Google Flips Out Over News Reading Technology


Google Fast Flip aims to accelerate the pace at which readers devour online news

Google Labs on 14 Sept unleashed Google Fast Flip, which the company hopes will speed up the way readers read online news while yielding more advertising dollars for the publishers that participate in the experiment.

As the name suggests, Fast Flip is designed to make the news Web browsing more like the way readers turn the pages of print newspapers and magazines: Fast. Web pages with publishers’ articles are rendered on the Fast Flip page, where users can click on them to begin reading. Users may also scroll through scores of articles simply by clicking the mouse on up, down or side-to-side arrows.

Article choices are designated by most popular, sections, topics and sources, and there are subsections within those. Popular includes recent, most viewed, recommended and headlines. Current topics this morning included San Francisco, marketing, football, New York, YouTube, hip hop and Barack Obama.

Sections includes all of the regular Google News sections, which indicates that if this experiment works, it will become the default mode of browsing Google News.

When users click on an article to read it, they will also see a blue bar on the left hand of the screen with previews of additional articles. Users can simply click on any of those to flit from content piece to content piece without clicking the forward and back arrows surrounding the article pages. Users can also click a “like” button in the top right of an article page to recommend stories to other readers.

In some ways, the navigational experience of Fast Flip is not unlike using microfiche machines in public libraries to rapidly scroll through articles. However, microfiche involves unwieldy mechanical reels and is not viewed through a Web browser with ad dollars being generated from clicks on articles.

To that end, Google is sharing ad revenue generated from Fast Flip with participating publishing partners, including TechCrunch, The New York Times, Fast Company and Business Week. There are currently 39 Fast Flip partners.

“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,” wrote Krishna Bharat, Google News distinguished researcher, in a blog post.

Bharat also nodded to the struggling publishing industry, noting while Fast Flip is not a “magic bullet” to boost publishing ad sales, Fast Flip could help Web users surf through more news.

Google is doing other things to prop up the publishing industry while trying to pad its coffers, including working on a micropayments solution for publishers and embarking on an ambitious, albeit controversial Google Book Search deal with book authors and publishers.

Google said Fast Flip also works for Google Android and Apple iPhones. It is available through the same Fast Flip link for desktop computers. Instead of clicking on articles with a mouse, users will be swiping and tapping tiny touch-screens with their fingers.