It’s hard to believe anyone in journalism would pin their hopes on Google’s recently announced Fast Flip as an media industry lifesaver. In the offline world, people who flip through a magazine or newspaper are truly browsing. Online, people are more likely to be deliberately searching. That’s the hard lesson many of us in the media are learning. IT managers should learn it as well, although for different reasons.
Think about the way most information in an enterprise was organized before everything was rendered in electronic format. You’ll remember the shelves full of binders with sales data, marketing collateral or customer records of some kind. When you had to take a binder down from the shelf, and began flipping through, it was for lack of any other option. It would have been great to enter a keyword somewhere and press a button instead. Flipping through your favourite magazine, in contrast, was a more leisurely experience, but as consumer content has become more niche-oriented and targeted, there has been a tendency among online media audiences to steer clear of the flipping behaviours.
On the other hand, rendering information into electronic formats and putting them in content repositories hasn’t necessarily made the job of finding relevant data much easier for knowledge workers. Even with the best internal search engines (or a Google-powered one), you still tend to scroll through results and read the extract information like a fortune-teller going over tea-leaves, hoping one of them will turn up the stuff you actually need.
This is where something like Fast Flip could shine. Imagine if it could capture the most important points of a white paper, a company-wide memo or a business plan that may or may not be worth an executive’s time. Some publishers are already wondering – and rightly so – whether Google’s Fast Flip will only make their lives worse by giving more away of an individual story and providing even less incentive for readers to pursue the rest of it. This isn’t a concern in the enterprise world, where the problem is precisely one of identifying salient details quickly and efficiently.
In fact, Google would probably have an easier time making the case for Fast Flip if it were already a part of the user behaviour pattern people were accustomed to at work. IT managers would probably be saved a lot of grief from users who complain they can never find what they need, and users could do away with bloated two-page executive summaries that never seem to capture the essence of a much-longer document. Google Fast Flip could become part of a better enterprise search experience. As it stands right now, there’s a lot of fast-flipping going on, but for all the wrong reasons.