The mobile web rots. Just does. It’s slow and clunky and ugly and just not a great experience in a world full of great digital experiences. All the annoying advertising and tracking mechanisms that we for some reason put up with on the stationary (???) web are intolerable on the mobile web.
That’s why Facebook created Instant Articles. And Google created Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)—which they’ve recently announced are going to be expanded (and probably be prioritized) throughout their search results. Well, it’s one of the reasons, another being complete domination of the mobile web.
But basically, FB’s Instant Articles and Goog’s AMP strip down the content so that it loads fast. They pull out comment sections and most of the ads, and along with that all of the complex, chaotic stuff behind the scenes that happen when the user just taps on a link to read a simple article about the Gilmore Girls reboot. But Instant Articles and AMP aren’t filters. They’re different types of pages. On Facebook that’s due to where it’s hosted (on Facebook, natch) and for Google, even though it’s still html, it’s a different type of page, one that publishers have to specifically design for.
According to a recent piece on the Verge, this could be a problem, for three reasons.
One, is that it makes it harder for publishers by adding extra work for possibly less return. Now publishers need a regular responsive version of the article, an AMP version, and an Instant Articles version for each article (and those latter two versions might be less monetizable). That’s some serious, sweaty deja vu for publishers who just got a reprieve from multiple screen sizes with the adoption of responsive design.
Two, is that it makes it harder for publishers in that it lowers the feature set of the page. No more comments, it looks like, but mostly it means much fewer ads and certainly none of the more annoying ones that hijack screens and interrupt the content.
Third, is that it makes it harder for publishers because they must cede too much power and control to outside platforms in order to keep their readerships.
I mean, you see where this is going. The new mobile experience that Facebook and Google are offering is great for readers and a headache for publishers. But it’s a headache that publishers are kind of the cause of in the first place. In an attempt to create and then monetize a content experience for readers, they hurt the content experience for readers, and therefore their ability to monetize it. It’s a hard balance.
Possibly, publishers can hold out for technology to help, faster processors in phones, maybe, just like bigger screens helped them fit more content onto the phone. But that seems unlikely. And doesn’t solve the pressures that Facebook and Google are putting on them now.
Plus, I don’t really believe that the bad mobile web experience is just part of a set of transition pains for publishers. I think the regular Internet content experience is broken for many of the same reasons. Sure it’s faster, but in most cases it’s still a cluttered, annoying content experience that’s based on some faulty analytics assumptions.
But, back to the point, the mobile web is a problem that publishers haven’t fixed, so now somebody else is stepping in to do it…and to reap the rewards.