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By Benjamin Mullin
Alphabet Inc.'s Google unveiled new technology that lets publishers create visual-oriented stories in a mobile-friendly format similar to the style popularized by Snapchat and Instagram.
Starting Tuesday, publishers will be able to try out a developer preview of AMP stories, which feature swipeable slides of text, photos, graphics and videos, Google announced in a blog post.
Publishers including Vox Media, Condé Nast, Meredith Corp. and Time Warner Inc.'s CNN were involved in the early development of the technology and have already begun creating such stories for the mobile web.
AMP stories are reminiscent of the immersive, vertical stories pioneered by Snap Inc.'s Snapchat, which spurred copycat features from social-media rivals. In 2016, Facebook Inc.'s Instagram launched Instagram Stories, a swipeable product that has also gained traction among many publishers.
With publishers eager to make money from the rising tide of consumers viewing content on mobile devices, tech companies also have introduced products designed to aggregate news and speed the loading of articles on mobile, including Apple Inc.'s Apple News app and Facebook's Instant Articles.
Unlike those products, however, AMP stories doesn't yet allow advertising to be incorporated. Google is in the process of building support for ads but didn't disclose a time frame. Meanwhile, the lack of monetization on AMP stories threatens to slow its adoption among publishers.
Even though creating AMP stories won't pay immediate dividends, several publishing executives expressed willingness to experiment with the format in the hopes of an eventual payoff.
"Google has a track record of delivering a return on investment in the longer run," said Regina Buckley, senior vice president of digital business development at Meredith, the magazine and online publisher that recently acquiredTime Inc. "And we're willing to take a leap of faith on that."
Google's AMP stories format builds on code from its Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project, a framework that allows publishers to create webpages that load much faster than conventional pages on the mobile web. The format has been met with mixed reactions. Some publishers have praised AMP for sending them additional traffic from search and speeding up their pages, while others have criticized the format for being too bare bones to allow for the full spectrum of digital ads, reducing their revenue per pageview.
Google is rolling out AMP stories gradually. Beginning Tuesday, users can find the stories by searching for one of the participating publishers on Google or following a link on a mobile browser to a test version of the stories.
Google will monitor reactions to AMP stories over the coming months and consider integrating them more fully into search, which could eventually lead to a separate section for AMP stories on a Google search results page.
Although Google hasn't promised that AMP stories will receive a bump in search traffic, the prospect of additional readership is one incentive to try out the technology, said Joe Alicata, chief product officer at Vox Media. He added that Vox Media would make the format available to advertisers if ads become supported.
Google paid publishers to help develop the AMP stories technology, said Rudy Galfi, a product manager at Google. He declined to say how much or whether the payments will continue, only that the money helped publishers cover their costs during the development period. Hearst Corp., Mashable, Mic and the Washington Post were also involved in the early development of the format.
S. Mitra Kalita, vice president for programming at CNN Digital, said she hopes CNN will draw additional search traffic with AMP stories, but she is taking a "wait and see" approach to further investment.
"I don't look at it in a vacuum," Ms. Kalita said. "We're going to evaluate it on the revenue, the resources it takes to put out, the traffic potential and the numbers of users reached."
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 13, 2018 00:44 ET (05:44 GMT)
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