Sep 17, 2009

New Stand

Have you taken a look at Fast Flip?It’s Google’s experimental newsstand, displaying articles and magazine covers in a pictorial design format that lets your eye gravitate toward front-page layouts you instantly recognize and to photos or other images that appeal subliminally to you. Read a bit at Google, then click through in a two-step process to a blowup extract in Google, with accompanying ads, then if desired click to the full story at the site of, say, Cosmopolitan or the Washington Post. (The media keep 100% of revenue from their own ads; Google further chips in most of the revenue from its ads.)

I like it. It’s fun to browse, if not quite like glancing at tabloids on Broadway. I hope it will pull old-line media like my cherished New York Times through their internet-driven financial woes to give us all the news that’s fit to print along with my Sunday morning coffee. We’ll see.
Big partners, like the Times’s digital chief Martin S. Nisenholtz, are “participating” but also “concerned.” Fast Flip could be the lifeline that fatally disintermediates. Right now, Fast Flip front-ends to forty publications, all of them major players in their content areas.
Whatever their contractual terms with Google, these first-in partners have begun with de facto exclusives, or near-exclusives. Should Google keep the newsstand small or open it to all comers? Should it offer publishers a spot along a sliding scale of exclusivity, presumably at a cost? Preferential shelf space is more than a pricing question. It’s a relationship issue. The best answer is by no means clear, yet but finding it will be crucial.

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