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Is Your Online Publication Fast Enough?

Posted on Friday, December 30, 2016 at 3:33 PM

Download speeds are becoming more and more important.

By William Dunkerley

"In 2017 not having a fast mobile site will put you behind the curve," according to Target Marketing magazine.

Many sources are telling us that online reading is trending, and that PC reading will become increasingly passé. Are you prepared for that? Or does it present a problem?

A Remedy

One approach editors can take to greet this emerging reality is to design for mobile first. Then adapt that design for PC or tablet viewing.

Past EO articles have covered the positive attributes of using responsive Web design, and many editors have already made great strides with that approach.

Google Gives Points for Speed

The stakes for having good download speeds have increased because of Google's stance on speed.

Target Marketing reports, "Several years ago, Google began advocating for using responsive design for mobile sites. As we move into the future, responsive design will simply be table stakes for mobile search performance. With mobile-first, it is more than likely that even mobile-friendly, slower performing sites will be left in the search rankings dust."

Measuring Performance

Our research department used a site called GTmetrix.com to produce reports of download speeds at a few selected publications. The reports additionally give each website a letter grade that is based on more factors than just speed.

We found that Time magazine got an F. It takes nearly 15 seconds for its landing page to finish downloading. That can seem like an eternity for an on-the-run mobile user looking for some quick information.

Competitors Newsweek and US News fared better. Newsweek got a D, showing a download speed of 8.7 seconds. US News did even better. It downloads in just 3.1 seconds and earned the publication a C.

Huffington Post got only a D, with 11.9 seconds. Eurasia Review did better, receiving a C and a download measurement of 5.2 seconds.

General Newspapers

Newspapers can be a different story. Many have large landing pages, and that presents quite a challenge. We tested the Washington Post. It must be one heck of a long download. Its GTmetrix test repeatedly crashed, displaying an error message. It indicated that the analysis was abandoned when the page took more than 2 minutes to download.

Other newspapers outperformed the Post. The New York Times got a D for its 9.6-second performance. But the Financial Times actually pulled a B. Its landing page takes just 4.7 seconds to come in. Good for them.

No A Grades Found

We didn't find many other good grades in our anecdotal research. Market Watch also got a B (3.8 seconds).

But the technical magazines we looked at are definitely behind the curve. MIT's Technology Review, Power Magazine, and Hydro World all got Fs; display speeds fell in a range of 9.41 to 11.3 seconds.

Now take the test yourself. Go to www.gtmetrix.com, enter your URL, and discover your grade and download speed. Let us know what you find, and, if you're flunking, tell us what you might want to do to pull up your grade!

William Dunkerley is principal of William Dunkerley Publishing Consultants, www.publishinghelp.com.

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