I am a confirmed text crawler. I can skip the online video and the Flash splash pages. Just give me lots and lots of text news stories. Because of this I kind of gave Google Fast Flip a miss when it was a couple of weeks ago. But I’ve had a few people say, “This is awesome! You have to look at it!” so all right. You can try Google Fast Flip at http://fastflip.googlelabs.com/.
Fast Flip is not Google News with a thing added to it. Instead Google partnered up with three dozen publishers like the New York Times, Atlantic, Washington Post, etc. This means that doing a search in Fast Flip is not going to get you the wide range of results that you might get with the regular News search. Keep that in mind.
You can look at the most recent news items, recommended items, headlines, etc. but you can also do a plain old search. I did a search for economic indicators. I got seven results from sources including The New York Times, BusinessWeek, and Fast Company. Here’s what the results look like in a screenshot:
Click on a story and you’ll get the story in a page format. Arrows let you move between stories, while a couple of other buttons allow you to e-mail a story, denote that you like it, or share it through a variety of social networks.
I guess the support point is the display ad over to the right of the content and the arrows. I suppose from an advertiser’s viewpoint I could find that placement pretty interesting — the ads stand out a lot in a page with little in the line of visual elements — but I didn’t see anything I felt compelled to click on.
As for reading this way? I don’t know. On the one hand it was nice to be able to go through a lot of different stories from a lot of different sources very quickly. (And the content, though limited in source, was varied and interesting.) On the other hand I often had to scroll down to read the entire story, which somewhat spoiled the “flipping” effect, and having to scroll while considering the amount of white space on the screen was irritating. (I’m sure the experience will be different on the mobile application that Google has designed for Android and the iPhone.)
If Google offered news stories that were very brief, or made the news stories somewhat wider, I’d probably spend more time here. But as it is the flipping aspect doesn’t override the “scrolling down” aspect.