September 14th, 2009

What Google Understands About the Future of News and Publishing That Publishers Do Not


Google knows a lot about the future of news — more than many publishers. It’s evident in Google’s new product, Fast Flip, which allows news consumers to “flip” through news stories. What’s striking about Fast Flip is that Google is innovating precisely where publishers used to lead innovation.

Fast Flip is a new package for news.

The publishing business has always been about packaging content. Newspapers. Magazines. Newsletters

In digital media, on the web, the news package is now a function of software — which is why Google is innovating precisely where publishers are not.

Fast Flip is, more accurately, an attempt to create a new UI for news — a better way to consume publishers’ content than publishers provide on their own sites.

Most publishers are focused on how to charge for news. But there’s very little talk about how to innovate the packaging of news, much less a new UI for news. There’s very little talk about how people consume news on the web, about the value of aggregating articles from multiple sources, about solving consumers’ problems rather than publishers’ problems.

That’s why Google is taking the lead on figuring out how to create the new news package, and why they will continue to control the lucrative front end of distribution, while publishers are left with far less profitable back end of content creation.

Google is sharing revenue with publishers because Fast Flip goes way beyond linking to actually partially reproducing entire web pages. And publishers will have to be content with the revenue that Google shares.

Unless they finally decide to compete on the real playing field that will determine the future of news and publishing.

  • I'm not sure I get it?

    Making newspaper print stories shovelled into a newspaper website easier to view?

    As opposed to improving the web versions of stories and trying to monetise that with all the technology and web-capabilities we now have? Seems like a step forward and two back? Or am I missing a trick here?

  • EGC

    Uh, I don't think so. Browsing pictures of news articles is hardly a great leap forward for UI. This service is ugly and illegible. If anything, it makes news much LESS appealing.
    If this is the answer, I don't understand the question.

  • rienadeclarer

    How could any publisher pull off what Google did? How could any publisher go and reference their competition's content?

    Google can do it precisely because they are not producing content. And also because that's what they do: referencing.

    Publishers never "used to lead innovation" in the field of packaging. Come on, newspapers have been the same for 200 years. What you dont' seem to appreciate – and that I know by the way you say "news consumers" instead of "readers" or "citizens" – is that publishers have been for years focused mainly on content. And that's a good thing. They've been struck a couple of years ago by the obsolescence of their medium, paper. They've launched web sites with no capital, because for years newspapers have barely made money. Now they are losing money and no banks want to loan them a penny for obvious reasons. Leading the innovation of news packaging 2.0 with no capital, while you still have to manage your content and develop a website is a big task. Near impossible.
    For myself, I am not surprised to see Google develop the FastFlip. And no, I don't think it is a question of "understanding" something or not. It's a question of means and purposes. And they're pretty obvious to me.

  • ahoving

    Except that Google has stopped innovating and is just going through the motions the way Microsoft had been doing for years -- to protect its market share. FastFlip looks like the iFrames solution we came up with in the 1990s. Today, small, agile companies like can out-innovate Google.

  • bartbrouwers

    Funny, that's about the same as what I concluded on True/Slant:
    Even when Google says it has the support of famous traditional news brands like the New York Times and the Washington Post, some of them won’t like what they see. Again, more of their original content will be shared through Google News: first a headline and a couple of lines, now a complete screenshot, with sometimes readable articles. 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.
    Read more

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