In response to the launch of Google’s Fast Flip, I observed that Google is correctly focused on creating a new user interface for news, when most media companies are not. A lot of people responded that Fast Flip is not an innovative or effective UI for news — which may be true, but that misses the point entirely.
It doesn’t matter so much whether Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) succeeds or fails with this particular experiment. What matters is that they are trying to solve the right problem.
The challenge for media companies is not to figure out what to do with their content — content in and of itself doesn’t matter. It never has.
It’s all about the package.
Newspaper articles don’t matter without a newspaper. Magazine articles don’t matter without a magazine. TV shows don’t matter without a broadcast or cable channel.
Newspapers’ inability to generate the same revenue online as in print has nothing to do with content. It’s because on the web they are no longer in the business of packaging content, and that’s what the newspaper business, like every other media business, has always been about. Instead, media companies put their content on the web and let search and other aggregators package it.
An individual content item on the web, without a package, has marginal value approaching zero — and attempting to charge for an individual item of content is unlikely to change that. What you CAN charge for is the package.
Media companies need to be doing what Google is doing — experimenting with new ways to package content, which in a digital media world means new UIs and new ways to aggregate.
The nature of innovation is that many experiments will fail along the way. The key is to be aimed at solving the right problem.
Focus on the package. Whoever controls the package wins.
Ask newspapers. Or Google.
Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Fast Flip, lots of people overlooked one of the key words in the product name — FAST. Why does fast matter? How long does it take to get a result when you search on Google? Not long at all. In fact it’s darn FAST. (You can even see how long your Google search took in the blue bar across the top of the search results page.)
That’s why it matters — to the tune of $20 billion. Here’s Marissa Mayer on the importance of being fast. Google has the most successful UI and content package in the history of the web, that created one of the most lucrative business models in the history of media, so don’t write them off too quickly.