Publish Me! Exploring AMP, Medium, and Apple News.

News happens constantly, and thanks to modern technology, it can be captured and shared in an instant. Numerous platforms are available for all types of publishers,(from large companies to individuals). Never before has it been so simple to instantly publish content in various platforms on countless devices. Three of these publishing options will be assessed from the publishers’ perspective, as well as the consumer. AMP, Apple News, and Medium are just three of many options available for digital publishing in this industry. This assessment will cover some of the benefits, and/or frustrations in terms of technology, usability, accessibility, and purpose; for both consumers and publishers. Also, is there a winner in the world of digital publishing? Which one is best for the needs of a publishers….. And consumers? Exploring these three methods of digital publishing can help answer these questions and provide a deeper understanding about the solutions they provide for publishers.

AMP: From the Consumer Perspective

Google’s gift to the mobile community of consumers, or evil ulterior motive to secure their place on top of the search engine throne?

Google might have ulterior motives with their AMP project, but it does have some great benefits. What is AMP? It was created by Google, is an open form of web based digital publishing for mobile devices that is extremely fast, and accessible on any mobile browser. It is a form of HTML that has been stripped down to allow for fast loading time. AMP, or, Accelerated Mobile Pages, is an open source initiative that relies on existing web technology that has been altered for faster speed. AMP allows publishers to create content for optimal distribution on the web, not limited to an app. It can be compared, in some ways, to instant articles on facebook, but for mobile only; and it it lightning fast!

So… Why was AMP created? According to Google, AMP’s main initiative, is to provide a much faster way for users to access content from mobile devices. Which, lets face it, at times can take forever,(or actual time)sometimes up to 5–7 seconds!! Gasp!! The idea sounds absurd, that 5–7 seconds is way too long to wait for an article to load on your mobile device, but that’s the reality of our current technology driven society. Google squashed this problem, AMP mobile pages load instantly, in testing, no load time ever exceeded 2 secs!

This slow mobile loading time crisis is the main issue Google wanted to solve, which is important considering that mobile consumption now trumps desktop web consumption. According to Business insider, “People now spend more Internet time on mobile than desktops or laptops.” This shift should effect the way content is designed and is accessed on mobile devices on a large scale. AMP provides a way for publishers to publish their content, and have it accessible on the web, for consumers to download, at instantaneous rates. Not through an app, not within another program, but on the web. Consumers, can download their content (articles), read the content, and go to the next article incredibly fast, without the frustrations that come with ads, slow loading times, and annoying or invasive distractions.

How to Recognize an AMP Article?

The way to recognize an AMP article, is by the lightning bolt icon found in front of the title next to the AMP letters.

When comparing the speed of an amp article download to a basic download, the difference is huge. The amp article on the first download took 2.5 seconds to load; the second download was instant. The download of a non-amp article took 5 seconds! The AMP article contained a video and images along with text; the other article, had no video, only images with text. The non AMP article also contained an annoying popup that was difficult to get rid of, and covered the bulk of the content on the screen. Interesting to note that the AMP article still loaded faster, even though it had video and image content, while the other article was slow loading, and had no video content.

AMP: from the publisher perspective

What does this mean for publishers? AMP articles are taking priority in terms of search engine results, keeping publisher bound to google. If they want to stay in the game in terms of search engine results, they might need to learn the ways of AMP publishing. This means following the AMP code guidelines, you can watch tutorials, and find out what it takes to become a master AMP format publisher. In basic terms, the code is stripped down, and only asynchronous JavaScript is allowed.(Basically a type of javascript that still allows for some cool effects, without slowing down the load time).

Certain changes in HTML code, such as the image tag, has a custom tag for AMP. Content above the fold are loaded first, google wants the content in a web page to be the highest priority and UX design is second.

Some Basic Information about publishing an AMP page

There is a list of required markup for creating an amp page using html. you can download a snippet of code to get started on your amp page here.

There is also a way to create amp pages using a word press plugin, this allows publishers to create content in Wordpress that is amp compatible. This plugin allows publishers to view and style their content within WP, and the content is amp ready.

For help using the word press plugin, refer to the video below

Apple News: From the Consumer perspective

If you own an iPhone or iPad, you must have seen this icon, accompanied by news articles from various publishers. If you don’t have an iPhone iPad, then you definitely haven’t used the apple news app. Because it is only IOS compatible, and only available for tablets and mobile devices.

Apple news app has a large amount of topics and publisher to explore

The apple news app has some great features, and some usability issues. Having a central location for news publishers to share content is great for consumers who are looking for the latest, most updated news. Users can even select specific categories which the app filters through and delivers those categories to their content list. The articles are updated constantly, making the experience different every time the app is opened. Some of the publishers include: The Washington Post, New York Times, Huffington Post, CNN, the list includes a slew of major news sources with smaller, publishers trickled in between. The sections (top stories, featured stories, favorites…) keep stories organized and structured, there is a lot of content to explore.

