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Google has long been trying to dissuade publishers that it is a parasite leeching revenue off of their hardwork. And this fall, the company is putting its money where its mouth is.

Last week Google announced a micropayment system that could help publishers monetize content. And this week, the search giant has introduced its first revenue sharing agreement with publishers: Google Fast Flip.

The new format will start aggregating content from about 40 publishers in a format reminiscent of offline reading — and share the advertising proceeds with content creators.

This is a big shift for Google, but it makes sense for the company to create new ways of viewing news online. Publishers are frustrated with their lack of revenue online and eager to change the business model of sharing Internet content.

If newspapers succeed in their reboot and come up with a successful way to make money off the web, Google wants to get a piece of the action. It's just unclear what model will actually stick.

The search giant thinks this new format will increase viewership. But that's already on the upswing. One third of all Internet traffic is now going to news websites.

The issue is monetizing those views.

The new flip format could help branding of media publications, as it actually allows viewers to look at the site design while flipping through articles.

Google will also place ads around the news articles and share resulting revenue with publishers, though the exact percentage terms have not been disclosed.

It's unclear if readers will take to the new format, but on first glance, it looks best suited for mobile viewing. On a touch screen, the flipping process resembles magazine reader much more closely. New York Times' Media Decoder blog points out:

"We will be hearing a lot more about the magic of touch in matters of content and how it could bring back some of the romance and intimacy of reading."

One major inhibitor to bringing magazine ads online is the degredation of the viewing experience on the web. Glossy magazine ads are a more pleasurable experience for viewing high quality and luxury advertising. If publishers can make reading more pleasurable digitally, it will help their ad potential.

Trouble is, the snapshot approach is not so intuitive on a big screen. So far, it's hard to read text and headlines are given short shrift.

But for media brands, finding a suitable (and revenue focused) viewing format is key. It's not clear if Google will deliver this, but the search giant is aware that it's in its best interest to make efforts in that direction.

And getting out of the current stranglehold of Google aggregated links is a key goal for many publishers. Martin Nisenholtz, the NYT‘s SVP of digital operations, tells PaidContent:

“It’s a much better branding opportunity for us, a much better picture of our look and feel. The downside is the consumer might stay on the page at Google and not click through.”

Meghan Keane

Published 15 September, 2009 by Meghan Keane

Based in New York, Meghan Keane is US Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter: @keanesian.

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Comments (1)

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Paschal Fowlkes

Your points about the publisher benefits are well taken, as are those about what's in it for Google, but what about the user? Fast Flip seems like an attempt to force the square print-experience peg into the round online-experience hole. The digital content brand is a different animal (to add a metaphor) and should be embraced as such. Publishers need to distribution models that move provide value to them AND their readers.

almost 7 years ago

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