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All news media must be obsessed with upload speed

By Sergio Sicheri

El Comercio Group

Lima, Perú

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I was recently listening to the Mediaventurados podcast featuring an interview with Daniel Hadad, the Argentine journalist, lawyer, and founder of Infobae. Hadad’s commentary is based on technology: “Google is the most important source for our site — 50% of our traffic. My request to the engineers is to work, in the first direction, based on performance. I ask them every day to please make a lighter site,” Hadad said.

That statement from Hadad reminded me of many things. Several of them resonate and spin endlessly in my head. His message in this interview is not new.

Digital audiences expect content to upload quickly and without errors.
Digital audiences expect content to upload quickly and without errors.

If memory serves me, six years ago, Avinash Kaushik, a renowned Indian speaker and businessman, was in Peru. In delivering his presentation, he took advantage of the first minutes of his talk to upload live Web pages in real time from various local sites. What shame some Peruvian entrepreneurs and marketers who attended the event felt when Kaushik loaded their brands or company sites, and their sites took time to load. Also, some noted errors at that precise moment.

One of the sites Kaushik showed was that of the popular Peruvian food brand Gloria, which is known for its dairy products. This brand was born in 1920 and continues to produce and stand out in the market with its products.

The company’s Web page took forever to load. When it did it, it was displayed with errors. When Kaushik commented on it, he said, “What a disaster! How is it possible that a recognised company, at this point, has a Web site developed in Flash? And never charge. What do you want to convey to your customers?” Being the brand of milk I drank as a child, I felt someone else’s shame.

But what worked as an embarrassing example during a face-to-face event six years ago is unacceptable today — not with a media market like ours and in these times when the pandemic has accelerated digitization. Users or readers who visit any of our platforms, especially through mobile phones, do not want to wait once they’ve clicked to access our content.

This was reaffirmed a recently by David Sancha, the CIO of Xalok, one of the best-known content management systems (CMS) on the market during an Inter-American Press Association event. During his presentation, he said, “Today it is very important to have good technology that supports the entire data journey and that also adapts to all the settings, such as Google’s Core Web Vitals and other changes.”

Undoubtedly, all of us working with teams that generate new audiences are adapting to algorithm changes that different traffic sources such as Google impose on us. Just when we think we have everything calibrated and our site is stable — boom! They hit us again. This isn’t new. Each algorithm change of is synonymous with correction, adaptation, and, above all, new learning.

At some point, Google made us ride the wave of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to reach our readers much faster with our content. Mark Zuckerberg did something similar with Facebook Instant Articles (FIA). In addition to generating income by having different players added to their technology, what both companies really wanted was to mold the media and content generators. They wanted to push them toward speed.

Today with the Core Web Vitals, this is very clear and we must all address the issue. Media companies are entering a moment of decision and strategy to determine if they really have to continue using the AMP or FIA models. We have already learned, and our technology teams did their job too. They fight every day to give us the best possible performance, and they are essential within our journalistic equation. To get more reach and audience, you need healthy and fast sites.

The Spanish word for “applause” was one of the most searched words on Google in Spain throughout 2020. This was due to the videos of people who applauded in honour of the hard work doctors did to combat COVID-19. Do you remember everything we have gone through as a result of this pandemic? Many of these changes also have to do with searches, the type of content people consume, and even the time or form of consumption. Next year will continue to bring us greater challenges in the field of the written press.

Not only does our audience evolve, but we have to try to be faster than our readers to develop the best stories and deliver faster than they expect. To do this, we have to fine tune the technology, advertising, and content trident. Regardless of whether you use ARC, Xalok, or any other CMS, Hadad’s obsession with having the lightest platform has to become the goal for all of us who continue to work in this field.

About Sergio Sicheri

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