Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

Flippin’ interesting

Posted on | September 18, 2009 | 2 Comments

I’m of two minds about Google. On the one hand, its business model has eviscerated my first love, commercial journalism. On the other hand, I love what Google does. Yes, it’s supplanted Microsoft in the popular hate-o-sphere, but let’s be honest: What they give us is free, interoperable, useful and usually fantastic.

So, in that spirit I blogged the other day (Micropayments are macro-B.S.) about Google’s fox-in-the-henhouse outreach to publishers when it comes to micropayments. But a day later, Google unleashed FastFlip, a very cool way to flip through cached pages of a number of major, global publications (the usual suspects, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Newsweek, MIT Technology Review, TechCrunch, etc. P.S. We can do without US magazine, however).

So hats off for another Google Labs innovation. I’m not sure it’ll become habit for me, but in the spirit of the quest for useability, some thoughts:

  • Flip is a handy way to see a lot of content graphically and quickly.
  • Google sells ads against it and presumably the publishers’ ads would get rendered too, but it looks like they truncate the publisher pages so those ads don’t render on first glance.
  • It’s a step toward better usability on the Web but only a step. I use Feedly as a skin for my Google Reader content, it’s better than raw Google Reader, but it’s not the end game, at least in its current form.
  • The biggest, starkest realization for me is that it doesn’t matter what Google, Feedly and what-not do to make content more graphically accessible, manageable, readable: The original content from traditional publishers STILL ISN’T OPTIMIZED FOR WEB READING!!

Come November, we will celebrate the 15th anniversary of the commercial Web. And still, still, publishers haven’t grasped that their content online has to be presented differently than content the lounges out gracefully on broad paper with appealing graphics.

Google, despite its disruptive impact on traditional publishing, is holding up its end of the bargain on usability with products like FastFlip; publishers, sadly, are not.

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2 Responses to “Flippin’ interesting”

  1. Daniel Payne
    September 18th, 2009 @ 5:18 pm

    Hmm, Microsoft is convicted in Federal Court of being a monopoly because of their illegal business practices and strong-arm tactics, yet you hate Google?

    I love Google and still avoid Microsoft products when I have an Open Source alternative.

    I say, go Google, go.

  2. Brian
    September 18th, 2009 @ 6:18 pm

    Hi, Dan, and thanks for the comment. Let me clarify: It’s a big L love, little h hate. It’s unfortunate and sad that Google has helped disaggregate the media business and used the media businesses’ own content to do it (but without passivity from the media, maybe the situation would be different).
    On the other hand, I agree with you completely on open source and free. More power to it.
    Although I have to say that earlier this year when I was consulting fulltime, I pledged to buy a Ubuntu-enabled laptop and use web-based productivity tools only. I didn’t pull the trigger on the first and have used only a few in the second. MSFT’s stranglehold is tough to wiggle out of in some cases.

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