Need for speed in mobile publishing

By Chuck Blevins

Cox Media Group Newspapers

Atlanta, George, USA


On Medium, Quincy Larson reported that Neilsen found “the top eight apps were all owned by just two corporations: Google and Facebook.” And while most Americans own smartphones, nearly half of them don’t download any apps during a given month.

Larson doesn’t think “apps are over.” That depends on your customers. He is bullish on the Web, though, and I agree.

Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP are successful, in part, due to their speed.
Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP are successful, in part, due to their speed.

Last year, I wrote about Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP. While Facebook has been quiet about its efforts, Google is promoting AMP-powered pages in its mobile search results. It’s also taking aim at sites that block direct access to content with prestitials, or app download overlays.

Facebook still dominates delivering readers to news media sites in Web views, no matter if through an app or from its Web site. Facebook’s selling point for Instant Articles is the same as Google’s for AMP: slow loading times to media Web sites leads to reader drop-off. They’re both still right.

Many publishers have been working on the speed of their sites. The Financial Times took an extreme (and well-considered) process worth mimicking because, according to a piece published on Niemen Lab:

“‘We’ve run tests. If you can make the site a second faster, you can drive engagement by 5%,’ [Cait] O’Riordan said. ‘And we know that engagement is the key thing that drives everything else. It drives whether someone will take out a trial subscription, it determines how many adverts they see. So much of our revenue is driven by how engaged people are.’” 

It’d be easy to just jump into AMP or Instant Articles and be done with it, but that doesn’t strike at the root cause for Google and Facebook’s efforts. News media sites are generally slow. Not only is Web performance important for your KPIs, but it’ll also help you compete against Google.

Our delivery of product experience to our readers isn’t just the UX or the content; it’s also the performance that intermediates their access to all that.

Neither Facebook nor Google always make the right moves, but they’ve consistently been correct on their core assumptions on performance. We need to pay attention.

It’s not easy. Improving performance impacts advertising revenue, reader tracking, widgets, and so forth, but we ignore the long-term ramifications for short-term costs and revenue at our peril.

Spend 2017 getting speedy.

About Chuck Blevins

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