First Facebook launched Instant Articles, then Apple launched Apple News. Now Google is the latest to get in on the news business, and it’s doing so in a very Google-y way.
Google (GOOG) today revealed AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages project, at a press event in New York. The project is open-sourced and available to any publisher through a Github repository of code. Publishers that use Google’s content units will benefit from faster load time of their mobile Web pages and therefore more prominent display in Google’s search engine results.
This program is open to anyone who wants to participate, said Richard Gingras, Google’s head of news. “One key objective was a deal-less environment,” he said. “That’s how the web works.” Later he added, “There are no business relationships behind the search results.”
That’s in contrast to Apple and Facebook’s news programs, which launched with a select group of limited partners. Google also said that while it is starting with news publishers, the program is open for any content publisher or media company to support.
Despite the “deal-less” nature of the program, representatives from select publishers attended the news event to tout their involvement. “The Web is sort of the Wild West, or as my colleague says, the ‘worldwide wait,’” said Cory Haik, executive director of the Washington Post. She noted that “it’s hard, it’s complicated,” for publishers to create fast-loading web pages for the mobile Web.
Michael Drucker, a product manager at Twitter, said he’s found that users consume more content from Twitter when pages load faster. “It leads to more engagement in the article,” he said.
“We used to talk about ‘digital-first’ or ‘mobile-first.’ I think that is the past,” said Mario Calabresi, editor in chief of Italian newspaper La Stampa. “Today digital media needs to take their journalists beyond the website, to the platforms where [readers] are.”
The program is not yet live on Google’s search engine, except through links created by its early publisher partners. Websites can be made “AMP-compliant,” by including a piece of code from Google’s Github repository on their websites. Publishing software company WordPress is working on a plug-in that will allow its publishers to make their pages “AMP-compliant” automatically.
Another key difference between Google’s and Apple’s businesses, which affect their approach to news: Google’s main source of income is advertising. That means its pages will be ad-friendly. (Apple has been less friendly to the advertising world, with its recent decision to allow ad blocking apps on its operating system.)
“Ads are an important part of the ecosystem,” said Dave Besbris, VP of engineering at Google. “Ads fund content. It’s really important that ads work very well in this model as well.” Regarding ad blockers, Besbris acknowledged that some ads are invasive, especially on mobile, and that the AMP format will ensure that ads are delivered “in a way that enhances the page.”
Gingras demurred on a question about Facebook’s Instant articles. Google is focused on the web and making sure the platform evolves, he said. “That’s the entire focus of this effort.”