Google Takes Another Swipe At Newspapers And Magazines With Fast Flip

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Traditional print media companies got the Internet all wrong. It started off in the wrong place and it seems like there is little they can do to recuperate.

To make matters better (or worse, depending on who you ask), Google just introduced another platform/destination today called, Fast Flip. While it’s still in beta (and what great online application isn’t?), the product was announced on the Official Google Blog today in a post titled, Read news fast with Google Fast Flip.

Here’s the skinny on Fast Flip via Google:

"Fast Flip is a new reading experience that combines the best elements of print and online articles. Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized."

So, what was traditional print medias big mistake?

Reading content is still compelling (even in the traditional print format). While the numbers are shrinking, they’re not disappearing. People still have a passion for print (and that includes yours truly). So why – in an online world where you can publish content in video, audio, photos and text – did all of these traditional print publishing companies simply copy and paste their text-based content to the Internet? Instead of giving all of that content from their paid printed versions away, why didn’t they create some compelling content that would compliment the print or drive people to buy it? A great example of this is how BusinessWeek has an audio Podcast called, Behind This Week’s Cover Story, where the editors interview the journalist responsible for the cover story. Sometimes the podcast will play audio clips of the interviews used to write the piece, and much more. If you’re a fan of the magazine, these types of behind-the-scenes pieces in a format (audio) that you can’t get in print, might be just the thing that would drive a reader down to the retail level to pick up a copy of the magazine (maybe even subscribe). Instead, traditional print publishers were quick to copy and paste that content online. Now, it’s all (mostly) free and that’s the expectation of the readers too.

Google Fast Flip is going to make people more loyal to Google, not the source publications. 

Yes, like a traditional text links, people will click through to the full, original article if it is interesting to them, but before they do, Google now gives you a very nice layout and feel for the source brand while serving up their own ads on every flip (not to mention full articles as well – not just two lines of text-based summary). Try Fast Flip out for yourself, and keep count of how many banner impressions you quickly serve up. I love the notion of The Link Economy (hat-tip Jeff Jarvis over at Buzzmachine), and it’s interesting to see how Google is now creating a visualization of links that not only keep you mostly on their own property, but allows you to travel through a newsstand in record time.

Traditional print publishers must be making some money with Fast Flip.

"To build Google Fast Flip, we partnered with three dozen top publishers, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Salon, Fast Company, ProPublica and Newsweek. These partners will share the revenue earned from contextually relevant ads. This gives publishers an opportunity to introduce new readers to their content. It also tests our theory that being able to read articles faster means people will read more of them, driving more ad revenue to publishers."

This sounds like a rev share deal where the publisher gets a percentage of the advertising Google runs around their content on Fast Flip. The bigger question is this: does the Publisher have to kick back some of their advertising revenues if someone finds them through Fast Flip and then clicks over to the original web content?

Try out Fast Flip and then weigh in: is this good for Publishers or is this going to strip more traffic away from them?


  1. You’re right, Mitch. Very few print based mags have figured out that they need to use the net as an enhancement tool. So many people are getting it wrong, it’s almost sad to see. I like the idea of Google Fast Flip. But I have no choice in the matter. I want to be able to customize the content that I’m going to flip through and right now I can’t. I find that problematic. I’m sure Google will add customization in the near future. But until then, I’ll be finding my own news.

  2. Google is the convenient assembler here, with ads to be mingled in later on, presumably. You can think of a variety of models: magazine racks; food vending machines, but with no spoilage. I don’t think anyone will skip clicking on a page that is staring them in the face. The question will be what the money splits will be and where and on what basis, that is if this is to be a service that is a partnership with “major” content brands — “individual top publishers”. I can’t see a service devoted to a single class of content source, unless it is based on a high entry price.
    Not terrible, though, as an alternative to unsightly results pages, which will be satisfactory to many users.

  3. Thanks for this post Mitch!
    I think this is fantastic! If they could enable you to drag and drop your favorite sites and select the different sites you want that would be great.
    As with most things Google creates the possibilities are almost endless. I have predicted they will most likely rule the world one day.
    In being serious though, I agree with Arjun in, that print based and other companies need to use the net as an enhancement tool. They need to use it as a communication tool as well.
    Mitch, as always, thanks for keeping me up-to-date with the interwebs. I have listened to your podcast, I know for over a year now and I have finally posted on your site. Keep up the Great, Great work that you do, and I will be sure to tune in with you every monday morning. Thanks,
    Jamie Croft

  4. Jamie, have you tried – specifically It’s not quite what you want – you can’t add sites they don’t have (though if you nominate a site for a category they’ll probably add it) but it’s pretty close in terms of creating a more visually appealing news aggregator than many RSS readers, including Google Reader.

  5. I think we all know it’s just a matter of time before this looks more and more like a visual way to view something akin to Google Reader. My guess is this is the first strike at looking towards a serious relationship with some major publishers to see how both can win (Google with keeping people on their tools and publishers with some additional advertising dollars).
    Expect full customization from this platform very soon.

  6. Hey Mitch, hope you had a good night at the launch.
    So Fast Flip looks like fun. Infact, it makes browsing the “normal” news headlines online enjoyable (and less-likely to distraction). I love my reader feeds, but I don’t have any general news feeds in there. It’s all about content I think I want. Sometimes there’s value in getting general *what’s going on* content – and this makes that far easier.
    At this stage, one request. I think it’d be a good start to make the content country specific. I’m a Scot, and while not boycotting the US, I’d like to read a bit more news close to home. As you say, customisation will come.
    Dear Google – we’re a educated user base and we’d like this feature tomorrow please?!

  7. Interesting concept and will only improve over time, but geez, sometimes it’s just nice to sit down with the Sunday paper, flop on the couch, grab some coffee and just relax and read. Sometimes it’s just better to slow down for a while, read, think – not everything has be read and consumed en masse and at warp speed. I think the important thing here is to step back, look at the trends developing – yes, very, very difficult times for print media but I think there will be a sustainable market for quite a while. FastFlip and other solutions will fill voids and provide alternatives, but there’s nothing like sitting down with a good book, newspaper or magazine from time to time.

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