Improving Search and discovery on Google

Search is not just about answering your questions—it’s also about discovery. We search to explore new topics of interest, to find new angles to ideas or things we think we already know, or even to uncover information that we didn’t even think to ask about.

Over the years, we’ve developed many features to help you discover more on your journeys through the web, starting with related searches almost 10 years ago, to more recent additions such as related questions (Related questions are labeled “People also ask” in search results). In the last few weeks, we’ve made three new additions to help you explore further, including expanded Featured Snippets, improved functionality of Knowledge Panels, and suggested content as you search for a particular topic.

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Google and Salesforce sign massive strategic partnership

Google and Salesforce announced a massive strategic partnership today that’s aimed at driving value across their mutual customers. As part of the deal, Salesforce plans to use Google Cloud Platform infrastructure as a preferred partner to power the tech titan’s international expansion. Google, for its part, will use Salesforce as its preferred CRM provider for selling its cloud services.

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“Exceedingly generous”: Google will split revenue with publishers who use its new subscription tools

Google, an advertising giant, has been making nice with news publishers by developing a series of tools they can use to more precisely attract and target paid subscribers. (It also ended the first-click-free policy this month, allowing subscription-based publishers to choose how many articles to show to readers for free without search-ranking consequence.)

Google’s nice comes at a small business price for any publishers who might want to use the planned subscription tools, but the details are still being ironed out with publishers.

“It will obviously come down to what we think that business relationship should be, but bottom line, I think [revenue sharing] will be exceedingly generous [to news publishers],” Google’s head of news Richard Gingras told the Financial Times on Sunday. “In our ad environment, the rev shares are 70 per cent-plus. The rev shares [for publishers] will be significantly more generous than that.” (Google’s AdSense offers around a 70-30 split for publishers who use it to place ads on their sites.)

Gingras made sure to distinguish Google’s tack from Facebook’s “walled garden” approach, telling the FT that “unlike other participants in the environment, we’re not trying to own the publisher. If there are cases where we do cause the subscription to happen, we don’t want to own the customer. None of this changes the marketplace economics, people will pay for what they value.”

That “other participant in the environment” on Friday formally announced its test of news subscriptions models within its Instant Articles format, through which it won’t take any cut of the revenue from subscription signups (the subscription transaction and payment processing will take place entirely on the publishers’ site). Facebook’s subscription tests are Android-only, as it’s been wrestling with Apple over the past few months over Apple’s default 30 percent cut of “in-app sales,” Recode reported.

The end of Google’s first-click free policy shows promise for publishers

While publishers remain unhappy with the returns they get from platforms like Google and Facebook for hosting their content, the tide appears to be turning.

Publishers believe Google’s removal of its first-click free model this month is the first example of the platform evolving in a way that doesn’t immediately serve its own interests. Facebook also has started tests for driving subscriptions through Instant Articles with publishers.

“We’ve never seen the platforms talk about the beginnings of ideas of what they want to do to support paid journalism,” said Chris Duncan, managing director at Times Newspapers. “Any recognition that the journalism we create is valuable to platforms is welcome. Any model where publishers keep the revenue they earn is a good thing. Any model that gives publishers control over how they interact with audiences is good. you see bits of that in the discussions we have with all the platforms.”

Since The Times of London launched its paywall in 2010, it resisted participating in Google’s first-click free policy for paywalled sites, meaning the Times effectively disappeared from Google search when it debuted the paywall. As of Oct. 21, all articles from the Times will be as discoverable on Google’s search engine as content from a publisher with no paywall.

News UK, parent of the Times, has long noted publicly the power the duopoly wields over publishers. At the publisher’s digital journalism summit with Press Gazette on Oct. 20 in London, David Dinsmore, News UK’s chief operating officer, reminded attendees that the majority of digital ad spend was going to the duopoly, while 47 percent of all engagements with U.K. websites on social media over the past year sourced content from U.K. news brands, according to a News Media Association analysis of NewsWhip data.

“Newsgathering is spending all the money digging up the news; social media platforms are extracting nearly all the revenue from it,” he said. “The terrifying prospect of not sorting out this broken relationship is a world where edited, verified news ceases to exist unless funded by that state. The verified news fuel for platforms will disappear and put at risk the rivers of gold flowing there way.”

The Telegraph, one of the partners for Facebook’s subscriptions program through Instant Articles, is optimistic about the reach platforms afford, but this relies on the right relationships. “We have a relationship with Facebook at the product level in Menlo Park [Facebook’s California headquarters]; with respect to the team in the U.K., that’s a very different relationship,” said Robert Bridge, chief customer officer at Telegraph Media Group. “Once you are talking at a product level then you can start to make a difference.”

Yet for some publishers, the platforms’ efforts smack of lip service. “It’s all window dressing until the economic problem is dealt with,” said Henry Faure Walker, Newsquest CEO. “For years, [platforms] have been riding on the professional journalistic content publishers produce, while gleaning great data insights on top, while we get the crumbs off the table.”

Platforms still need to make significant progress in taking responsibility for the spread of harmful content and the possibility of brands appearing next to either unsafe or inappropriate content.

“Google Display Network fails to discern or distinguish between quality ad environment and poorly produced amateur content,” said Faure Walker. “The government should regulate against that.”

The post The end of Google’s first-click free policy shows promise for publishers appeared first on Digiday.

Wired is launching a Progressive Web App to boost page speed

Tech publisher Wired is revamping its mobile site in an effort to improve page speed.

