Google’s Fast Flip Trick
Google wants its online news site to feel more like the good old print product.
And the company is prepared to pay for it.
Google took the wraps off of Fast Flip on Monday, a slick online tool that lets readers flip through articles from newspapers and magazines as quickly and effortlessly as if they were turning the pages of a magazine.
Obsessive Google-watchers may recall that rumors of this product emerged back in June.
But the company officially released Fast Flip on Monday, making it available on Google Labs, the company’s outlet for products that are still in the testing phase.
Google is essentially hosting images of the first page of various articles from its partner publishers. A Web surfer can browse by topic or news source and scroll through fast-loading snapshots of all the relevant articles. There’s a “recommended” section that aggregates the most popular articles thanks to a new recommendation tool that Google has added (watch out Digg!).
Google is running banner ads alongside the article thumbnails, the proceeds of which will be split with publishers (though Google won’t disclose the terms of the revenue split). If a Web surfer wants to read the full article, they’re redirected to the publisher’s actual Web site.
“The publishing industry faces many challenges today, and there is no magic bullet,” said Google Distinguished Researcher Krishna Bharat in a blog post announcing Fast Flip. “However, we believe that encouraging readers to read more news is a necessary part of the solution. We think Fast Flip could be one way to help, and we’re looking to find other ways to help as well in the near future.”
It’s a fine balancing act by Google, which can continue to stand behind its argument that it helps news sites by sending traffic their way while also sharing a bit of the wealth.
But Bharat acknowledged in an interview with Reuters that various aspects of Fast Flip, including the business model, are subject to change.
Whether the current iteration will be enough to assuage some of Google’s most vocal news industry critics remains to be seen.
Missing among the list of FastFlip partners is Dow Jones, whose chief executive called Google a “digital vampire” this summer.