A huge amount has been said about Google’s latest move in its love-hate relationship with content publishers. There is no need to repeat that all here, so if you haven’t already, see the following:
- Paidcontent with a good overview of the product.
- Techspheres with a somewhat overblown reaction about how it will kill the newspaper industry.
- Read Write Web on why Fast Flip won’t save publishers (as if Google has that as that as priority…).
- TechCrunch providing some perspective (its only a feature, and in trial…)
That’s all very interesting. But the coverage largely focuses on the main version of Fast Flip. I’ve been playing with the iPhone mobile version for a couple of days now, and its pretty awesome. But if Google and the publishers extend this beyond a trial, and if some more granular personalization features were offered (for eg whitelisting/blacklisting sources), I would use this for most of my mobile news consumption (which is a lot)… without EVER visiting a publishers’ site.
So, I use Google Reader for the blogs I am subscribed to. And now Google Fast Flip for a serendipitous browse through the newspapers.
I consume a huge amount of news, both trade-specific and general, but I can easily see how I could quite happily (and very easily) do this without ever giving ANY value to a content creator. So where is the model for publishers? Yes, Google is giving them a share of some contextual adverts. But that isn’t a revenue stream that can support… well… anything.
Enough rambling. My point is I now recognise (to an even greater extent), how much power Google has in the publishing marketplace.
When the newspaper advertising marketplace looked good, Google Print Ads launched, as a profitable layer between advertisers and publishers (and when the market tanked, Google just stopped the service). Google is rapidly adding to its indexed and republished collection of millions of archive news articles. Google News is a source of continuous frustration to publishers, because it holds the attention of a massive audience, and yet gives very minimal value to publishers. Google Reader takes syndicated content (often full-text feeds), and delivers it through a usable interface – again separating readers, and value, from the publisher. Add Fast Flip to the ever-growing list. What will be next? Well for starters, if there is going to be a unified move towards paid content, via micropayments or other means, ‘Google Micropayments’ will be the best positioned to faciliate it.
The reason that Google’s control presents such an issue for the publishers is this: Google does not need the news marketplace to be as big as it once was. Google News doesn’t need to make Google much money, because they don’t create the content. And since it doesn’t make much money, there isn’t much to share. It just builds huge strategic value for the search giant. The same with Google Reader. And Fast Flip. And whatever micropayment service Google might or might not launch.
So the conclusion remains: new business models must be found, and even then traditional publishers are probably screwed.