Google wants to reformat the publishing business

16 Sep 2011

It has emerged that Google is about to take on the social publishing revolution and beat early proponents like Flipboard and Pulse by helping the genre to flourish on its Android platform for smartphones and tablets.

Anyone who is familiar with apps like Flipboard – an elegant iPad app that takes feeds from Facebook, Twitter and a plethora of mainstream publications liked Forbes and the New Yorker and turns them into an elegant table-top magazine – will realise that the era of social publishing is well and truly upon us.

It’s not just about sharing, it’s about apps that elegantly reformat content that’s out there – whether it’s an online news piece, a blog or just a tweet – for your reading/viewing pleasure.

Apps like Pulse on both iOS and Android devices beautifully rend all your feeds from Google Reader into a tabular array to ensure you miss nothing.

It has emerged that Google is now working on a product that will take content from Google+ and other social sources to compete with Flipboard and Pulse in the growing social magazine space.

According to Kara Swisher of All Things Digital, the new product will be called Propeller and it will attempt to muscle in on the action ahead of Facebook, which incidentally is trying to make social versions of publications available on its social networking site.

There are few in the media who want to admit it but, well, the day will soon arrive when buying a physical copy of a magazine or newspaper will be an indulgence of some kind. The reality is digital devices are on their way to becoming the primary vessels upon which news will flow to us, socially or by search.

Quoted in the latest Vogue magazine, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe shows that even 20th-century rock stars see that digital is the way forward. “Buying a newspaper will become a special occasion, elitist, almost nostalgic,” he told the magazine.

Many of these new generation of media reader apps like Pulse, Zite and Flipboard enable you to not only read online articles as if they’re laid out by a professional designer, they allow you to enjoy audio and video and also engage socially with the content by sharing it out via Twitter or liking or commenting on an item via Facebook.

The era of social publishing is upon us and Google – with assets such as Reader, Google+, One Pass and the forthcoming Propeller – clearly wants to play its part in reformatting publishing as we know it.


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years