What to watch for in Google's Flipboard-style Propeller app for tablets

AllThingsD | Robert Scoble

Google is working on a news reading app for tablets that will compete with Flipboard, according to reports. This comes after Google tried unsuccessfully to acquire Flipboard last year.

Robert Scoble says his source has seen versions that are "mind-blowing good.” Kara Swisher reports that the Google project is called "Propeller," though it's not clear if that is a code name or will be the actual brand at launch.

Other than that, there are few details reported. Here are some important things to watch for:

  • News industry partnerships. Flipboard works very hard to form partnerships with publishers, and several are sharing content and advertising revenue in the Flipboard Pages program. Will Google reach out to publishers for content licensing or advertising partnerships for Propeller?
  • Personalization. Flipboard lets readers choose content sources, but doesn't do personalized recommendations. Other apps in this category, like Zite and News.me, rely heavily on personalization. What approach will Propeller take? If Google treats Propeller as the tablet extension of Google Reader, it will function more like Flipboard -- a non-personalized feed reader. But it could be an entirely new product that includes recommendations and personalization.
  • Advertising formats. Google has dominated online advertising with keyword-based search ads and its AdSense display ad business. Will it be able to target tablet ads to content keywords just as effectively? Will Propeller embrace the type of full-screen interstitial ads that Flipboard and others use, or will it stick to the banner and display ads Google is familiar with?
  • Social integration. Everything Google does now comes under the aegis of its new social-networking focus. Look for Google+ to be closely integrated in Propeller, both as a way to share articles and a source of content. It will probably also build in Twitter and Facebook.
  • How new is it really? The biggest question overall is, will Propeller just be a nice tablet interface to extend the existing Google News and Reader technology, or will it be a more innovative tool built from scratch that disrupts the market? Under the old Google, I would guess the former -- a safe iteration of existing tools. But the new Google under CEO Larry Page has focused on doing bigger things in fewer places, cutting back on scattered "labs" side projects and pushing for groundbreaking new products like Google+.
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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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