Facebook's Instant Articles, Apple's News App, Google's AMP: Worth It?
Faster than a speeding bullet: That's the new “instant everything” now heading your way. Facebook already launched its Instant Articles. Apple has its News app. And then there's Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP): All are upsetting the proverbial apple cart when it comes to creating, publishing and sharing content.
The new instant apps: Facebook, Apple and Google
Five years ago, nearly everyone accessed web content via a laptop or a desktop. Today, that number is dropping, while the number of people using smartphones to access the web is rising.
According to the Pew Research Center, 64 percent of Americans now own a smartphone. Of those, 10 percent access the web only via mobile phone. Worldwide, that number is even higher, especially in areas where cell phone usage dominates.
The user-experience issue becomes clear when you consider that mobile users need a different web viewing experience to surf the web than typical desktop or laptop users do.
Mobile screens are smaller, so buttons have to be larger. And web pages must load more quickly, while important information must be easily accessible (rather than buried three clicks deep).
Enter a series of new apps and tools designed to deliver “instant” content and faster, better mobile reading experiences. Facebook was first on the scene with the launch of Instant Articles, followed quickly by Google’s AMP. Apple then followed suit with its Apple News App, designed to give you “all the news in one place.”
Each runs off of or supports mobile apps. While you can access and share content on your desktop, these platforms are meant for mobile reading. Facebook’s Instant Articles invites publisher submissions, as does Google’s AMP. Apple News aggregates content from sources chosen by the users, and presents them in a streamlined, beautiful interface that resembles a custom magazine, instead of a typical website.
Mobile optimization: more important now than ever
In 2015, Google launched an algorithm change -- a.k.a., “mobilegeddon” -- that rewarded sites optimized for mobile viewing. Many companies began ramping up their mobile presence, tweaking their websites’ responsiveness and fixing any issues related to loading times or access across multiple devices.
Today, with Google still the dominant search engine in the market, companies continue to play follow-the-leader and dance to the algorithm tune it plays.
Pros and cons of Facebook’s Instant Articles, the Apple News app, and Google’s AMP
Given the importance of mobile optimization and responsive web design, the next step all businesses must take is to assess whether or not one or all of these apps fit into their content-marketing campaigns. Examining the pros and cons of each can help you determine your own strategy around this new generation of mobile-content apps.
Facebook Instant Articles. Facebook’s Instant Articles offers an interesting mix of pros and cons. On the plus side, the company invites publishers to submit articles, so theoretically any company can share content on the new service. Content must be approved, of course, but once it’s gotten the green light, your content can reach Facebook’s 1.04 billion active users each day.
That strength is also one of the drawbacks of Facebook’s Instant Articles. The articles reach only Facebook users, so anyone not using the site cannot access your content, precluding many other content-sharing channels.
Google AMP. Google AMP overcomes that challenge. Its purpose is to give publishers one platform on which to publish mobile-optimized content that can then be shared across multiple platforms.The content doesn’t have to be hosted with Google, which is another plus for publishers.
Apple News App. The Apple News App is a beautiful, sleek content aggregator that collects all the content you want in one place and lets you read it on your smartphone.
The pros are the beautiful design -- a hallmark of Apple products -- and the ease with which you can customize your viewing experience. The cons include an inability to publish your own content or share it across multiple platforms.
If you’re still thinking about mobile optimization as a nice-to-have instead of must-have asset, think again. What these three content programs now prove is that mobile optimization has definitely shifted from an option to a requirement for businesses.
For consumers looking for a great content experience, either the Apple News App or Facebook Instant Articles offers a wealth of aggregated content from a diverse array of publishers. For businesses, Google’s AMP wins, hands-down, as a place to share mobile optimized content easily and quickly.
But, there's a caveat here: As with everything tech-related, you blink and things change. Who knows if a competitor will launch a new content-sharing platform tomorrow, or if a new gadget will overtake the smartphone as our favorite means of accessing information in the future?
For now, these three apps offer unique opportunities to share, read and aggregate content to reach millions -- perhaps billions -- of new readers. But the operative phrase here is "for now."