A fast-loading, high-quality Web site is at the core of the optimal mobile user experience. So Google, Facebook, and Apple are creating products that specifically address this need and work with your content. Here are the takeaways for your media company.
Google, Facebook, and Apple are not happy with your mobile Web site. It’s too slow. It doesn’t look very good. And it’s costing them – and you – users and money.
They are betting their ecosystems offer a better fix than our own. And they don’t want to wait for the media and advertising industries to correct things themselves.
Facebook is making moves to address mobile performance – though mostly in their favour – with Instant Articles. Instant Articles launched publicly in late October after a short trial with The Atlantic, The New York Times, and others. It “displays stories as much as 10 times faster than conventional mobile browsers, while also providing the kind of fluid, high-quality experience, and interactivity people expect,” says Facebook.
Also, Facebook can sell ads into them (at a 30% cut) if the publisher agrees. Importantly, this content lives only in Facebook.
Instant articles do provide a superior experience for Facebook app users – and for Facebook. It’s less clear how much the publishers will benefit, even with a 70% share of ad revenue.
As Matthew Ingram notes in Fortune, “ … Facebook doesn’t really care about the revenue from ads around news content (although I expect most partners will take the 70% deal, if not now then later, because Facebook is better at selling ads). What Facebook wants is to deepen and strengthen its hold on users.”
It’s a work in progress, but the search giant is soliciting industry feedback and participation with its development.
Google has been making waves by banging the Web performance drum for some time. As with Facebook, the efforts are about improving the environment for Google’s own core businesses, as much of its other efforts have been – like Google Fiber and the mobile friendly algorithm.
“Mobilegeddon” this past spring sent publisher scrambling to align with the release of Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm, which uses more than 200 factors to determine if a site is mobile-friendly and impacts placement on search results.
Targeted as a factor are prestitials that cover sites Web pages with notices to download the native app (but not general advertisements). Any site displaying one is not mobile-friendly.
Facebook, Google, and Apple spin their moves as being about good user experience and more capable monetisation. “Every time a Web page takes too long to load, they lose a reader – and the opportunity to earn revenue through advertising or subscriptions,” says Google’s Webmaster Blog.
Google, Facebook, and Apple can certainly fix things for us by moving us in with them. Unfortunately, their long-term goals aren’t our long-term goals.
But they are right.
Whether or not you decide to partner in Instant Articles and/or adopt AMP, you must improve your own performance. Many sites, like The Washington Post have realized the consequences of overloaded third-party and advertising network tags, and bloated templates dragging down load times and harming ad views.
The news media company cleaned up its code and streamlined the site by “ … looking at every element on its pages, eliminating redundancies and ditching features that readers didn’t use, such as some of its re-circulation widgets,” reports Digiday. This reduced its perceived load time by 85%.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau also has recognized the digital advertising industry’s responsibility to improve performance and win back consumer trust (as most publishers have no control over how fast or well third-party advertising performs).
The IAB just launched its LEAN ads programme, stating: “We messed up. As technologists tasked with delivering content and services to users, we lost track of the user experience.”
Facebook, Google, and Apple may not share our objectives or our best interests – but they do share the same experiential requirements for customers and their needs: The right information in the right context at the right time.
We can learn a lot by what they ask of their partners and what they do for their customers to meet those requirements – and applying it to our businesses. Recognizing the necessity of performance is one we should take to heart.