Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Google Fast Flip the wave of the future?

So I'm checking out Google's "shiny new toy," as David Carr of the NYT describes it. Google Fast Flip is beta version of a news hub that allows viewers to flip through images of Web pages in a layout that's very similar to a magazine. Clicking on those pages then takes you to the original content from the Web site it came from.

Viewers can organize the pages by subject, popularity, source, etc. You can check it out for yourself here.

Personally, I don't think Flip is as ground-breaking as people are making it out to be. After all, it's essentially just another version of a news aggregator, but more visually oriented and with more controls for the viewer. Neat, but not exactly reinventing the wheel.

The part about it that I find fascinating is that Google has agreed to share revenue with the content providers based on the advertising Google places around the Flip pages. This is pretty major, since the business model of aggregators like Google has been to link to/rewrite content while keeping ad revenue for themselves.

Perhaps Google has seen all the talk about news organizations banding together to charge for online content or even stop aggregator links. (Mark Cuban has said it can be accomplished with a few lines of code.) I welcome any move toward partnerships between traditional news organizations and those new media upstarts who know how to movie information across the Web, fast.

To take the argument analog, it's as if people were getting a book, making photocopies of it, then selling the copies as if they had published the book themselves. In many cases, aggregators gather more Web traffic (and thus more ad dollars) than the people who actually took the time and expense to produce original content.

In the old days, we would call the copiers "plagiarists" without much hesitation. But we have to recognize that in the information age, old standards and practices may have to go by the wayside.

Those distributing, and profiting, from disseminating other companies' work on the Web have to understand that it's a symbiotic relationship. If newspapers and other media go under, the aggregators won't have anything to link to. Google's step to share revenue is much more relevant than the actual new widget.

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