News

POV: Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages

Mindshare Point of View

Background
Google is developing a new project known as ‘Accelerated Mobile Pages’ (AMP) designed to enable news articles to open significantly faster on smartphone and tablet browsers. The project is in its early stages, but has a rumored introduction date of early 2016.

Details and Implications
The slow loading time of mobile pages has become an industry wide problem with many blaming ads for the delay and resorting to ad-blockers in response. Google has stated on the site devoted to the mobile acceleration project: "A goal of the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project is to ensure effective ad monetization on the mobile web while embracing a user-centric approach".

So it could be seen as Google’s response to Facebook’s Instant Articles and Apple News as well as an attempt to counter ad-blocking. It launches with many prominent global publishers already involved including: The New York Times, Conde Nast, The BBC, and The Daily Mail to name but a few. It is clear that Google is keen to work with publishers and advertisers in order to achieve the best possible results from this project, but there will be no commercial relationships between Google and the publishers (at least initially).

The impact on advertisers is unclear at present. Google has stressed that publishers using AMP will not be restricted in how they sell advertising, meaning that they will be free to use ad technologies provided by third-party companies. Google’s only stipulation is that the ads do not detract from the user experience, with Google planning to influence publishers to make this their priority.

Whether or not this update is Google’s attempt to combat ad-blocking is debatable. It could be argued that increasing the speed of the download will inadvertently deter users from installing ad-blockers in a bid to speed up the process. However, it also seems coincidental when you consider that presently Google is the default search engine for Apple’s browser Safari, that this project has come a month after Apple’ announcement that it is giving users the option to block ads on iPhones and iPads as part of the new iOS9 operating system upgrade.

Summary/ POV
With Facebook and Apple both competing to keep users consuming news on their own sites rather than rather than via search engines, this is possibly not a surprising move by Google. For advertisers any development which improves the mobile experience should be a welcome addition, especially if it serves as a way to combat the imminent increase in ad-blocking. It should also be noted that there is no concrete strategy at present regarding how publishers would charge users to access their content.