TechCrunch is reporting that “Flipper” is a visual version of Google News, enabling people to see images of publications — and presumably “flip” through the pages accordingly. Immediately I was struck by two thoughts, this is somewhat like Google’s News Timeline, which offers a more visual presentation than the current News, and that it bears a similarity to the now defunct catalog search, which showed scanned versions of actual retail catalogs.
NOTE: THIS PRODUCT HAS NOW LAUNCHED. SEE Google Fast Flip – Google’s Newspaper & Magazine Reader Goes Live.
We asked Google to officially comment and haven’t received any response. The product right now appears to be in an internal beta on a password protected server. Here’s a screenshot obtained by TechCrunch:
I’m going to guess that Flipper may be something that Google developed in conjunction with publishers, who have lobbied for more visible placement in Google News and contended their brands have been diluted and their content “devalued” by intermingling on Google News with random blogs and no-name sources. The assumption might be that seeing the branded pages will yield better response for these publishers, who assume their publications are more trusted by consumers, and so on.
There might also be a micro-payments or subscription plan lurking somewhere with this new effort. The rationale might be: consumers will value publisher content and be more willing to pay if they see their favorite branded publications and news sources, etc. Just a wild guess on that one.
I suspect that if and when this is released it will exist in a parallel universe with the current Google News, side-by-side, for some period of time. It’s wise for Google to experiment with a dramatic change to Google news, given that it has underperformed relative to its potential:
I also like the visual approach. We’ll just have to see what shows up when they let us in.
Update: Here’s the Google statement we received:
“We’re constantly experimenting with features that help people discover news material from around the world.”