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Google takes on Apple News, Facebook Instant Articles with AMP

Matt Kapko | Oct. 15, 2015
Google wants to play a more significant role in the development and delivery of news on mobile devices, and its new open source AMP initiative already has an impressive list of supporters. But will it be enough to compete with Apple and Facebook?

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A battle is brewing over the future of news and media on mobile devices. During the last five months, the makers of the world's two most popular mobile platforms and the leading social media company released new services that let publishers deliver curated and packaged content tailored for mobile screens.

Facebook's Instant Articles, Apple News and the Google-led Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project are facing off, with varying objectives. Google, a company that's disrupted the news business for more than a decade, is leading the new open-source effort that will speed up mobile Web page load times by up to 85 percent, according to the company's early tests. 

More than 30 publishers and technology companies, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, already expressed support for AMP. These companies want to reign in the scattered and superfluous nature of news articles, blogs and other content on mobile devices.

AMP a proactive response to ad blockers?

Google and its AMP partners want to circumvent the growing consumer interest in ad blockers by eliminating, or at least reducing, the problem that drives people to block advertisements — slow page load times, which can be particularly painful on mobile. 

"Consumption of news articles, and similar relatively static content, is often painfully slow, with pages taking a long time to load," writes AMP project tech lead Malte Ubl. "Even after text becomes visible, pages continue to build up over many seconds, as ads and images come into display. The result is an often jarring experience of janky scrolling and users needlessly losing their reading position."

Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News depend on partnerships with publishers, but AMP is different because it is entirely open source and does not have any special relationships or revenue-sharing deals for ad dollars. Google says publishers that use AMP will be able to fill their own ad inventories using their own preferred tools, including third-party ad networks or other automated technologies that are supported by the AMP initiative. Facebook and Apple similarly let publishers sell their own ads and keep all the revenue, but AMP could end up being more restrictive of third-party ad networks.

Facebook, Apple and AMP aim to drive more primary traffic for publishers by improving the user experience and provide a foundation for creators to build and deliver their content, according to Forrester analyst Michael Facemire. "Everybody's trying to pine for that, 'We are the place that you should come to create your content because we can drive eyes towards you, eyes that are focused and monetized,'" he says.


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