Flipping For Dollars - Google’s New Reader

Yesterday Robert Scoble shared that Google was launching a “Flipboard killer.” Kara Swisher then followed up with more details about the app, named Propeller – not to be confused with the AOL social news site. Considering that Google recently closed a similar web-based project in FastFlip, it’s interesting to see them getting right back on the saddle. Ultimately, if Google News has proven to be a popular destination for them then I can see why they want to get news right on a platform that shines for content consumption. It remains to be seen if this is just a fancy Google Reader (not necessarily a bad thing) or a curated experience.

Flipboard recently released stats showing just how dominant they are in the nascent tablet news aggregation space. I’m a fan of Flipboard, and I got Zagat on board as a launch partner, so I’m somewhat biased. But I see two very different style of tablet apps in this space; the curated experience and the organized RSS reader. I’m not sure which Google will pick to emulate. I hope they pick one and don’t go for a hybrid that does neither well.

I use Flipboard as a serendipitous news app. It’s a leisure app for me that I can use while sitting on the couch. In many ways it’s similar to a magazine because it is curated. Unless you’re managing one of Flipboard’s “channels,” you don’t realize it’s actually powered by a curated Twitter list. You’ll read some comparisons that News.me is curated and Flipboard is not. That’s not the case. With Flipboard you get a better content mix than just a pretty RSS feed.

On the other hand, there’s Pulse. Pulse is the other news aggregator tablet app that I use regularly. The difference here is that Pulse is all about RSS feeds. You populate it with your individual RSS feeds and swipe through to read all of the stories from that one particular site or source. When I’m looking to catch up on specific data and read every headline, particularly in social media and technology, I use Pulse. It doesn’t have the animated style of Flipboard, but it provides just a little more than your average reader to make feeds look organized but appealing.

So what will Propeller be? Will it be a Flipboard style curated magazine app? Or will it be a Pulse style organized version of Google reader?  If it’s like Pulse, then I don’t think it’s a Flipboard killer at all. If people use Flipboard the way I use Flipboard, then I don’t see it taking significant share away from them. If it is ultimately a curated experience, then maybe there’s a real challenger to Flipboard after all.

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