Google and Twitter’s new move could be very interesting for publishers

The move is apparently part of the new strategy of the company’s returning CEO, and co-founder Jack Dorsey. He certainly would leave his mark if he does ditch the company’s signature feature.

It has however become pretty clear that Dorsey isn’t thinking of doing anything of the sort. Twitter faces a major issue in that it was forced to lower its revenue projections for 2015 back in April, and this is something Dorsey is keen to address. His response may be to lift the 140 characters limit, but only for power users who could attract additional advertising revenue, and by that we mean the media. 

Google’s AMP project

What could well be the catalyst that enables Twitter to make this move is Google’s latest tweak – Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Announced on Wednesday AMP is a way that enables publishers to deliver their stories to mobile devices in a quick, almost immediate way.

Essentially it strips out a lot of the code that Google sees as extraneous to mobile devices and delivers a light version of the publisher’s pages which is easily accessed from within the search page.

So, for example, if a person looks for a topic, they will instantly be able to see at the top of the search on mobile a series of options from publishers which, if users click on them, load instantaneously. There’s a demo of the feature here.

Google is rolling AMP out for search queries now and Google News will follow soon afterwards. For publishers though, for whom Twitter is a key source especially of news based traffic, the best part is that the microblogging network is going to embed AMP on its Android and iPhone apps. How the pages render and how the ads appear remains to be seen. From Twitter’s perspective it is clearly a way of increasing traffic to manestream news outlets, while at the same time potentially enabling the company to grab a slice of their ad money.

One of the main reasons for Google’s move is that AMP is a potential antidote to ad blocking software, which has become so talked about/so prevalent (depending on who you believe) over the summer. One of the main reasons why ad blocking has gained a degree of traction is that once a page has been stripped of the ads it loads very quickly. In theory AMP addresses this, and publishers obviously hope that readers feel more ambivalent about the ads that they are being served if they display quickly.

Incidentally WordPress has already made a plugin for AMP so anyone can create compatible pages via that content management system. There is a trade off though in that two versions of the content have to be created. How AMP will work on bespoke content management systems remains to be seen. LinkedIn has also said it will adopt AMP for its apps.

Third party platforms

Whether to publish content on third party platforms or not, has been a major dilemma for media brands for some time. Should they opt for reach and post on a video on YouTube? Or just publish it on their own web property and take the higher advertising CPMs they are likely to attract?

Over the past few months, largely driven by social media networks need to present content in intuitive ways on mobile devices, we have seen Facebook add its Instant Articles and Snapchat’s Discover programme. Both enable media companies to post directly onto the social networks with the promise of a slice of the advertising action in return.

Ultimately what publishers lose from this arrangement is the possibility that they might get further clicks as users explore their site (which is still arguably the case with AMP as it is easier for readers to return to the search page or the app, then move within the parent site), as well as potential brand loyalty. 

Publishers also cede a significant degree of control to the tech companies too, and even though Google and Facebook are adamant that they will share data, there are those within the media industry who feel queasy about the terms they are being offered. 

Whatever happens, the next few weeks are going to be fascinating for publishers who rely on Twitter for a significant amount of their traffic.

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