Google News Fast Flip flips news fast...ish

Google launched its Fast Flip webapp, which allows you to quickly scan the latest news visually. It's clever; it's cute. But wait, did I say "quickly"? In IT Blogwatch, bloggers don't quite agree.

By Richi Jennings. September 15, 2009.

Your humble blogwatcher is back from his relaxing vacation, and has selected these bloggy morsels for your enjoyment. Not to mention Florentijn Hofman's 35 ft rubber duck...

MG Siegler is like a proud father:

Back in June, we broke the news that Google was working on a new visual way to display Google News then called “Flipper.” ... [Monday] Google’s Marissa Mayer formally launched the product now known as Google Fast Flip.


Imagine going to a newsstand and looking at all the magazines lined up, only here, it’s screenshots of actual articles. And while the thumbnails are small initially, you can click to zoom in on any of them and actually see how it looks on the actual page. Obviously, you can click-through to read the entire article on its actual site.

Alexei Oreskovic has the money shot:

Google wants its online news site to feel more like the good old print product. And the company is prepared to pay for it.


The company said it will share advertising revenue with the 30 publishers whose content is currently available on Fast Flip. ... 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.

Miguel Helft expands on that angle:

In that sense, the deal is similar to an agreement that Google signed with The Associated Press and other news agencies in 2007. And it is similar to the complex settlement that Google struck with book publishers and authors. In that deal, Google agreed to pay publishers for revenue derived from Google’s ability to offer full books online, rather than short excerpts.


Of course, no one in the news industry believes that Fast Flip, even if it is successful, will do much to solve newspapers’ main problem: plunging advertising revenues. That’s why the news industry is considering various models under which publishers would charge for content. Google wants to be a player in those plans, too.

Bart Brouwers says there's, "Work to do for all publishers":

It’s obvious that the real winners will be the best designed news sites. They will get much more clicks than they used to in the text based Google News.


Depending on how web savvy the publisher wants to be, either new criticism will be expressed – or the design department will be ordered to develop a new, Fast Flip based design for their web articles. But either way, it is Google that determines the rate and the publishers will have to react again. Which must be annoying for an industry that’s so desperately yearning for some decisive steps by themselves.

But it incites criticism from David Coursey :

[It's] a new way to consume online news, but not a better one. It falls into the trap of trying to make a computer imitate real-life. Rarely does this have a happy ending.


Maybe Fast Flip will get better over time, though I am not sure how. The page rendering could certainly be vastly better. But, I would rather see lots of headlines and story leads than page images. In flipping through Fast Flip, I found the page images actually got in the way more than they helped.

And Harry McCracken calls it, "Interesting, useful, odd, imperfect":

It’s quite neat–pretty addictive, actually. But it’s also…kind of odd. For several reasons: It doesn’t necessarily make browsing for news faster. ... The previews break some conventions of the Web. ... The ads are un-Google-esque. ... It doesn’t always work.


I don’t mean to be overly nitpicky–Fast Flip is clever, and I hope it sticks around and evolves.

So what's your take?
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Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and spam. A 24 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. You can follow him as @richi on Twitter or richij on FriendFeed, pretend to be Richi's friend on Facebook, or just use good old email:

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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