Tag Archives: Google News

How Do You Like Google Fast Flip?

As you might have heard, there is a new application coming out of Google Labs, called Fast Flip. I’m not going to explain what it does, go and see for yourself. But I got exactly this question in my Facebook News Feed. So, here is what I think:

At the face of it, I’m not impressed. I use RSS feed reader to aggregate news feeds, including one coming out of Google News, not to mention Twitter, Facebook and Friend Feed. That’s pretty much all I need to keep my finger on the pulse.

On the second thought, however, it really does seem interesting. Not so much as a piece of technology (image browser? c’mon) but as an indicator of where Google is heading. Let’s put the pieces together:

  • Google has been at odds with the copyright owners for years now (remember Google News lawsuits and the recent discussion around Google Books settlement?). Finally, striking a deal with the publishers and stopping the legal battles might not be bad for Google after all. And could improve Google’s position vis-a-vis Amazon.
  • Google has also unveiled a plan to roll out a system of micropayments (as a part of Google Checkout) some time next year. This system will be well-positioned to become a standard for charging for content online. Apparently Google is reaching out to publishers and helping them to collect the pennies millions of Internet users might be willing to pay for copyrighted material. Google will get their share, of course. A hint: think of iTunes and Amazon Kindle…
  • Google Checkout will also be used for selling content via Google Books for which Google needs good relationship with the publishers anyway.

What this all says to me is: Google wants to help copyright owners in order to create symbiotic relationship in which everybody gets their share of profits. Using their scale Google will create an ecosystem for paid content in the Internet (or should I say the ecosystem?). Regardless of whether the book is sold for $10 or a news article for a penny. It is volume that counts. Which puts them on a collision course with Amazon, obviously but goes far beyond that. When it comes to paid digital content distribution the leaders today are Apple with iTunes and Amazon with Kindle. Here enters Google… without manufacturing, logistics, warehouses, etc. It’s going to be exciting to see how it develops, but expect there will be more digital content and less paper in your life soon.

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How news media fight online parasites

HookwormMore often than not, today’s news from traditional publishing industries bring the picture of a hapless dodo bird in front of my eyes. No surprise there – difficult economic times usually expedite the natural selection process. Recent announcement from the Board of Associated Press however reminds me also about Xerxes, the king of Persia, who ordered the Hellespont waves to be whipped just because the storm destroyed his papyrus bridge over the strait.

NEW YORK — The Associated Press Board of Directors today announced it would launch an industry initiative to protect news content from misappropriation online.

AP Chairman Dean Singleton said the news cooperative would work with portals and other partners who properly license content – and would pursue legal and legislative actions against those who don‘t.

“We can no longer stand by and watch others walk off with our work under misguided legal theories,“ Singleton said at the AP annual meeting, in San Diego.

As part of the initiative, AP will develop a system to track content distributed online to determine if it is being legally used. AP President Tom Curley said the initiative would also include the development of new search pages that point users to the latest and most authoritative sources of breaking news.

While no details are available on those new exciting online initiatives that AP is working on, it is easier to guess who the AP’s executives have in mind when talking about “misappropriation”. Quoting WSJ editor Robert Thomson “Companies that aggregate mainstream media content without paying a fee are the »parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet« and will soon be challenged”. He specifically pointed his finger at Google, which BTW is hard to understand, as Google apparently has a deal with AP since 2007. But that’s not only Google, although it would make sense for news publishers to go after the big guys who actually make a profit. It is easy to understand why they don’t like Google News but does this “misappropriation” extend to Digg, FriendFeed, Twitter or similar content sharing services? Are they supposed to be responsible or me? It’s me who posts the links, after all.
Just reading the news today I came across this story via Google News. But since I found it interesting, I visited articles on the topic in LA Times (I don’t remember if I have ever been there before), NY Times and The Australian (I never knew it existed, sorry). I generated my share of traffic to their websites. I created bookmarks to these articles on Digg and FriendFeed. Now, is it good or bad for the news industry?
Is it just because these guys don’t get it? Or is it to cover inability to reinvent their business model and putting a blame on somebody else?

Just Read: NYT Article Skimmer

I buzzed a little in my Social Media: What’s Hot? post about the concept of using RSS feeds to aggregate online content and also mentioned Google News service as an example of dynamically created news site. I pointed out to the dire consequences these services might have for ad revenue streams of prime content sources and online media industry. The reason is that as long as you can get your eyes on a headline and a lead, you are very likely not to click through to the full article. If you are anything like me, you will maybe visit 1% of the original full-article pages for all the general news headlines you get in your RSS reader.

One service I found very inspiring yet didn’t mention in my last post is FeedChronicle. It is basically an RSS reader that presents the feeds in a newspaper-like format. I used this service as an example of aggregating content from various sources in user-friendly service.

Today I read the NYT Article Skimmer: Recreate the Sunday Morning Paper in Your Browser on ReadWriteWeb. What New York Times offers is actually that FeedChronicle/Google News feeling. It is this ability I was thinking about: to go through you daily newspaper in a way you like – by skimming. Whatever you say about the interface, I think it is great example of media company answering to real needs of people reading all sorts of information online. Instead of fighting Google News in court, NYT tries to reinvent themselves and offer new value to their readers. The whole mass media industry is struggling, but in my personal opinion the Article Skimmer is a little step in the right direction. Embracing the Web as it stands now with content aggregators, user-generated stuff and hyperconnected information consumers. Way to go, Times!

Social Media: What’s Hot?

