Something strange happens to a publishers strongly held conviction that they should get paid for their content when confronted with news aggregation apps, especially one backed by Google. Suddenly the ad model is back in vogue.
Google's rumored news aggregation app, code named Propeller when the WSJ's Kara Swisher wrote about it a month or so ago, launched this afternoon under the name Google Currents.
You'll have to search for it by name because for some bizarre reason it doesn't show up when searching for it under Google's name. (I see paidContent's Laura Hazard Owen noticed this, as well). The same holds true, by the way, inside the Android Market – you'll need a direct link.
One can hardly blame a publisher for wanting to be part of a new Google project, or any news aggregation app that stands a chance of success. But news aggregation apps are becoming a dime a dozen with no end in site.
Google's app feels a little different in that it is really an aggregation of mini "publisher editions". The user adds content sources from the Library (see below) and then can browse the content from a specific source in a simple, but attractive layout.
I found it ironic that one of those sources turned out to be Saveur, which had updated its own iPad app today, adding it to Apple's Newsstand. Readers who download that branded app will be forced to buy a subscription to the magazine to access the issues, and then will be confronted with a hard-to-read replica edition. Here, inside Google Currents, the articles are much easier to read in their native tablet formats. – and, of course, they are free.
Now, I've always maintained that you could sell a publishing executive just about anything, the makers of those Flash flipbooks can attest to that. So I suppose it shouldn't be surprising to see the urge to sell magazines subscriptions disappear so quickly when presented with an opportunity to be part of Google Currents.
If you think signing on with Google is a bad idea you would be mistaken. I like the app, and unlike other Google apps that have sometimes been a bit buggy at launch, Google Currents worked flawlessly for me on my iPad. But one thing that I found pretty funny: near the end of the app description the text suddenly refers to the app as Google Propeller. Oops.
To learn more about how all this works from the publisher's perspective you should visit the Google Currents platform page.
One quickly can see why this might work for Google, and for their publishing partners. One day into the launch Google Currents says that Saveur, for instance, already has over 10,000 users subscribing to its offerings inside the app (that is an amazing number if accurate). Forbes has over 9,000. (These numbers will be no doubt higher by the time you download the app!)
Of course, those who sell the ad space will want to make sure they don't exaggerate their reach, all one would need to do is look inside the app to see the number of subscribers any publication really has.
The promotional video can be found after the jump: