Call me old-fashioned, but nothing compares to flipping through the pages of a real newspaper or magazine. Oh wait.
Google announced a new service last night called Fast Flip, which captures what may have been the last feature print publications had over the Internet -- the ability to flip through articles rather than scan web-pages. Fast Flip displays an array of small screenshots of articles. Click on one screenshot and you zoom in to read the whole thing. If you're tired of the article, click an arrow to the left or right to browse more.
At the very least, Fast Flip is a shiny, glorified Google Reader or RSS feed. These feeds are great because they concentrate our favorite news sources in one place, but they usually strip information down to just text (or text and a photo). That's nice in theory but we need visual stimulation to break up the text and speed up our reading. It basically turns an RSS feed into a slideshow of Web pages. The mobile version is fast and the best way I've found to quickly browse news on an iPhone.
Of course, since Fast Flip involves Google and journalism, some attempt at online ad revenue is part of the mix. EWeek reports that Google will share revenue with its publishers, including the New York Times and BusinessWeek. (Disclaimer: The Atlantic is one of the three dozen publications partnered on Fast Flip, something I learned after I began writing this post.)
The service has already been pooh-poohed as a lame attempt to bring an analogue feature to a digital medium. And Google isn't the first to offer such a service. But they do it well and simply. And, unlike previous attempts, it incorporates enough publications to make the service not just an interesting idea, but a viable way to consume the news you're already reading.
It's a simple product with a big impact. At worst, it will find a small following of loyal users, of which I may already be one. At best, it will encourage newspapers to experiment more with how they serve up content on their Web sites, with a focus on making the news accessible at a pace better suited to the Internet.
What more is there to say? I like it. Maybe you don't. Check it out!