script on page will continue to further refine and accelerate their code for AMP. Saying that you support AMP while also bogging down your pages with advertising scripts won’t get your pages validated to be prioritized in search.

But here’s a solution: sponsored content and native ads. Since a direct-sold native piece of content pulls from a publisher’s CMS, it, too, can be accelerated for AMP. The true litmus test will be the data for an AMP sponsored article with a call-to-action linking to a non-AMP page (such as the sponsor’s site) that is not AMP. Metrics like time spent on-page and bounce rate will be valuable and may make the case that the sponsor should do more work within the publisher’s site to keep a reader further engaged.

Google is not alone

What makes AMP extra-special is that it’s open-source, so it’s available for everyone on the mobile web. But there are similar initiatives on the mobile app front:

  • Facebook Instant Articles officially opens to all publishers in April 2016. If you haven’t heard, they already have a base of 1.5 billion users. With Instant Articles, Facebook will allow, for the first time, third-party reporting tools like comScore to measure activity and attribute it back to the publisher.
  • Apple News was off to a great start with 40 million users in the first three months, but they have been plagued with inaccurate reporting (and a closed API for analytics). They recently opened up their platform to all publishers, have a monetization strategy, and made their iAds platform free for any publishers that wants to create their own rich media ads.
  • Twitter Moments launched in October 2015 and combines tweets, photos, and video to tell a story about a single topic. They are assembled and curated by Twitter editorial staff, working directly with launch partners like CNN and Mashable. Unlike most of the other players, Twitter offers this experience for both mobile and desktop. Overachievers.
  • Snapchat Discover is actively used by 60% of their users. What makes this all the more impressive is Snapchat is only two years old and mobile-only.

This will only increase as social channels continue to sell their own sponsored content programs. WeChat, a social messaging app used predominantly in China and on its way to North America, is a great example of this. An average user (out of its 570 million) reads 7 articles on WeChat a day (the equivalent of one novel a month).

Why is this all important to publishers? Since readers are consuming content within the apps they’re already in, companies like WeChat, Facebook, and Snapchat understand the value they bring to sponsors: they offer engaged audiences  who want an accelerated mobile experience. This is why publishers are creating their own channels within these apps and creating inclusive sponsored content experiences. Otherwise, sponsors will start to bypass the publisher and go directly to these social sites.

Support with SimpleReach

At SimpleReach, we know the importance of helping publishers understand their traffic and continually improve the mobile experience for their readers. We’ve teamed up with Google as an early adopter of AMP so publishers have access to their data within our platform. We’re fully prepped and totally amped (sorry, it had to happen) to see how publishers embrace AMP.

If you’re already a SimpleReach customer, check out our Google AMP implementation. If you’re not with SimpleReach, what are you waiting for? Let us give you a demo of our platform so you can learn more.

 

About Tony

Tony looks after marketing at SimpleReach.

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