1043922_51054240_250pxThis post is part of my social media 101 primer series. If you haven’t done so, you might want to read my previous post Social Media: What’s on Top?. This time I’m presenting the hot and cool social media services that didn’t make the Top 20 but still are worth mentioning.

The game changers

My objective for this post is to point at some social media services that in my opinion have a great potential of disrupting or invalidating long-established business models of media companies. And, by the way, here is why every company is a media company. By no means this list could ever be complete. Forgive me for not mentioning this or that great service (but please, leave your comment below). I’m making my selection based on personal, hands-on experience. Don’t focus on the brands – I need to give you examples. But what’s most important is the concept behind them.

Google Reader is an online RSS feed reader – yawn! While it doesn’t sound very sexy, it virtually made me quit browsing newspaper’s websites altogether (now you know where I’m heading, don’t you). Right now almost any source of information on the Web offers you the opportunity to subscribe to their RSS feed. And your RSS reader just keeps your reading list right there, neatly ordered, ready for you waiting for your spare 10 minutes between meeting and conference call. Because over time you are getting picky about your information sources, you end up with tens or even hundreds of feeds linked to blogs that are updated not very often but with very valuable content. You can fine-tune your selection of feeds to your particular needs. Want to learn more about RSS? Check this flick out.

Google News is a news syndication/aggregation service. Using powerful Google Web indexation technology it scans the news sources around the globe, groups stories referring to the same topic together and allows you to filter the categories according to your personalized interest. What you get is your personalized newspaper fed by headline stories from all over the world. You can guess – Google owns or licenses very little content themselves – that’s why you are presented only with the title and the lead of each article – to read the full story you need to click through to the original site. Looks like Google is doing the newspapers a favor, right? Think again. Skimming through the title and the first paragraph is enough to skip the news and go to the next one. Try it yourself. That is why Google got sued by a number of publishers and we know they settled with AFP. And you know that already – you can grab your personalized RSS feed from Google News and plug it into your RSS reader. This way you have a single reading list consisting of all your hand-picked high-value blogs and personalized world and local news. You can imagine now what should happen to the online traffic (and advertising revenue) of the newspapers. They call it signs of secular change.

Update: ZDNet ranks Google News as the 5th most popular news site in Feb 2009, trailing Yahoo! News, The Weather Channel, CNN and MSNBC.

Twitter is a social network built around a micro-blogging service. Sounds flat? OK, rollback. Twitter is a paradigm shifter – in my opinion it has the potential to add yet another dimension to the way people communicate. Much like SMS did for cell phones, but being deeply rooted in online social networking it has enormous integration opportunities. The number of users right now is estimated around 5 million and growing rapidly. One can’t explain what Twitter is in a few words but here is an excellent explanation and a video. But I must warn you: I had been reading stories about Twitter long time before I joined and wasn’t impressed. You really need to try it out and getting comfortable will take you a few days. Make sure you read this fantastic non-fanatical beginners guide to Twitter first. And another warning: it’s addictive. There is zillion and one applications for Twitter now and twice as much undiscovered yet. But let me focus on just one simple characteristics: many people post updates on what interesting articles they have just written or found on the Net. If your choice to follow people on Twitter is based on their interests being similar to yours, you get the most up-to-date, fine-tuned-to-your-needs news service you can dream of. It is filtered by the collective wisdom of the individuals you have chosen to trust.

Digg is a social bookmarking site with 30 million users. Once you get your hands on an interesting piece of news through whatever means, you might want to bookmark it for future reference. Sure you can use your browser’s bookmark feature but there are reasons to keep them on the Web instead. Digg is my personal preference, but there are other services. The ‘social’ part of Digg is that all bookmarks are public – you can submit the story or bookmark (or ‘digg’) the story submitted by somebody else. By digging the story you increment its digg counter, which indicates how popular the story is. But the coolest part of Digg is the Upcoming tab. In order to create this page for you, Digg tries to understand your interest profile based on what you’ve dugg before and to match it with the profiles of other users. The Upcoming tab then displays the stories freshly submitted by those users whose profiles are similar to yours. And, of course, you can friend people on Digg and get Friends’ Activity stream. You know that already – sure, there is Friends RSS feed and that’s how we’ve closed the circle back to the RSS reader.

Back in the old days we used to jump from website to website trying to find the information or we used search engines to find content about the topic of interest. In the process we were generating ad displays which converted into revenue streams for the content owners. The tools described in my previous article enabled massive proliferation of user-generated content. With the services presented above our position vis-a-vis the content on the Web has changed. We are no longer running around searching for information. The information comes to us thanks to collective effort of other people.

The Human-Powered Search

Now we’ve got to the point where we don’t need to spend our valuable time on searching and filtering relevant information from irrelevant hype. This doesn’t mean that the amount of information flow gets automatically reduced to a manageable level, but that is a different story. We will still need search and recommendation engine but it is going to be quite different from what we know now. There are two interesting posts that helped me organize my thoughts around it (came by Twitter, by the way): Google’s First Real Threat? Twitter and Is the real-time web a threat to Google search?. “My web is my network” as @newtonmota has just succintly put it. Or in other words, the content that is interesting for me is defined by the people whom I trust, through some form of expression of their interest in it (be it tweet, digg, comment, etc.). This subtle network of connections cannot be replaced by any automatic indexing and ranking algorithm which does not have access to this network. In case you missed it – for that very reason Facebook has just introduced the “I like this” feature in their platform.

How the commercial content provider can play a role this game? Leave your comments and stay tuned for my take on the future trends in social media. Real-time web and more is coming soon.