How Google is taking on ad blocking with a new initiative to improve the speed of the mobile web
Google has teamed up with publishers to launch an ambitious project that aims to speed up loading times across the mobile web as it looks to battle the rise of ad blockers with a call for the advertising industry to set out new ad standards to improve the user experience.
The new project, called accelerated mobile pages or AMP, aims to improve the speed at which pages load on the mobile web when users click a link on, for example, Google News, Twitter or Pinterest. It mimics the quick loading elements of services such as Facebook’s Instant Article or Snapchat’s Discover but rather than hosting the content it relies on specially cached links.
The technology is currently in the very early stages, with only a preview version available. However a Google News example of what the full product might look like shows a carousel of content that users can scroll through and then click on to see the full article.
It will also support video and rich media content such as slideshows or quizzes while publishers are looking into how they can ensure they can run their own ads and analytics, as well as personalise the service.
Google has been working with a number of partners on the project including The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Telegraph in the UK. It is now opening the project up to the wider publishing audience, making it available via a website ampproject.org.
It is now looking for help from other stakeholders, including the advertising industry. Speaking to Marketing Week at an event in London today (7 October) to reveal the project, Richard Gingras, head of news products at Google, said ensuring that advertising works on the mobile web and doesn’t take away from the user experience is a key issue.
“Our core objective here is how do we create experiences on the mobile web for our users that are speedy, engaging and indeed allow for that very important self sustaining model of advertising or in other cases paywalls.
“That is really a very core goal we are trying to accomplish here in working with the industry to do a great job on all ads from making the performance better to working on more component ad experiences that people would like to see and enjoy and help support the great work that journalists and authors do.”
Bringing advertisers to the table
One of the aims of the project is to act as a spur to set out the future of digital advertising. Google is already working on how its ad tech will fit into AMP and is hoping to work with other ad tech firms as well.
The idea is to come up with some guidelines for what works and what doesn’t – enabling publishers to run adverts that appeal to consumers rather than interrupting the user experience.
“It is essential we bring advertisers into the process too. There is no such thing as a sustainable ecosystem that chooses between user and advertiser so the ad community must be an equal partner in AMP.”
Tony Danker, chief strategy officer, The Guardian
David Besbris, vice president of engineering for search at Google, said the project is still working on what sort of ads will and won’t be supported but pointed to a few “core tenets” that are important.
“We think advertising is a key and important part of the web experience as it is today but advertising needs to be better. Just like the rest of the content it needs to be fast, not obtrusive, easy to view.
“There are lots of parts of the ad ecosystem today where we’ll see pop-up ads, sticks ads – these are the kinds of things we’re working on to make sure they are not interfering with the user experience,” he explained.
Battling ad blocking
Danker highlighted the rise of ad blockers as a sign that digital publishing is not creating the experience that consumers want. Research by The Guardian found that speed and ease of use are key characteristics consumers looks for and that ad blockers are a sign that publishers are not living up to those expectations.
“This is an industry wide problem, if you take ad blockers for example. Readers are not spending hours discriminating between sites based on their speed, they punish each of us for the sins of the whole ecosystem.”
Besbris agrees that ad blockers are a “symptom of the challenges” facing the industry.
“We are looking to address how can we make pages fast, how can we take and evolve our approach to advertising as an industry to make sure that the ads there are compelling and relevant.
“That is an industry conversation that we will definitely participate in. What are the appropriate and acceptable ad standards going forward so we can make sure consumers have great experiences and don’t need to seek alternatives.”
Making money from digital publishing
The move comes after publishers raised concerns over the future of the digital publishing ecosystem. Speaking at an event in London today, The Guardian’s chief strategy officer Tony Danker said the project aims to tackle two big issues for publishers: speed and user experience and ensuring there is “always an economic incentive to invest in journalism”.
Part of the problem has been that consumers are increasingly visiting publisher websites via third-party sites such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. This means they have little insight into who is reading their content online and have to invest money in supporting all these different platforms.
Danker said: “This is a project that will only work if it has a critical mass of publishers, platforms and advertisers. For publishers building content and technical solutions for every platform is incredibly complex and costly. We urge all platforms to come together to collaborate on web fundamentals and to compete on other things.”
- Interested in digital publishing? There will be a content stream at this year’s Festival of Marketing, which takes place on 11 and 12 November. For further details including how to book visit www.festivalofmarketing.com