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Digital News Discovery and the launch of Google AMP

Robin Pembrooke

Director, News Product & Systems

More users are discovering and reading BBC News on an ever widening selection of platforms and news aggregation services. For the BBC World Service, a high proportion of our traffic has always been through partner destinations that we syndicate to, but the last two years have seen an explosion in the volume of our content discovered and consumed inside Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter amongst others.

For digital publishers, whether large and small, the increased audience reach this delivers is welcome, but it has an impact on how we measure and understand our audience, and for BBC News outside the UK, how we monetise that content on third party platforms. Each of the platforms has tended to have their own technical specification or publishing tools which can drive up our costs of delivering news in a multiplicity of different formats.

It’s in the context of this increasingly complex distribution ecosystem, that we welcome the announcement this week of the new Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) initiative as a significant and positive development for the Digital News.

What is Google AMP and why have we been involved?

Google AMP is a new open and shared, web standard for publishing content pages, optimized for mobile consumption. Google have announced the initiative today and the BBC together with around 20 global publishers have been involved in the design and definition of the approach.

The key benefit to users is that pages on mobiles will load much quicker than before, particularly in markets with slow connectivity, due to a simplified approach to both coding and caching of pages. With over 60% of traffic to BBC News coming from mobiles or tablets, optimising this performance is crucial, particularly for events such as the General Election where we saw over 85% of traffic coming in on mobile devices in the morning after as final results came in.

It also means that content can be previewed and discovered easier that before in Google search results, or other products such as Twitter or Pintrest. From a publisher point of view this means reduced levels of effort to make our content discoverable in a wider variety of destinations.

The new Google Accelerated Mobile Pages previewed in search results

Innovating through collaboration

The new standard has been developed with genuine and thorough collaboration between Google News, and product development teams from publishers across the industry. In a matter of weeks the specification and format has evolved rapidly as we’ve shared and discussed requirements through experimenting with differing approaches to using the new standard. It’s far from perfect yet, but This is still work in progress, but we have very high hopes for what it will deliver for our users.

Now that it is announced, it will be an open standard available for anyone to use be they a large publisher like ourselves, a small specialist publication or individual blogger.

Google have said that the plan is for this to be an open standard that can be used by all browsers, search engines or services. The fact that other content discovery services such as Twitter and Pintrest are involved from the launch of the service is a very encouraging sign of that open collaboration.

As the BBC we have always aimed to be as open as possible with our approach to innovation and product development. Our BBC News Labs team publish all of our projects here http://bbcnewslabs.co.uk/. Similarly all of our thinking about the use of metadata in digital publishing is completely open for everyone to use - http://www.bbc.co.uk/ontologies.

The approach of establishing a common industry wide standard for publishing content to mobile web browsers is a welcome development that we’re happy to support.

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