Google Adding Some Visual Flare to News?

    September 15, 2009
    Chris Crum

Update: Google’s Marissa Mayer has now announced the product officially, and named it Google Fast Flip.

Original Article: Google is reportedly launching a new lab in Google Labs called Flipper, which takes Google News to a much more visual place, by showing news stories as thumbnails of the actual pages they reside on.

TechCrunch managed to get a screenshot of the service, which is apparently only available on a password-protected server at this point, but said to be launching soon, although we haven’t heard or seen any official comments from Google.

Google Flipper Screenshot (via TechCrunch)

Google Flipper (Via TC)

Based on the screenshot, you can see that you can browse by section (politics, business, US, World, Sports, Sci/Tech, Entertainment, Health, Opinion, Travel) as seen on the left-hand side. At the top are tabs for "recent," "most viewed," "recommended," and "headlines." At the bottom are tabs for different sources, which should make for an interesting way to read stories from specific sources you like.

It’s a little hard to say much about the service before it has launched and anybody has had a chance to use it, but it looks like it has quite a bit of potential. It’s hard to tell how the "big publishers" will react to this, but I doubt any widespread controversy will come of it either way as long as it is only a lab. However, when labs are perfected, they do have the potential to become full-fledged features.

Greg Sterling On the other hand, it is possible that publishers are partially behind the lab. "I’m going to guess that Flipper may be something that Google developed in conjunction with publishers, who have lobbied for more visible placement in Google News and contended their brands have been diluted and their content ‘devalued’ by intermingling on Google News with random blogs and no-name sources," speculates Greg Sterling at Search Engine Land. "The assumption might be that seeing the branded pages will yield better response for these publishers, who assume their publications are more trusted by consumers, and so on."

Speaking of getting more visual placement in Google News, the company has recently posted a FAQ page for Google News publishers, which does touch on image inclusion. If publishers have images and they’re not showing up in Google News, the company lists some possible reasons:

– Your images are hosted on a different domain from your main site (for example, your articles are at and your images are at

– Your images are too small, or the aspect ratios are different than what we look for

– Your images aren’t inline (i.e., they’re clickable)

– Your images may be too low-resolution

– Your images may be positioned too far from your article titles

–  Your images may lack captions

Those are guidelines for all publishers though. This does not exactly solve the problem for "big publishers" Sterling mentions. If Flipper is only for big publishers, it could certainly go a long way to highlighting the big brands in Google News, should it ever become an actual feature and not just a lab. However, that would start a whole new argument (or the same old one, depending on how you look at it) from the smaller guys.