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A mobile content revolution is underway. Content delivery giants like Facebook, Google and Apple are providing content to mobile users in a new and innovative way, letting content editors take care of content only. Before, having a responsive website enough, but for now, this is not totally true anymore.
Last month, AMP articles were added to Google search results and Apple News opened to all publishers. In April, Facebook's Instant Articles program will begin accepting requests from interested publishers.
Publishing content is a difficult game. Publishers need to be at the forefront of change to avoid losing audience to more agile competitors while simultaneously publishing the best possible content. As a publisher, if you do not care, there will be a high bounce rate as a reward.
WordPress is the most popular content publishing platform on the web, and the WordPress community has proven itself wonderfully in the various evolution projects it has been facing. But before you start integrating the latest mobile optimization plugins into your WordPress site, you need to know what new formats you will have to "marry".
A Tale of Three Platforms
Facebook Instant Articles (FBIA), Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) And Apple News (no acronym required) are similar in concept, but used in very different ways. All three make static content so that blog posts and news articles load faster on mobile devices to provide a more immersive experience similar to mobile apps. However, each platform works quite differently:
- Instant Articles are only displayed for users of the Facebook mobile app;
- AMP format is used by Google search (but only in mobile browsers for now) And by Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest
- Stories posted on Apple News are only available to iPhone and iPad users.
In this article, we will explore the three publishing platforms so that you can decide which formats do you intend to use for your blog.
Facebook Instant Articles
The Facebook OpenGraph allows any website to control the appearance of its content when it is shared on Facebook and several other social networks. WordPress plugins like Yoast SEO and Ultimate Facebook make it easy to add OpenGraph markup to a WordPress site.
Facebook Instant Articles goes further than the OpenGraph. Rather than simply controlling how content appears when it's shared on Facebook, FBIA actually creates a mobile-optimized copy of the article and pre-loads it partially in the background when it appears in a feed. user news. As a result, FBIA content loads up to ten times faster than standard content in the Facebook mobile app. Facebook users prefer fast-loading content that is likely to interact with and share FBIA content more frequently.
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As we recently discovered, joining the program and integrating a WordPress site with FBIA is not for those who are not willing to sacrifice time, and there are some issues publishers should take in consideration before applying to join the program:
- Publishers will not be added to the program unless they have at least 50 articles ready to be reviewed by Facebook.
- The use of the program requires publishers to maintain a Facebook page and to have a commercial director of the Facebook application to format and control Instant Article, for the presentation and placement of ads.
Who should consider joining FBIA?
While Facebook allows any content publisher to subscribe for the program from the 12 April 2016, websites that publish content on a regular basis, such as news organizations and highly active blogs, are more concerned with the program. If your site regularly posts content and relies on Facebook for sharing and traffic, joining the program is really not an option, it's mandatory.
You can learn more about this program by reading Official program documentation and learning how to prepare your WordPress website for Instant Articles.
If you have an iPhone or iPad and noticed the News app in place of the old app kiosk after an iOS update since September 2015, then you are already familiar with Apple News. When the program was launched, it was first opened only to 20 editors. However, from March 2016, the platform was open to all publishers.
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There are several ways to publish content on the Apple News platform. You can create new content using Apple News Publisher, use a WordPress plugin, or submit your site to the RSS Feed Web.
Sending your site's URL on the RSS feed, is the easiest way to connect your site to the platform, but the WordPress Publish To Apple News plugin offers many additional configuration options. While the plugin is a bit rough at the moment because of its early beginnings, this plugin, and others that are sure to follow, will provide a greater degree of control over the appearance of the content when it is sent over Apple News.
Who should join Apple News?
Clarifying statistics on the number of users who actually use Apple News is hard to find (even for Apple!). It is therefore difficult to say with certainty who should consider signing for the program.
Interested publishers should consider that some of the biggest names in publishing are already on Apple News. The New York Times, CNN, HuffPost, Atlantic, NPR, BuzzFeed, Vox, and virtually every other major news publisher seem to have embraced the platform. A search on "WordPress" reveals that several publishers in our world are already active on the platform as well.
The Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) Project
AMP is an open source project that formats static web pages in such a way that they load very quickly on mobile devices. The AMP article format has been adopted by more than 200 content publishers, including WordPress.com, and is already used on several popular popular platforms such as Google, LinkedIn, Medium, Nuzzel, Pinterest and Twitter.
Undoubtedly, AMP items charge much faster than standard mobile web pages. Blog Engineering Pinterest has published research confirming that this is true, and the practiced experience validates these claims.
There are some plugins already in the official directory of WordPress plugins that can be used to generate articles in AMP format automatically.
Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP Pages by PageFrog was released at the end of January 2016, and can be used to generate an RSS feed for FB Instant Articles and properly formatted AMP articles, as its name suggests.
AMP is a succinctly titled Automattic plugin for generating AMP articles.
Who are the ones who need to be interested in AMP?
Since the time, most publishers want to configure their websites to generate AMP articles. AMP format is already very relevant for publishers whose best stories are part of Google's search results, also on Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest to share the content.
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AMP is open source, and the additional platforms are sure to add support for AMP items over time. It seems likely that the AMP format will become the de facto standard for static content on mobile devices. While key players like Apple and Facebook can stay with their own formats, the broader mobile development community is likely to adopt the open source AMP format.
Which format should I choose?
If your organization publishes a lot of content, is active on Facebook, and relies heavily on social network traffic, there is really no reason not to choose Facebook's Instant Articles. Over time, Facebook users will learn to recognize FBIA content and will definitely prefer to read FBIA content. Long-term success as a Facebook content publisher will require you to embrace the FBIA format.
Apple News is an interesting platform and can be a good opportunity for publishers who want to have a place in the Apple News sector. However, if you want to choose a platform, you really need to consider using Apple News.
In time, each publisher will want to have compatibility with the AMP format on their site. It is already adopted by several important platforms, and Google will add this format to its various products. So it's only a matter of time before AMP formatting becomes synonymous with publishing content for mobile devices.