Snapchat pioneered them, Instagram copied them, and now the commodification of Stories continues.

On Tuesday, Google announced a story format for AMP, its Accelerated Mobile Pages project that aims to make the web more mobile-friendly, which is currently available as a developer preview.

As Rudy Galfi, a Google AMP product manager, describes it, AMP stories are "a visual-driven format for evolving news consumption on mobile," adding, "AMP stories aim to make the production of stories as easy as possible from a technical perspective. The format comes with preset but flexible layout templates, standardized UI controls, and components for sharing and adding follow-on content."

A number of high-profile publishers, including Conde Nast, Hearst and The Washington Post, collaborated with Google in the development of the format. 

Why should publishers use AMP stories? According to Galfi, "Creating visual stories on the web with the fast and smooth performance that users have grown accustomed to in native apps can be challenging. Getting these key details right often poses prohibitively high startup costs, particularly for small publishers." AMP stories extends AMP, which is already intended to address the challenges of mobile performance, so that publishers don't have to come up with their own solutions.

But even if AMP stories will enable publishers to more easily present content in a story format, should they? Not everybody is convinced.

For example, Nilay Patel, the editor-in-chief of tech publication The Verge, believes that the story format works well in apps like Snapchat and Instagram “because they feel completely native to the platform.” AMP stories, on the other hand, don't in his estimation.

Others note that AMP stories, while open-source and accessible to everyone, is really just a part of a broader Google push to dominate the mobile web using AMP.

Gizmodo's Tom McKay explains:

While technically anyone can create their own AMP stories using the open-source technology, Google really wants publishers to create these and wrote in its blog post that it “plans to bring AMP stories to more products across Google, and expand the ways they appear in Google Search.” So eventually these could get rolled into regular mobile search results, displacing some of the current occupants of some of Google’s most valuable real estate and replacing them with AMP-powered slideshows.

That, in turn, could push publishers worried about losing traffic to adopt AMP stories, a format Google has “functional dominance” over.

The more devious aspect of this is that while AMP stories doesn't yet support monetization through ads, AMP itself only supports a number of ad providers including, of course, Google. So once AMP stories are monetizable with ads, Google stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries. That isn't a coincidence.

Of course, this might not be such a big deal if the format proves to be a hit with users. But since Google paid early adopters like Conde Nast and Hearst to help develop the format and will initially only show in the SERPs AMP stories from select partners for specific queries, other publishers might want to take a wait and see approach before investing in this new format.

Related:

Patricio Robles

Published 14 February, 2018 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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