By: Hallie Busta
More people are using mobile devices to access news and information, which is encouraging digital dissemination platforms like Google and Facebook to preference content that comes packaged in a mobile-friendly format. Already, a handful of third-party platforms—Apple, Facebook, and Snapchat among them—have partnered with publishers to host their content directly. In the case of Facebook, for example, that means instead of sending a reader to Buzzfeed.com to read an article, which results in a near-inevitable lag time of a few seconds for the page to load, the article will instantly appear within the Facebook app. (Consider that four in ten people will leave a website, according to one study, if a page takes more than three seconds to load. Time is money.)
A partnership between Google and Twitter is expected to become the latest platform to offer these “instant articles,” tech news site Re/code reports, when it launches this fall. But theirs comes with a twist: Rather than host the content themselves, as does Facebook, et. al., the pair will host cached versions of the publishers’ web pages and will keep the original advertisements associated with each article.
It will also be open source, which is perhaps the biggest indication of what the Google/Twitter duo hope to achieve with this launch. Letting other digital distribution platforms access their secret sauce could encourage the propagation and adoption of instant-article platforms. That will allow Google/Twitter’s still-TBD roster of media partners to retain the web traffic. And, ultimately, create a new way for information consumers to engage with information producers.
For perspective, media brands including The New York Times, National Geographic, and The Atlantic are working with Facebook for its hosted-content program. Additionally, National Geographic, CNN, and Vice are creating content specifically for Snapchat’s Discover platform, while Conde Nast, The New York Times, Hearst, and Time Inc., will partner with the forthcoming Apple News.
Whether this gives tech companies too much power to promote the kind of content that does well on its own platforms is yet to be determined, as is how said tech companies will treat publishers with regards to SEO and ranking algorithms now that they’re giving readers an easy option for bypassing the publishers’ homepage. How Google and Twitter will handle advertisement revenue for itself and the publisher is also to be determined. Re/code notes that Apple and Facebook let publishers keep all of the revenue associated with ads on the hosted articles while publishers get most of the revenue associated with ads sold against them. So Google/Twitter’s model is more publisher-friendly, but only slightly.
For now, however, the news of the new platform means more content, and faster, for readers. And that’s the name of the game for today’s digital media publishers.