Google is testing a service, Fast Flip, that will let users read Web pages of magazines and newspapers like they were flipping through an old-fashioned paper copy.
Google Fast Flip is a Google Labs project that expands the presence of publishers on Google News, organising and displaying authorised screen grabs of news stories -- not snippets -- within the Google News site.
For example, readers will be able to scroll through a series of screen grabs, bearing the publisher's logo, that display stories on the weekend's football games or Kanye West's opinion on who should win an award for 'best female video of the year'. The service also allows users to browse by categories organised around Google News sections, most popular stories, or news sources. They'll be able to read some of the story within a section of the Fast Flip site but will need to click through to the publisher's Web site in order to read the full story.
Fast Flip is being tested in partnership with 36 publishers, including The New York Times. Publishers which will get a portion of the revenue from ads that Google plans to sell alongside Fast Flip pages.
Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations at the The New York Times, called Fast Flip "a modest R&D project", designed as an experiment to gauge click-through rates and traffic, rather than any sort of money-making venture. He declined to comment on how much revenue Google would be sharing with the paper.
Google News has been a lightning rod for criticism from the struggling newspaper industry. Some publishers believe Google News siphons their content and discourages readers from clicking through to the source of the story by including the headline and a snippet of the article. Others complain about the way bloggers who are merely writing and commenting on a piece of original reporting can sometimes get more exposure on Google News than the author or publisher of the original story.
Fast Flip gives publishers more of what they want: a chance to share in the ad revenue generated by Google News, combined with the attention and traffic that comes along with inclusion in Google News.
But Fast Flip requires publishers to showcase more of their content than appears in a simple Google News listing, which could allow readers to completely skip clicking through after getting the gist of the story from the first few paragraphs. On the other hand, a more attractive presentation of the story could attract more clicks than a single headline might.