The app allows the publishers to keep some style elements with their articles, which is an important key to their brand identity, and makes is quicker and easier for users to visually recognize some of their familiar, favorite news sources. Navigating through the app can be a simple, entertaining and fun experience; it can also be frustrating and confusing.

Popular publications are easy to recognize on the apple news app

Benefits of Using apple news

Some of the features in the apple news app include: for you, favorites, explore, search, and saved. For you includes sections, such as: Top Stories, Trending Stories, Featured Stories, topics you’re interested in, and more. This feature is designed to you bring the stories that you are most likely interested in reading. These sections are constantly updated, bringing you the most up to date news, using images, videos, animations, and links to other sites. The newest stories are posted at the top of the page, and you can actually view stories (as you scroll down) as old as five weeks ago.

A more effective way to keep older stories, or archive favorite articles is to save them. Using the bookmark icon, you have the option to save these articles and view them in your saved section. The process isn’t exactly seamless, the option to save the article does not given until you tap on the share icon, and that brings up the options to save, love, copy, dislike….

One gripe about this feature,( for mobile) is the actions that follow these choices; if the bookmark is tapped, and the selected article is saved, the icon pops up next to the article. However, if the love icon is then chosen, the heart now appears next to the article, replacing the bookmark icon. Saved articles can be found in the saved area and accessed by tapping the saved icon/button.

The option to like, and save articles have icons and are placed in the saved area

Apple News Publishing

The intent for this app is to attract users that are looking for great content that will engage, inform and delight, not to be used as a marketing tool.

Publishing for the Apple News app is a process, it takes time to be approved by apple as a publisher, and takes multiple steps to complete this part of the process. One (highly recommended) method of publishing for apple news is by creating articles directly in News Publisher with Apple’s new web-based editing tool, content for News is created using a JSON document that is processed and then rendered in News as an article. This document can contain features such as: images, text, video, audio, and embedded social media. Part of this process of building content in the publishing app involves layout design, using columns to arrange objects. The app automatically scales for multiple devices sizes. For more assistance check out .

When starting the process of publishing for apple news, there is an option to us an RSS feed; (which is useful for those who already have an RSS feed and a website in place). This method is recommended as a stepping stone towards publishing within the News App. Most of the content found in the apple news is made within the publisher app. But there is also the option of Web authoring, API and plugins. Publishing with the publisher app starts with an iCloud subscription, method choice(RSS or in app), and sign up.

benefits of publishing in apple news

The advantages of using this format to publish content is really based on the type of publisher, and their goals. The app is really great for established, large scale, well known publishers that have a large amount of content that is accessed third party, using the app. Specific features in the app include: built in social network features, lightning fast loading, rich analytics, and strong responsive design, built in cross promotions, great for driving additional traffic, dynamic text sizing, and great support, voice over… There is a great benefit for publishers that work on a large scale, with multiple contributors; using the members feature, which allows for roles to be made, and organization of multiple authors or members within a team.

Medium: Consumer Perspective

To fully understand the beauty and simplicity of Medium, one must go back to the beginning, the roots of this product: why it was created, who created it, and who is was created for. The platform was initially created to allow publishers to write more meaningful content than just a quick thought or comment, everyday or multiple times a day, like twitter is geared for…Hint hint.

Twitter, why am I bringing that up? Because same person behind Twitter, (Evan Williams) was behind Medium. This product, however, is something completely different, and serve different needs, for a different group of publishers. click here to read the full story.

“Medium is a system for reading and writing. A place where you can find and share knowledge, ideas, and stories — specifically, ones that need more than 140 characters and are not just for your friends. It’s a place where you can work with others to create something better than you can on your own.” Ev Williams

So, what can you do on Medium?

How can you utilize medium to publish and share great content? Well, for starters, you can create a simple profile, slap on a image icon, and start collecting content. Articles are categorized, select categories are found at the the top of the home page, with a section containing select topics; there is a wide variety to choose from; from news, travel, recipes, and much more. When topics are selected, Medium filters through thousands of articles, sending you related content that appears on your home page, along with suggested publications to follow. Bringing me to the next feature, the following feature; which allows you to follow certain publications or authors. Following allows you to see new content from that author when it is published. The theme in this product is simplicity, and very content focused. The simple interface allows for quick and easy exploring, collecting and following of articles. There is a another focus, which is sharing, and connecting with social media.

