Google AMP Is Making Headway With Publishers

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December 27, 2016 - Originally published by

 

Publishers are rightfully concerned with page load times and consumers' experience on their sites. Google's AMP (accelerated mobile pages) was a big step forward for publishers when it launched. AMP is Google’s major open-source initiativedesigned to ensure a better, faster mobile Web experience. With AMP, Google has rallied the support of the industry to clean up slow-to-load mobile pages that can be bogged down by third-party code and heavy ad technology.  

Native ad-tech firm Nativo has been working closely with Relay Media, a digital platform designed specifically to optimize AMP for publishers, to refine ad technology for the new format. The collaboration offers publishers a way to monetize native ads on AMP-enabled pages.

Real-Time Daily discussed this relationship with Barb Palser, chief product officer, Relay Media.

RTD: What does the relationship between Nativo and Relay mean within the context and evolution of AMP?

Palser: The trend here is that AMP is evolving toward offering more sophisticated revenue options for publishers through a growing list of partnerships with ad-tech players. Most publishers still only consider display when moving into AMP, so the addition of higher-impact ad units like Nativo's to the AMP ecosystem is a trend which further confirms its future and viability as a new standard. Nativo's announcement makes it one of the few native firms that actually has live product on AMP-enabled pages, and provides an opportunity to report on that trend.

RTD: Can you describe Relay Media? 

Palser: Relay Media is a platform for optimizing and monetizing Accelerated Mobile Pages, starting with a high-fidelity AMP converter that launched in the spring of 2016.  Relay Media aims to translate publishers’ standard Web content to AMP format with the closest possible replication of the design and functionality of the original page, including support for the publisher’s ads and analytics.  Most publishers on our platform are local and national news brands that have entrusted Relay with AMP support during this stage of AMP’s evolution.

RTD: Google AMP was a big step forward for publishers when it launched. 

Palser: Executing AMP well requires ongoing effort and organizational focus.  When it comes to monetization, this means finding out which of a publisher’s ad products and partners are AMP-enabled and performing the integration work. The work itself isn’t hard, but it’s usually competing with many other priorities on a publisher’s plate.  It’s also a moving target, with AMP products and features rolling out on a regular basis.

Relay Media handles this for the publishers on our platform. We’re on the lookout for AMP-enabled products, and work with the providers to test and launch their AMP versions on the Relay platform.  When we complete a live integration, like the one with Nativo, we make sure our publisher partners are aware it’s available. We’re particularly enthusiastic about Nativo’s participation because AMP’s principles are aligned with Nativo’s high-impact, non-interruptive format.  Quality native formats and exchanges should thrive on AMP, and Nativo is among the first native companies to have a live AMP-enabled product.

RTD: What problem does this solve, and how do you see the solutions becoming even more helpful?

Palser: In order for publishers to achieve (or surpass) revenue parity with standard mobile pages, they need AMP-enabled formats and products that can command premium rates; they won’t get there with programmatic exchanges alone.  

Fortunately, there are many ad-tech companies with AMP-enabled products and many more in the works. AMP is open-source for the open Web; any company can develop AMP-enabled products, provided they follow AMP’s specifications. This broad ecosystem participation differentiates AMP from walled garden formats and will be key to AMP’s success.

RTD: How exactly does Google AMP help publishers increase and optimize revenue?

Palser: AMP is optimized for viewability and performance, providing a clean and well-lit environment for brands.  For example, AMP’s load protocol waits until a consumer has scrolled close to an ad position before loading the ad on the page. This results in high viewability and click-through rates .For publishers that have already tuned their revenue strategies to viewability and user experience, AMP is an enhancement. The Washington Post Co. is one such publisher.

Publishers who still rely on obtrusive formats and non-viewable impressions should think about AMP as a long game, or as a bridge to the future. Eventually the market for non-viewable impressions will dry up (maybe sooner than we think), and consumers will abandon slow and clunky Web sites at increasing rates. For many publishers the transition will be gradual, but it’s inevitable.  AMP is an opportunity to establish a section of inventory that’s clean and viewable for performance-based campaigns.

RTD: What do you see as the next step forward where Google AMP and publishers are concerned?

Palser: Google is keenly focused on revenue support, informed by publisher feedback, and this should continue. For example, a new protocol called AMP for Ads is being rolled out. Ads that are produced in the AMP format will be loaded immediately with editorial content, instead of after the content.  This should make viewability and click-through rates even better.

Ad tech industry participation has been positive so far, but we need even more products, formats, and targeting technologies live on AMP.  We also need communication and case studies to raise awareness and establish proof points. Meanwhile publishers should start thinking of AMP as an opportunity to add high-performance ad products and consider how to include AMP in their direct sales strategies.  
RTD: Any other thoughts?

Palser: AMP isn’t a proprietary format, or Google’s answer to Facebook Instant Articles. The comparison is tempting, but it’s the wrong frame of reference for AMP.   

AMP is an effort to address the usability and performance issues that are artificially depressing engagement and monetization on the open Web. The ultimate goal is to help publishers optimize their Web content outside of walled gardens and apps.  It’s a long-term strategy and a work in progress, not a checkbox. That frame of reference might help publishers consider whether, when, and how to approach AMP.