Google launched Flipper nee Fast Flip today at TechCrunch50. The product is a news reader that brings the same concept of Google Reader (the ability to read lots of news from disparate sources in one place, quickly) to mainstream news sites. In my daily work flow this innovation has just made mainstream news relevant again in my consumption of media.
Because it gives me all of my news from mainstream sites in one place – in an environment where I can skim quickly and dive in to the articles that interest me most.
The Problem with MSM News Sites Up Until Today
The problems with mainstream news sites have been many including:
- Terrible UI
- Rejuritated AP News (aka duplicate content)
- Poor search
- Limited RSS capability
- Limited customization
But perhaps the biggest problem is that there wasn’t an easy way to get all of my news in one place. To keep news in my daily information workflow I would have to:
- Go to New York Times
- Go to LA Times
- Go to SFGate.com
- Go to WSJ.com
- Go to OC Register
- and on and on…
I’m too busy for that to ever happen with any regularity. That’s why I rely so heavily on Google Reader. Since most newspapers publish partial RSS feeds I was able to read a headline and jump to a site if it was really important. But even that wasn’t ideal as I had little more than the first 50 words to determine if the article was something I was interested in. Now with the new GUI I am able to see much more of the story and context before making that determination.
Google Solves a Lot of Those MSM Problems, but Not All
Flip Fast solves many of the above problems. But primarily it makes news easier to digest at a rapid place all in one easy-to-use environment. It’s how news consumption should’ve been all along and I think will become an important part of my daily information in-take.
Now, of course, there is a lot to be desired, such as customization options, social features and the like; and I still have to visit the publisher site to get the full story, but now I can get a better sense of the news out there rather than relying on the few miserable partial feeds in my Google Reader.
Moving forward I’d like to see many of the social features and discovery features that have been redefining what it means to read and share news in Google Reader.
An Embarrassment for the MSM?
Flip Fast seems like an embarrassment for the mainstream media institution. While Conde Nast is busy paying McKinsey to tell them to cut their staff 25%, Google is redefining what it means to read and consume mainstream news on the Web. Fast flip is exactly the kind of innovation that the publishing industry needs and it’s exactly the kind of innovation that the main stream media (for the most part) has avoided, trying instead to protect their dwindling online revenues with thoughts of micro-payments and paywalls. When you start to look at options besides the same old tired ones, sometimes new answers come to light that actually give you hope and a chance of making it through the revolution of an industry.
Frankly, the mainstream media should be embarrased and disappointed it didn’t create something like this themselves. Instead they took the music industry approach and tried to protect a vanishing island by charging $12.50 for 5 words from the AP. Now, the one mainstream site that hasn’t succumbed to this model is the New York Times who has developed their own “Fast Flip” prototype called Article Skimmer; which makes reading the news easier online; but still is limited by the one-property nature of the news.
Now, who knows if this will help save newspapers online and become a viable revenue stream. It’s hard to see a lot of mainstream readers adopting this site without some serious education about the product, benefits, and connections with the rest of their online life without some refinement. It also bucks the “local is everything” hyper-targeted track that media companies have been chasing recently, which is an interesting approach. Instead of “hey we’ve pared everything down to what’s relevant to you” that mainstream media has been trying to do, it’s a “hey, here’s the tools to get you through all the news you want in the same amount of time you’d spend on one site.” And I like that approach better.
So what do you think? What do you think about Fast Flip? Is it the next Google Maps or the next Froogle? Let me know in the comments.