Traditional print media companies got the Internet all wrong. It started off in the wrong place and it seems like there is little they can do to recuperate.
To make matters better (or worse, depending on who you ask), Google just introduced another platform/destination today called, Fast Flip. While it's still in beta (and what great online application isn't?), the product was announced on the Official Google Blog today in a post titled, Read news fast with Google Fast Flip.
Here's the skinny on Fast Flip via Google:
"Fast Flip is a new reading experience that combines the best elements of print and online articles. Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized."
So, what was traditional print medias big mistake?
Reading content is still compelling (even in the traditional print format). While the numbers are shrinking, they're not disappearing. People still have a passion for print (and that includes yours truly). So why - in an online world where you can publish content in video, audio, photos and text - did all of these traditional print publishing companies simply copy and paste their text-based content to the Internet? Instead of giving all of that content from their paid printed versions away, why didn't they create some compelling content that would compliment the print or drive people to buy it? A great example of this is how BusinessWeek has an audio Podcast called, Behind This Week's Cover Story, where the editors interview the journalist responsible for the cover story. Sometimes the podcast will play audio clips of the interviews used to write the piece, and much more. If you're a fan of the magazine, these types of behind-the-scenes pieces in a format (audio) that you can't get in print, might be just the thing that would drive a reader down to the retail level to pick up a copy of the magazine (maybe even subscribe). Instead, traditional print publishers were quick to copy and paste that content online. Now, it's all (mostly) free and that's the expectation of the readers too.
Google Fast Flip is going to make people more loyal to Google, not the source publications.
Yes, like a traditional text links, people will click through to the full, original article if it is interesting to them, but before they do, Google now gives you a very nice layout and feel for the source brand while serving up their own ads on every flip (not to mention full articles as well - not just two lines of text-based summary). Try Fast Flip out for yourself, and keep count of how many banner impressions you quickly serve up. I love the notion of The Link Economy (hat-tip Jeff Jarvis over at Buzzmachine), and it's interesting to see how Google is now creating a visualization of links that not only keep you mostly on their own property, but allows you to travel through a newsstand in record time.
Traditional print publishers must be making some money with Fast Flip.
"To build Google Fast Flip, we partnered with three dozen top publishers, including the New York Times, the Atlantic, the Washington Post, Salon, Fast Company, ProPublica and Newsweek. These partners will share the revenue earned from contextually relevant ads. This gives publishers an opportunity to introduce new readers to their content. It also tests our theory that being able to read articles faster means people will read more of them, driving more ad revenue to publishers."
This sounds like a rev share deal where the publisher gets a percentage of the advertising Google runs around their content on Fast Flip. The bigger question is this: does the Publisher have to kick back some of their advertising revenues if someone finds them through Fast Flip and then clicks over to the original web content?
Try out Fast Flip and then weigh in: is this good for Publishers or is this going to strip more traffic away from them?