Experimental Google service aims to build newspaper readership and revenue for publishers

Google has launched a new service aiming to make reading the news online feel like flicking through print pages and, significantly, help publishers generate revenue and readership.

Google Fast Flip has partnered with around 40 – mostly American – publishers including the New York Times, Washington Post, Salon, Newsweek and the BBC for the experimental project.

Fast Flip lets users browse through several news articles, headlines, popular topics and feeds from publishers quickly on one screen, without having to wait for each individual page to load.

In contrast to the Google News aggregation service, which provides a snippet of breaking news from thousands of sources across the globe, Fast Flip will put greater emphasis on feature and opinion articles.

Screen shots from the publishers’ websites will be displayed showing the bulk of an article rather than the headlines and sample text currently show for news stories on Google News.

Advertising revenue will be shared between the publishers and Google.

Google said last night: “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.”

The service is designed to become more personalised as the user browses it, by taking cues from the selections made to show further relevant content.

A mobile version of Fast Flip has also been made, with tangible page flipping for Android-powered devices and the iPhone.

The service is currently in an experimental stage and can be found on the Google Labs website.

Google has come under regular assault from the publishing industry which claim search engines have helped create a culture where consumers expect news for free.

Newspapers are increasingly being hit hard by falling readerships, advertising revenues and an inability to make substantial income from their digital products and are looking to new ways to make money online.

Rupert Murdoch announced earlier this year that by the end of 2010 he intended to start charging for online content across his newspaper empire – which includes the Times, Sunday Times, Sun and the News of the World in the UK.

The new service from Google comes just days after Google News, without much fanfare, introduced a new feature called ‘Spotlight’ which it says will highlight ‘in-depth pieces of lasting value’chosen by a proprietary secret algorithm.

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