Google is developing technology that would allow news publishers to build Snapchat-style stories that would live inside the company’s search engine, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. The stories may resemble what publishers have in the past created for Snapchat’s Discover section, which mixes mobile-first design with a blend of photos, videos, and text. Google is said to call the product “Stamp,” with the “St” standing for stories. There is the possibility that it could live beneath the search bar, where on Android users are already served a list of recommended websites and news stories.
It’s unclear where exactly the feature or service would live, but the report says Google is building it around its AMP webpage tech. That would ensure that the stories, in whatever form they take, load fast, are uncluttered, and feature advertisements that Google serves and controls. The report says Google is already talking with CNN, The Washington Post, Time, and Vox Media, among others. (Vox Media is the parent company of The Verge.) “Ever since the beginning of AMP we’ve constantly collaborated with publishers, and are working on many new features,” a Google spokesperson told the WSJ.
Although it may sound as if Google’s primary target here is the Snapchat demographic — that is true to an extent, as Snapchat-owned Snap Inc. continues gobbling up teen mindshare and an increasing fraction of web advertising spend — Facebook poses the larger threat to Google’s search business. Facebook’s Instant Articles feature, a competitor to AMP, may not be as successful as Google’s own webpage tech, but Facebook’s app-centric approach to controlling how information, news, and entertainment are disseminated on the internet poses an ongoing existential risk to Google’s web-based ad business. The more people who use Facebook’s app, the less people turn to Google search, the logic goes.
So both companies are fighting to preserve their platforms as the primary place users seek out and find information, with Facebook using its social network and Google using its search engine. Now, it appears Google wants to combat Facebook’s, and to a lesser extent Snap’s, grip on news and entertainment content by encouraging publishers to create their own stories for Google’s custom product. It’s not clear how revenue would be split, or whether Google would allow publishers to repost the custom stories on their own websites or on other platforms like Facebook. This does signal a move from Google to take a more active role in attracting more users for reasons unrelated to typing in a search query.