How publishers should think about ads in AMP

By Kunal Gupta, Founder and CEO, Polar

Ahead of the official launch of AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) later this month, there has been more questions than answers about how publishers will generate revenue from this new initiative that some media insiders predict will be the majority of traffic to their mobile sites by the end of the year. I have developed a clear perspective on the path forward for publishers looking to generate revenue from AMP.

AMP is not about Google. It’s about the user.

AMP is an open source initiative to create a better web experience for users. Google has taken a leadership role in driving and helping architect this new web framework that is built for speed, however many companies that are interested in a speedy mobile web experience are involved, including LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

Ginny Marvin wrote last fall in Search Engine Land on how to experiment with faster search results using AMP. Try it out here (on your mobile device).

The average website is painfully slow on a mobile device today. Be it publisher content or marketing sites. AMP is technical solution to enable the open web to speed up the mobile experience. The user will benefit, which is something we can all get behind.

Users don’t like advertising.


In some research that Adobe published on what users really think of advertising, it’s clear that users do not like ads. And neither do marketers. Users and marketers feel that advertising is annoying, distracting, all over the place, invasive and creepy.

It is no question as to why the adoption of ad blockers has also seen a rise over the past year. Over the weekend my mother asked me to setup an ad blocker for her. Proof it is now mainstream!

An opportunity to clean up the web.

In a fall story published in the New York Times, the top 50 news websites were profiled and tested for how fast (or slow) they loaded. The time taken to load editorial content was separated from the time to load advertising content. As you can see from the chart below, advertising content has significantly slowed down the user experience.

Advertising content is to blame for the slow user experience on mobile today. The data and anecdotal evidence points to this. AMP provides a path to clean things up.

The advertising experience in AMP also matters.

Let’s assume that publishers, social platforms and search engines all invest in building AMP versions of their sites or prioritizing users towards AMP pages (which they are). The user will benefit from a clean, fast and speedy experience. Now what happens when that same user, on that same speedy AMP site, clicks on an ad? Will they be taken to yet another painfully slow mobile website that they have trained himself to avoid?

The vision of AMP is killed if the post-click ad experience for users is also not an AMP experience. Although AMP has the word “pages” in its acronym, AMP is about a better web experience. That means the entire experience, both content and advertising.

If publishers simply add their ad networks and programmatic demand sources to their AMP pages, they are not really looking after the user. They might as well not even support AMP, as true support for AMP requires both a speedy content experience and advertising experience.

In a post on the AMP blog, the following ad networks were listed as supporting AMP: Outbrain, AOL, Taboola, OpenX, AdSense, Pubmatic, Krux, Kargo, and I’m personally concerned for the user if the ad experience from these companies is the same as the ones they provide to users on publisher sites today.

Frédéric Filloux wrote last month in Monday Note,

“I’m not so sure that having on board internet nuisances such as Outbrain or Taboola is such good news. With remarkable consistency, these two disfigure thousands of sites across the world by inserting grotesque promotional or editorial recommendations in news pages. As for, it created many unseen-before video formats that should be rewarded by ad blocker companies for their ability to trigger user rejection”.

Branded content can be a true AMP experience.

The branded content (also referred to as sponsored, partner and custom content) programs that many premium publishers have prioritized are going to translate extremely well into an AMP experience. These content marketing programs executed on behalf of advertisers typically involve publishers producing high-quality content that is clearly labelled and transparent as commercial programs. Publishers also derive higher margins from content programs from than other forms of digital advertising.

When a user clicks on a native promotion within an AMP experience, they will be directed to another AMP experience to consume the branded content. The content experience and advertising experience is consistent with branded content.

Our customers include the likes of Conde Nast, The Economist, Gannett, Huffington Post, News Corp Australia, Telegraph and the Washington Post, all of whom are launch partners for the AMP project. They all have significant branded content businesses. This is why we are extending support for our platform into AMP, in a manner that we feel enables publishers to create a much better advertising experience and one that is consistent with the content experience that users expect.

I predict that the performance and engagement with branded content will be significantly higher on AMP experiences than on desktop and mobile web experiences. And with the 5,000 branded content campaigns running on over 1,500 publishing sites on our platform (all direct-sold and hand-made by premium publishers), we will soon have the data to prove if this is true or not.

The opportunity is now.

AMP provides a real opportunity for publishers to win back users and keep them engaged on a mobile experience, which they have not been successful with thus far. My advice to publishers is to be deliberate about the experience they wish to provide users through AMP, both content and advertising. Which means not rushing to slap typical ads on the page that annoy and frustrate users.


Kunal Gupta is the Founder & CEO of Polar and a Founding Member of Publisher 2020.  He leads a talented team transforming the media publishing industry with technology. Polar provides a technology platform that over 1,500 publishers around the world use to strengthen and grow their digital content marketing businesses. He is also passionate about leadership and finding focus and calm in a modern era. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Medium or Twitter.