Google's FastFlip: Yet Another Way to Read the News.

By nikguptanikgupta (1254301649|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

Google has come out with an innovative news reader called FastFlip that enables users to see actual image previews of articles instead of the standard snippets that most news aggregators offer. FastFlip has a magazine-style interface that could very well change the way we look at RSS feeds (just as we were getting used to them!). Roger Janik brings up the point that the innovation could also help Google's standing with publishers, who have been fed up with decreased ad revenue as a result of standard RSS readers.

Put that newspaper down. Oh, right, you did - 2 years ago. You've graduated onto Google Reader and Bloglines since then. Feeling "hip" and "with it?" As it generally is with technology and the internet: you're probably not. Especially if you still think people say "hip" and "with it."

Google has come out with a new news-reader called "FastFlip."

Check it:
fastflip.PNG

How it Works

What separates FastFlip from normal RSS are the image previews of the articles (instead of simple headlines + paragraph blurbs on the article). These can come in handy in giving the reader a better clue of what the article contains. I particularly like what happens when you actually click an image. You're taken to a page with a larger image preview, with large blue arrows on either side that you can click to cycle through the available articles. This allows you to read the beginning of the article straight from the site (fancy formatting and all) and then, should you decide to continue reading, click the image to take you to the official page.

Review

I love it. My problem with RSS (at least from my limited experience with it, in BIT 200 and this class), is that there is too much text. I never found Google reader to be quite user-friendly (although I might in the minority there). The image previews are quite useful, particularly when it comes to ambiguous headlines that don't give a good idea of what the article is about. Also, I get the feeling of flipping through a magazine without having to lick my thumb and hope the page catches.

I also like the simple organization of the page.

There are the "popular" links at the top (including "recent," "most viewed," "recommended," and "headlines" subheadings), followed by standard "newspaper"-like sections (sports, entertainment, politics, business, etc).

Then come "topics," which are a lot of fun because they change every time you refresh the page. I could spend hours just refreshing and browsing through different topics - I just wasted about 10 minutes reading "6 Classic Kanye Freakouts" (haha, look at Mike Myers' face) and other articles from the "hip-hop" topic.

Lastly comes the "source" category - where you can cycle through the different sources that FastFlip accesses. I suspect that the only reason this page isn't super-customizable (as most things Google are) is because it's still in development; I anticipate that in the future, FastFlip users will be able to change up the order of categories as they see fit. So if you're like me and prefer more news from the New York Times than anything else, you'll able to change the order up.

Possible Motivation

Roger Janik at Promotion Weekly considers this innovation from the revenue standpoint. He brings up the possibility that Google may have developed FastFlip because popular news carriers are upset at how much ad revenue they are losing over RSS. After all, RSS does not require users to actually visit other websites, and the less often users visit the sites, the less ad revenue those sites get. FastFlip might give users more incentive to surf other sites because of the more in-depth previews it gives.

Regardless, I give it two (papercut-free) thumbs up and hope they continue to expand on it. Right now, the service only has 29 participating news sources.

Note: There is also a version of FastFlip for the mobile phone that I wish I could have reviewed, but thanks to troubles with the iPhone, could not. I might write a blog about it on my own page, though. Stay tuned.

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