Google expands AMP, as it presents a friendly face to publishers

Google, long feared by publishers, is now presenting itself as their best friend — at least in comparison to Facebook.

Publishers have warmed to Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages, its open-source effort to speed up the mobile web, but they’re not thrilled with their ability to make money from them. Google’s answer is AMP for Ads, which extends AMP to native and video ads.

Google is acknowledging that these are challenging times for publishers and that it needs to do more to help secure their financial future. It’s being forceful in this regard. In a blog post, it professed its belief in the value of the open web, where “publishers are able to create and earn money from their content.”

To back that up, it trotted out new data showing that most of the 400 publishers it’s surveyed have seen higher ad rates compared to non-AMP mobile pages. Eighty percent or more of publishers have higher viewability rates, 85 percent have higher click-through rates on ads and the majority had higher effective CPMs. Still, Google recognized publishers have had a lot of questions about monetizing AMP.

“We have some financial pressure to deliver money,” said Laurent Cordier, managing director, global partnerships, News & Publishing at Google, said at a press event to discuss that and other new ad products.

Google didn’t mention archrival Facebook, which has also taken steps to help publishers monetize their content on its platform. But Google AMP gives publishers more control over the look and feel of their pages, whereas Facebook’s own fast-loading feature, Instant Articles, live in Facebook’s closed ecosystem. Some publishers have been cooling on Instant Articles, believing they can better monetize article pages on their own sites than in Facebook’s walled garden.

Speaking about monetizing AMP, Cordier said in theory there’s no reason that publishers can’t get CPMs on AMP pages that are as high as non-AMP pages. But a lot of publishers still aren’t direct-selling AMP pages, which is limiting the rates they can get. That’s largely due to the newness of AMP; it’s hard for publishers to make their AMP pages attractive to advertisers when AMP page volume was still low and not all ad types were supported. “It’s more of a programmatic opportunity right now,” Michael Kuntz, svp of digital at the USA Today Network, has said.

Google’s support only goes so far, though. AMP achieves fast load times by stripping down the web, whereas video ads are traditionally heavy. But it’s the publishers, not Google, that will have to push back on agencies that are used to delivering heavy ads.

“It may be, publishers start being stricter about what they accept,” Cordier said.

It also falls to publishers to make AMP work for them. Publishers have been positive about the way AMP is lowering page load time and keeping readers on their pages longer, but some have complained that they were getting fewer pages per visit on AMP pages than their regular mobile pages.

Cordier suggested that’s because not all publishers are taking advantage of all of AMP’s features, such as the ability to promote other articles or their navigation menu. “There’s a certain level of optimization we’ve not seen across the board,” he said.

Another sore point for publishers that sell subscriptions is the lack of mechanisms to promote subscriptions on AMP pages, and today’s announcements didn’t include anything on that front. Google execs said they understand publishers’ need to drive readers down the subscription funnel, but that they had no specific plans to help them do so.

Also today, Google announced other new monetization tools for publishers. Recognizing the heavy demand by advertisers for video ads, Google also announced it was enabling advertisers to buy video in native ads on its DoubleClick platform. It’s extending Dynamic Ad Insertion, which is a way to bring addressable ads to TV, to video on demand. Google is also extending Exchange Bidding, a way to help publishers maximize demand for its ad impressions, to publishers’ mobile apps.

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