Google News-Reading Service: Fast Flip – What Google Forgot, Strategy Insights

Google news was long predicted to be an enemy by many in the news industry. Ans as per thier latest Google Lab experiment, Google is making a bold attempt to do the unexpected – A friend. The new Service hopes to make it easier for readers to read newspaper and magazine articles.

Google is testing a new service, Fast Flip, which lets readers browse through recent headlines and feeds from news Web sites.

How it will benefit the publishers
Users can view articles from several major publishers and flip through them, as they would the pages of a magazine. Google will place ads around the news articles and share resulting revenue with publishers. That will keep the most of the print Industry happy, and further attract more publishers around the world.
Mr. Bharat said that while Fast Flip tries to recreate some of the experience of reading news offline, the service will also incorporate many Web features. For instance, it will rely partly on Google’s algorithms and partly on user behavior to rank articles. Those that are clicked on or e-mailed the most often will rise in the rankings. And when users save an article they like, friends may be automatically notified.

Google Fast Flip News Service

Google's Fast Flip News Service

Fast Flip, mistakenly considered to be based on Google News, actually tries to address the issues Google News and many other online services failed to achieve over the years. These are:

  • Speed,
  • Unified-platform for Content availability, and
  • Overall, an Experience that would be  similar to scanning through physical newspapers or magazines.

As per Google “Browsing news on the Web is much slower than it is in print,” said Krishna Bharat, a distinguished researcher at Google who developed Google News in 2002. “When it is fast, people will look at more news and more ads, and that’s something that publishers want to see.”

What’s Bad

I seriously doubt Speed: Definitely, this is NOT the fastest interface. Though the service is named flip, it doesn’t flip at all. The interface is better than what we have seen so far, but it still ain’t replacing print media unless we see some improvements.

If you don’t know what you are looking for, Fast Flip will present a number of publications at once and let you slide through them. The idea is supposed to mimic how you might use a real newspaper or magazine. But the mimicry leaves a lot to be desired in terms of user experience and the page rendering is hard on the eyes.

Pre-caching: They could have made it more pleasing by caching previous & next page, just like Picasa, Facebook, Orkut does for images. It’s not hard to do. After all, these articles are also shown as Images, it could be slow, sometimes, to load or atleast irritating.

Text Quality: The text in the images is not the best for long reading experiences. Reading a bad text could cause fatigues faster. Compare this with you can get on eBook readers like Sony PRS-600. Because, images are the first thing readers will see, it’s messy. But, if they click on it, they will be taken to the publisher’s Web site. But again, even if it’s just a preview, it has to come up to acceptable levels.

“I don’t look at this as the solution to the future of journalism,” said Richard Gingras, the chief executive of Salon Media Group, who previously worked as an adviser to Google executives on media strategy. “But who knows? We will learn from it.”

No room for Addiction: If you are addicted to a particular newspaper like NYT every morning, fast flip is definitely not for you. Google has tried to Categorize news rather than do it all based on user’s choice of publisher: This gives a vertical implementation, thereby not surfacing any room for addiction to a particular news Publisher.

Limited Publishers: Currently 3 dozens of publishers have signed up with Google. But not every news agency would be happy in binding themselves with Google. A few local small news media might not ever be able to, even if they wanted to.

News Now and then

There have been number of other attempts to make reading electronic news more efficient. They include Times Reader, an application that allows users to download The Times onto their computers, and versions of papers available for e-book readers like Amazon’s Kindle. But those efforts have gained only limited acceptance.

Mr. Bharat said Google will offer a version of Fast Flip for some phones, and may allow news publishers to use its underlying technology directly on their sites.

Do let me know what you think about Google’s plan for Fast Flip.

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