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Feb. 20, 2018, 12:53 p.m.
Mobile & Apps
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Christine Schmidt   |   February 20, 2018

You’ve got mail — and now you won’t always have to click out of your Gmail app to deal with it.

After launching its Accelerated Mobile Pages framework a few years ago for a more streamlined mobile user experience in search results, Google is now bringing the framework to the precious cargo of many email newsletters. Last week Google announced that AMP will be able to make emails — those boring, tedious, things; often the most direct communication between a publisher and a news consumer — into more “interactive and actionable” experiences, a.k.a. submit an RSVP, schedule an appointment, choose a hotel room, or pin a taco recipe on Pinterest without having to leave the email.

(Or, to think as a publisher might: mark a story to read later, navigate between interactive sections of an customized email newsletter, sign up for updates on a particular story — or heck, even subscribe.)

AMP has been friendly to publishers in a number of ways, bringing some performance gains: Readers typically spend 48 seconds on a Google AMP page compared to 36 seconds on an ordinary mobile site, according to Chartbeat data from the fall. (Facebook’s Instant Articles were created first, but in general publishers have perceived Google as more receptive than the Other Big Tech Company. AMP was developed as part of the back-and-forth publisher-platform interaction.)

How could this change the game for email newsletters? In its announcement, Google said that more than 270 billion emails are sent each day, with growth expected to climb worldwide, but with the algorithm frustration, it’s not too surprising that people (and publishers) will continue to rely on email. But now, could news organizations encourage, convert, and receive new subscribers or members all in the same email experience? How will clickthrough rates be affected? Will more people unsubscribe from newsletters directly? Will it be more convenient for newsletter readers to respond to prompts asking for engagement, rather than being redirected to a form on a new browser tab? Is this new initiative even necessary?

Users typically encounter AMP and Instant Articles for different reasons. It’s one thing to come across a quick-loading page in your eternally scrolling News Feed, and another in your search results — or in your inbox.

For now, Gmail is the only email client pledging support for AMP, but Google hopes other clients will adopt it as a standard. But not everyone is happy about it. Devin Coldewey wrote for TechCrunch:

Why do this? Are we running out of tabs? Were people complaining that clicking “yes” on an RSVP email took them to the invitation site? Were they asking to have a video chat window open inside the email with the link? No. No one cares. No one is being inconvenienced by this aspect of email (inbox overload is a different problem), and no one will gain anything by changing it.

Well, almost no one. Which brings us to the motive.

AMP is, to begin with, Google exerting its market power to extend its control over others’ content. Facebook is doing it, so Google has to. Using its privileged position as the means through which people find a great deal of content, Google is attempting to make it so that the content itself must also be part of a system it has defined.

… Ads and trackers that adapt themselves to the content around them, the data they know about the viewer, and the latest pricing or promotions. That’s how Google wants to “modernize” your inbox.

Does “engaging, interactive, and actionable email experiences” ring a little different now?

Don’t use this. Don’t encourage it. AMP and other initiatives like it are already a blight on the web, and they will be equally bad for email.

Other hot takes:

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