A flipping good news site

One of the most vexing questions that faces online publishers these days is just how to make the Internet pay.

Internet users are notoriously resistant to paying for content and there are only a few publications worldwide, which have managed to get their users to do so. The publishers have all more or less been forced to establish an online presence, where users can access some or all of their content, and rely on advertising to make it pay.

In the medium to long-term future, Google has plans to provide a platform whereby publishers will be able to charge small amounts for users wanting to read their material. The theory is that web users would be prepared to pay a small amount to read published news and views. So far, it has been impossible to collect very small amounts of money from lots people, because finance charges are prohibitive.

All that’s in the future, if it ever happens at all, but Google recently launched a new site which is intended to help content publishers (and Google) make a profit from their content. The new service is called Google Fast Flip and presents news from participating publishers on one easy-to-navigate page, and shares the advertising revenue with the publishers.

I went along to the site at fastflip.googlelabs.com and found that here are more than 40 publishers who have signed-up to the service, and whose stories are displayed on the site. These are displayed in the form of thumbnail pictures of the story page on the publisher’s own website.

The stories are grouped by section, topic, publication, and can also be ranked in order of Most Recent, Most Viewed or Most Recommended. You can click on any story that interests you and you are then shown an enlarged picture of the page containing the story. The pictures are large enough so that you can read a couple of paragraphs, to get a sense of whether you want to read any more.

On the page is a link to the publisher’s website, where you can read the whole story if you want to, and a couple of adverts. Google is hoping that, while you’re viewing the page on Fast Flip, you’ll click on one or more adverts. Every time you do, Google’s cash register will go ‘ka-ching’ and the advertiser will have to pay up, because you’ve looked at their advert.

Just as a supermarket collects consumer goods together to make shopping quicker and more convenient, Google is acting as a news aggregator and making it quicker and more convenient to get your news online.

Content publishers have so far tended to get very hot under the collar at the thought of their content appearing on other websites, even if in abbreviated form. This is why I think that Google model, where they are paid a share of revenues, is going down much better.

Fast Flip is a very interesting idea and it certainly does make it easy you for you to see at a glance what’s happening in the world, and to get up to date quickly on whatever topic happens to take your fancy.

I think that it is going to be a very useful tool and, even though it offers mainly American publications at the moment, I’m sure we’ll soon see more international ones joining in.

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