Friday, December 9, 2011

News aggregation apps and Google Currents: should publishers jump in or opt out?

It's been a wacky past few hours as I, along with other publishers no doubt, have been playing around with Google's new toy: Google Currents.
Google Currents is another of those news aggregation apps for Android and iOS but with a bit of twist: everyone who publishes is invited and the only barrier to entry is the time needed to get your Google Currents entry completed.

The whole process can be completed in less than 30 minutes assuming you have an icon already built, or can modify an existing iOS or Android icon.

As you can see at right, TNM now is inside Google Currents (I think I'm probably the only subscriber at this point!), and by the end of the day hundreds of other independent publishers will be there, as well.

For established brands, the one day advantage they had over everyone else will soon be lessened unless Google agrees to promote them in the Featured section of the app.

It's hard for me to really evaluate Google Currents, which is why I try not to make predictions. I don't use Flipboard or Zite or Editions, but Google Currents seems like something I would open on a regular basis.

The question that still is bouncing around in my head, though, is why would publishers of paid circulation magazines be so eager to jump on board? Do they see Google Currents as an extension of their free websites?

From Google's perspective, this is a great little marketing tool to sell advertising. Inside Google Currents anyone can see how many people are "subscribing" to a particular publication (I think the word "channel" might be better). Forbes, for instance, shows over 136,000 "subscribers". But then again, what does it mean to be a subscriber? Forbes has no clue who these new readers are unless they have turned on the email opt-in feature in their Google Currents producer controls. But they could, of course.

I thought Google Wave might be a big deal, it wasn't. Google Currents? Ask me next week, or next month.

I see that I wasn't the only playing around with Google Currents over the past day.

Chris English, the publisher of the indy tablet magazines Hoodgrown and Maybach was establishing his own channel for Hoodgrown inside Google Currents (see at left).

But English has also been playing around with OnSwipe's tablet publishing solution, as well.

As you can see below-right, that has gone live, as well.
OnSwipe redesigns your website into a Flipboard-like look for browsers used on tablets. I haven't been a big fan simply because I'm not crazy about the boxy look, but also because I think the iPad's Safari browser can render most sites very well.

But I will admit that the OnSwipe version of the Hoodgrown website works well. Further, if your site isn't that attractive on the web, and you have to go through lots of corporate hurdles to make a change, using OnSwipe is a good way to create an attractive website for that portion of web readers using an iPad.

I've worked for more than a few publishing companies where getting a redesign of my magazine's website would take an act of God to get through the corporate bureaucracy. Using OnSwipe, clandestinely, might get you your new website in a hurry – and when the big cheese finds out about it you can say you were just playing around with a new technology.