In today’s publishing world, it is inevitable that publishers will have a relationship with various platforms. Google is one of the biggest platform-providers – and their model has just become a lot more complementary.

Digiday explores Google’s journey to find a compromise that pleases both itself and publishers, allowing the platform to be a friend rather than a ‘frenemy’.

Facebook is Google’s biggest competitor due to its dominance as a distribution platform, but Google’s business model seems to work better with publishers because:

  • It sends users away from Google. Facebook keeps the reader on its own site. This makes analytics and further reading near-impossible
  • Google is more ‘mature’ e.g. DoubleClick  (a subsidiary of Google that provides internet ad serving services). This lead to Dart which is an ad management solution for publishers
  • A symbiotic relationship still exists as Google relies on publishers’ content to keep passing through its search engine, as well as providing a platform for publishers
  • Google’s biggest play with publishers is with ad monetization and search results – this is what keeps Google a ‘step ahead’ of Facebook.

This relationship has not always been this harmonious, in fact, publishers still have some concerns. Some of these includes the threat of Google siphoning off traffic by providing snippets of content in the search results and other algorithm changes, otherwise known as ‘Google Dances’.

Google has launched a number of publisher initiatives:

  • Feb 2010 – Google launches Doubleclick to aid online publishers to sell their ad inventory
  • June 2015 – News Lab is created. A site for journalists with training resources and tools. News Lab focused on election-related news and educational events for journalists
  • February 2016 – Accelerated mobile pages (AMP) was launched by Google as an obvious competitor to Facebook’s instant articles – an open-source effort to speed up the web
  • November 2016 – Google bans fake news sites from using its ad-serving tools

AMP was a turning point that introduced a truly collaborative relationship between publishers and Google by extending Google’s interest to smaller publishers too.

The advantages of AMP are summarized here;

More fundamentally, AMP is seen as more publisher-friendly than Facebook Instant Articles. It’s open-source, so theoretically, publishers can bend it to their will to some extent, which is different from Instant Articles. Many publishers have said that monetizing on AMP is on a par with their own sites, and many also are getting increased search traffic there. – Digiday

The relationship between Google and publishers is not perfect – but the relationship is making a point. Publishers need to be aware of the danger of depending too much on a platform for monetization and traffic.

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