Today, Wired is introducing a so-called Progressive Web App, which is a Google-backed protocol that lets web developers build mobile sites that load quickly like an app. Wired plans to make it available to a small number of users for about a month before rolling it out to all of its users, said Zack Tollman, Wired’s app architect. Unlike publisher apps for iOS or Android, PWAs are accessed through the open web like a regular website and don’t have to be downloaded. Once Wired’s PWA is rolled out to all users, will function as a PWA for anyone who accesses the site through Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers.

Wired believes a PWA will increase its page speed, which will get users to view more articles and result in more impressions per session. So, it deployed two web developers to work full time and four product managers to spend part of their time on the project for three months. The publisher is also looking at building products on top of the PWA, since PWAs allow for swiping interactivity, which opens the door to products like Snapchat-like mobile cards. That’s all down the road: The initial version rolling out is the same design and functionality as Wired’s mobile site. About 70 percent of Wired’s 11 million unique visitors last month came from mobile, according to comScore.

Even though Google announced PWAs in May 2016, Wired had to use its finite resources — it usually has six engineers and web developers working on its site — to finish other tech projects before it could create a PWA. For example, in the second half of 2016, Wired adopted HTTPS to make its site more secure and HTTP/2, which is supposed to improve page-load time by compressing data for ad servers.

Other publishers that have adopted PWAs are The Washington Post, the Guardian, The Weather Company, Forbes and Financial Times. Google did not reply to an interview request for this story. Wired is the first Condé Nast property to roll out a PWA.

“I imagine [other Condé Nast titles] will do PWA; we are just ahead of the curve a bit,” Tollman said. “There is a general excitement around new technology that just works for our brand, so we like to be experimenting with these things as soon as possible.”

PWAs are touted for their speed, but they have drawbacks. For one, they work on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers, but not on Apple’s Safari. Similar to how Apple restricted ad targeting in Safari, denying PWAs is a way for the device-selling company to play its card against ad giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google.

Making PWA-powered websites feel like an app also takes a lot of technical work, and monitoring another platform can be time-consuming, said Salah Zalatimo, head of product and tech at Forbes. Another publishing exec, requesting anonymity, expects PWAs to eventually become the standard mobile web experience for publishers in four to five years. The delay in adoption is because most publishers’ back-end technology is too crappy to overhaul their sites in the near future, the source said.

Last year, Condé Nast integrated the underlying tech stacks of all its brands to operate under one platform, which should make it easier for other Condé Nast sites to adopt PWAs, Tollman said.

PWAs cache content, which speeds up the loading of ads and content. But users shouldn’t notice any difference to the site’s overall design, and salespeople shouldn’t see any change to the inventory they sell, said Robbie Sauerberg, gm of advertising at Wired Media Group, noting that Wired’s sales team hasn’t had any concerns about its mobile site changing.

Another publishing source, however, had a different experience after launching a PWA. For this publisher, reworking its mobile site led to apprehension among some sales reps.

“Going to PWA means refactoring your site, which generally gives sales teams anxiety and fear,” said the source, under the condition of anonymity. “The anxiety is understandable, as it is a drastic change.”

Photo via Wired

The post Wired is launching a Progressive Web App to boost page speed appeared first on Digiday.

Microsoft, Google, & Baidu Join Forces on Open Academic Search

The Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) in Seattle was created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen with the mission of providing the latest findings in artificial intelligence to humankind. AI2 collaborated with Microsoft, Google, and Baidu to create the Open Academic Search (OAS) working group to “advance scientific research and discovery, promote technology that assists  … Read more

Building a better web for everyone

The vast majority of online content creators fund their work with advertising. That means they want the ads that run on their sites to be compelling, useful and engaging ones that people actually want to see and interact with. But the reality is, it’s far too common that people encounter annoying, intrusive ads on the web—like the kind that blare music unexpectedly, or force you to wait 10 seconds before you can see the content on the page. These frustrating experiences can lead some people to block all ads—taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.

We believe online ads should be better. That’s why we joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group dedicated to improving online ads. The group’s recently announced Better Ads Standards provide clear, public, data-driven guidance for how the industry can improve ads for consumers, and today I’d like to share how we plan to support it.

New tools for publishers

The new Ad Experience Report helps publishers understand how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own websites. It provides screenshots and videos of annoying ad experiences we’ve identified to make it easy to find and fix the issues. For a full list of ads to use instead, publishers can visit our new best practices guide.

As part of our efforts to maintain a sustainable web for everyone, we want to help publishers with good ad experiences get paid for their work. With Funding Choices, now in beta, publishers can show a customized message to visitors using an ad blocker, inviting them to either enable ads on their site, or pay for a pass that removes all ads on that site through the new Google Contributor.

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Funding Choices is available to publishers in North America, U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand and will be rolling out in other countries later this year. Publishers should visit our new best practices guide for tips on crafting the right message for their audience.

Chrome support for the Better Ads Standards

Chrome has always focused on giving you the best possible experience browsing the web. For example, it prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying. In dialogue with the Coalition and other industry groups, we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.

Looking ahead

We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising.

We look forward to working with the Coalition as they develop marketplace guidelines for supporting the Better Ads Standards, and are committed to working closely with the entire industry—including groups like the IAB, IAB Europe, the WFA, the ANA and the 4A’s, advertisers, agencies and publishers—to roll out these changes in a way that makes sense for users and the broader ads ecosystem.

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