Simplified content, in a very easy to read, nothing fancy form

Medium is does not require any special skills to use, from the perspective of a consumer, it doesn’t get much easier to read, navigate, and enjoy the content found on this platform. The goal of Medium, from the time of its creation, was to “provide a way for meaningful writing on the Web. There wasn’t a place for people who wanted to write something more substantive than a tweet”

It seems pretty clear from looking at the creation, history, and motivations for the creation of medium, that it was created with heavy thought to the publishing side. The publishing end is simplified and allows for quick, easy publishing that forces publishers to strip away most of the fluff in an article and really focus on the writing, with some supportive visual elements.

Medium: Publishing Perspective

This concept probably doesn’t surprise nor excite you, because online publishing is nothing new. Anyone can post a tweet, share a comment, start a blog, etc. What ever method you choose, it’s all about getting your thoughts and ideas from your mind, and sharing them with the world.

There is, or at least there should be a method to the madness. Meaning, all of these publishing platforms have their place; Medium is no exception. It can be the ideal platform for publishers wanting to grow their brand, build their audience, or simply get their content out there. There is no need for strong technical skills to publish on Medium, you can even import existing content into your Medium account. Links to videos, webpages, social media, etc. This feature allows publishers to stay connected to social media, and bring more in more followers, and be useful with their SEO.

Get Noticed!

These little heart icons, when selected, will help your fan base grow. This is Medium’s way of allowing you to “like”or recommend an article to other readers. The more hearts your article receives, the more attention your content will attract.

Publishing with Medium was meant to be different, it’s definitely toned down, in complexity; compared to many other options available. Instead of focusing on the look, feel, icons, colors, typefaces, animations, etc…. The focus is more on the content, not on the visual design. This “limited options” design can be a blessing and a curse for publishers. The limits provide a way to save time, normally spent on various design aspects of a blog or website. But still allow for important supportive items to be added to the content. (images, links, videos, tweets…) If you need assistance with this, you can check out the handy help page.

It’s Simpler, but is it Easy to use?

In terms of usability for publishing, it is the easiest of the publishing options discussed thus far. Once a profile is created, there is no approval process to wait on, and no hosting required (although an option as well). The stories are created right in the program, images can be uploaded or dropped into place. This is where simplicity can actually cause headaches. The image options are minimal, and size does matter when adding images to Medium. If the correct sizing does not happen, the images will automatically size to the presets, and this can cause some resolution issues. It is important to read the help section that lists the recommended images sizes for intended placement.

As shown above, the image is sized smaller than the recommendations listed in the Medium help section, and there is a large amount of unnecessary padding (space) around the image. Basically, it looks terrible, there is no recommendation for sizing in-text wrap images, or grid images; there is only sizes listed for screen width or outset images, 1400–2500 pixels wide. A wider image looks ideal, when sized accordingly, but smaller images can stretch and loose quality. Look at the difference when a photo is sized for their liking

Image sized, 1400 px wide

The image sizing issue is an issue, the ability to size images, or crop within Medium would be much easier and produce better results. But, for the purpose of getting good content focused content published fast and easy, it works. Adding more stories to an existing publication built in Medium makes the experience beneficial for up and coming publishers.

In Conclusion….

They all have their place and purposes

AMP, Apple News, and Medium are all good options for digital publishing. The best fit, depends on specific goals and content. For publishing simple articles by creators wanting to build a brand and attract more attention to their content, Medium is a great choice. The features provide publishers enough options to create meaningful, stunning, and quick loading content; presented in a way that is easy to use, and content focused. For publisher who are interested in publishing content, collecting information, sharing information, and building a community online, Medium has a lot to offer.

For SEO purposes, and publishers that want to stay with the current trends, and not get left behind with all the other slow-loading mobile pages; AMP is a great option. Publishing content that is super fast loading, and allows for consumers to get more content, much faster. AMP is great for users, and can be created in word press for easier conversion. Publishing AMP content is not as simple as using Medium, but there is are benefits, such as super fast loading time, good search results, and content that is not littered with ads. From a consumer perspective, AMP is fantastic! The super fast loading time, without unwanted, annoying, intrusive ads blocking the content on you screen; allowing you to enjoy the content. AMP is great for news and other related articles, and not limited to FB although there is an option that allows readers to share links to AMP articles. As long as your formats are compatible with AMP requirement, then AMP is a great choice.

There is a good chance that every major news publisher in the industry is publishing in apple news, and there is good reasons to do so. The content loads quickly, there is less clutter and issues with ads, and the ability for consumers to collect articles, share them, recommend them, and even subscribe to favorite digital publications. The RSS feed and other formats allows for quick up to date information to be added constantly. Having multiple news sources all together in one area can benefit the publishers, by getting their content out into the iOS world, in a quick effective way. With the ability to add more, and update as needed as much as they need to. The smaller publishers might struggle a bit to get their content out there and grow an audience.

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Kristi Gordon

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