Tech giants put new spin on newspapers

Google goes live with a new reading experience while Microsoft reveals its idea of a ‘next-gen’ newspaper

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Tech giants put new spin on newspapers The Newspaper Association of America is looking at ways to generate revenue online.
By  Vineetha Menon Published  September 16, 2009

As the print vs. online debate rages on, technology leaders are giving newspapers a boost in the digital space with new tools and concepts.

Google made waves yesterday with its Fast Flip tool that offers a different reading experience to users and keeps publishers by giving them a cut of the revenue generated through contextually relevant ads. Users can flip through content quickly with Fast Flip – navigating by recent and most popular news, topics such as politics, entertainment, and even specific sources such as the BBC or New York Times.

“The publishing industry faces many challenges today, and there is no magic bullet. However, we believe that encouraging readers to read more news is a necessary part of the solution. We think Fast Flip could be one way to help, and we're looking to find other ways to help as well in the near future,” wrote Krishna Bharat, distinguished researcher at Google News, in a company blog post that introduced Fast Flip.

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has been looking ways to increase online revenue for a while now, even as News Corp goes ahead with plans to charge online customers for news content across all its websites, including the Wall Street Journal and New York Post in the United States.

NAA recently solicited proposals from tech firms such as Microsoft, Google, IBM and Oracle with interesting results.

While both IBM and Oracle put forward a content management system (CMS) solution, Google came back with a “vision of a premium content ecosystem” that includes subscription across multiple news sites, syndication, search accessibility as well as payment for individual pieces of content.

Microsoft’s concept however has been generating the most buzz online albeit for all the wrong reasons. Their concept combines RSS feeds, photos and videos from different news publishers along with Facebook and Twitter updates from a user’s friends list, but the Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab points out that the proposed application too closely resembles the TweetDeck application that many social networking enthusiasts are familiar with.

While different business models are being suggested in a bid to remain competitive in an increasingly digital environment, there’s time for newspaper publishers to get it right. A recent study by the same Nieman Journalism Lab found that only 3% of newspaper reading takes place online.

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