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September 17, 2009

Fast Flip of Fortune for News Online?

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In a time when we’re quick to criticize the slow adopters, newspapers have been frequent target.

newspaper and cat
CC BY-SA 2.0

Personally, I love newspapers. The paper versions, I mean. I love their musty smell, the gritty paper, the music they make when the wind blows, and most of all, the way I feel after surfacing from the depths of insight and analysis, the indescribable pride of gaining knowledge.

But for all the sensual joy found in these black and white leafs, newspapers have had a rough time moving into the digital sphere. So when Google announced its experimental news reader, Fast Flip, at TechCrunch50 this week, I got a warm feeling inside. Someone, even if not the news publishers themselves, was doing something substantial to help the news industry adapt.

When I talked to CNN.com’s SEO coordinator Topher Kohan on the SEM Synergy podcast this week, we got a chance to talk about where the news industry is headed on this big sprawling Web of ours.

Logically, the answer was: news is going to have to be where people get their information. Mobile applications are definitely at the top of the list. When I wake up in the morning, I roll over, pick up my iPhone, and launch the LA Times app. I think this is typical and will only become more so.

Google has stepped up (or rather, has responded to repeated requests for help) and offered up Fast Flip to aid in online users’ news reading. And Fast Flip is available on the iPhone and Android phones, but the onus is on news organizations to take the reins and make their product available to people as they want it.

In an editorial on the blog The Digital Journalist, one proposal for how to start to save photojournalism is offered up. As much as the industry needs fresh thinking and innovation to weather the storm, this proposal is backwards from start to finish.

Apparently this group has “called on the publishers of The New York Times and The Washington Post to create pay walls around their unique content” as a way to gain revenue. But after finding little response from these news organizations, “there is only one way” to turn the situation around. “Philanthropists must come to the rescue.”

That’s your big solution?! Some generous soul will come around and bankroll all the news organizations?! As though the fourth estate has now become a charity case.

Rather than expecting a white knight to save the day, news organizations are going to have to do what everyone else has had to do in the face of the Internet. They’re going to have to shift gears, reevaluate strategy, commit resources, and, here’s the scary part, change.

It’s not that the newspapers are in this boat alone. Businesses of all kinds have learned that their survival depends on their evolution. And newspaper execs should expect Google to take care of their problems as much as any small business owner does — that is, not at all.

I’m glad that Google Fast Flip is out now, because I do believe people look at news content differently than other content. But I hope this development doesn’t become a crutch for the news orgs. This small victory is not the end.

Newspapers and business owners, keep seeking the next step in your online journey. Don’t assume that your problem will be fixed from the outside. Continue to gain knowledge of how people travel online. Continue to understand your audience and their needs. And continue to push technology so that it does what you and your audience need it to do. Don’t expect someone else to do a job that’s best done by you.

Google Fast Flip
Check out Google Fast Flip at http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/

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One response to “Fast Flip of Fortune for News Online?”

  1. Martin Canchola writes:

    Let’s not forget how the new google fastflip technology works on the iPhone and possibly other smart phones. It works like a charm. Smooth transitions and has a great user experience. All I can say it give it try. Who knows where this new technology will take us. Only time will tell. Great article Virginia Nussey!



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