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The evolution of Google AMP. What happens next?

After yesterday’s excellent discussion about Facebook’s Instant Articles, today’s conversation at FIPP London turned to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Luca Forlin, of Google, began with a demonstration of the AMP carousel, using his phone. “Slowly but surely, you’ll see AMP extend more - we want it to be the foundation of mobile experiences,” he said. “Mobile” means every device up to seven inches.

Forlin outlined how Google had wanted to involve publishers from the beginning, explaining that the main thing publishers wanted from Google was help in “figuring out mobile”. As you can see from AMP, he added, distribution and speed are paramount, and to this end Google has invested in speed. The instant speed we see today wasn’t always there - now, by the second letter of your Google search, you're seeing recommendations. 

And it’s paying off: Forlin reported that users love AMP, and Google is pleased to be creating more engagement and happier readers.

Next, Nick Flood of Dennis explained how they decided to start using AMP. “If your pages aren’t AMP compatible, you’re going to lose viewers,” he said, highlighting that for a current affairs brand like The Week, it’s vital to appear in the top news searches. Dennis has seen great results with AMP so far: while they haven’t been able to run direct-sold ads yet, AMP pages make up two-to-three per cent of Dennis’ total traffic, with expectations that this will grow.

Flood agreed with Forlin that the instantaneousness of AMP is what makes it so appealing from a publisher’s perspective. The AMP carousel works by appearing only if there’s a surge in searches for a particular subject, eg. Donald Trump, Prince’s death, oil prices, so Dennis’ primary aim is to get people from AMP to our main sites during times of mass searching. They do this by providing links in the body of the text, calls to action, etc., and hope that a year down the line, Google will be making onward referrals to publishers’ own sites easier.

Main discussion

CM: Is it possible to distribute AMP on other social platforms?

LF: AMP is an open-source platform, of which there are two sides: the development side, and the distribution side. This allows any third-party platform to serve and use AMP pages. Even on Facebook, which has its own Instant Articles (IA), you can post an AMP link and it will work. AMP are still standard HTML web pages - they’re just designed to be served in a way that’s very quick.

AMP is essentially a publishers’ page - we’re not religious about keeping people on AMP. We get viewers on there, and what happens next is up to the publisher.

NF: It’s still early days - we’re less than three months into our AMP trial, and in the next six we’ll take decisions about how best to move forward. We really hope the results will continue to iterate; we’re particularly pleased with the way third parties have taken to it, e.g. Taboola. I really like the open-source aspect of AMP.

I can foresee that ecommerce will be big for AMP as well - imagine if you could get straight to the landing page of Amazon, for example, via an article you read on AMP.

CM: Can you see an application for niche content as opposed to just news on AMP?

NF: We have a lot of longform content (e.g. automotive  - up to 8,000 word features), so I can see us making this kind of content available to AMP soon. The approach would be to attract users in via news, then link them to this longform content.

LF: There is a lot of interest in AMP from non-news publishers too. It’s an open-source initiative that allows everyone to contribute modules, and so a lot comes from third parties and publishers. Tweet embeds, for instance, are still not part of AMP, but these features are in development, they are coming. The reason news publishers have been the first to jump in is because we have the limited news carousel, but imagine when AMP support moves beyond this: the goal is for AMP to cover any kind of mobile page - ecommerce, recipes etc.

NF: Facebook, AMP, Apple News - they’re all vying for users’ attention. It’s definitely the right decision for us to be involved with Google though. 

[Audience question: how does Google make money from AMP?]

LF: Really, AMP has been about publishers so far - sometimes we’re seeing significantly higher click-through rates for publishers. It’s great for publishers, it’s great for users.

[Audience question: can AMP and IA exist at the same time?]

NF: Yes they can - it’s just a case of how you publish your content. We do worry sometimes that IA is an extra thing to worry about! But I firmly believe that people want to experience content in the best-possible, most convenient way, and this fits in with AMP and IA.

[Audience question: is AMP going to be available in more countries soon?]

LF: Today AMP is available in 12 countries. We want to make it available globally. 

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