When Google Currents launched a year ago as an news reading app for smartphones and tablets, similar to Flipboard and Zite, publishers added their own content to reach new readers.
If the pilot is successful, other publishers could then serve their own ads within the app and generate revenue.
Speaking to Journalism.co.uk at the Digital Media Europe conference, Madhav Chinnappa, head of strategic partnerships at Google UK, explained that they are taking an iterative approach.
"What we want to do is solve problems for publishers," he said. "Getting content out onto smartphones and tablets can be complicated and we want to simplify that and help with the monetisation. We want to make it in that globally scalable way – and we want to make it simple."
He explained that making it simple is the challenging part but signalled that he expects integration to be "a plug and play thing", with publishers able to connect their own Currents account and own ad-serving platform. Chinnappa said he hoped it will be as easy as the way news outlets add an RSS feed of their own content to create an edition.
"The results of the pilot are so far encouraging," Chinnappa said, "and the way I take the temperature of that is the publishers saying 'can we get into the pilot?'"
One year on
Currents launched last April and publishers are seeing results. Speaking at the conference, Anthony Sullivan, group product manager at the Guardian, said Currents and Flipboard combined now drive 1.5 million readers a month to the Guardian.
And the Guardian has 1.5 million subscribers to content in Flipboard, according to the app.
"In the UK we have about half a dozen publishers which have more than one million subscribers," Chinnappa told Journalism.co.uk. And the Telegraph is just about to "make the 1 million subscriber club".
"We are very happy with the growth rates that we are seeing with Currents," he added.
Different approaches to Currents
Publishers have taken different approaches to creating editions for Currents.
"The platform of Google Currents is designed to be completely within the publisher's control," Chinnappa said.
In the UK there has been "a more traditional" approach, "with the Guardian, Independent and Telegraph creating editions around their core brand".
Other publishers have experimented in different ways, he explained. In Spain the newspaper ABC has developed editions around topics, such as sport and technology. And a regional publisher in Germany has created an edition solely around the local football team Borussia Mönchengladbach.
"The platform allows total flexibility for publishers to figure out what might be right for them," Chinnappa said.
Google is also rolling out a new audio feature for Currents (Journalism.co.uk was one of the first three publishers globally to get the audio feature).
Chinnappa said that feedback from publishers told them that audio was important. "With mobile on the move while video is very interesting, if you are stuck in a crowded tube it's actually also very useful to be able to listen."
Below is a video interview with Madhav Chinnappa, filmed at the Digital Media Europe conference. He discussed Google Currents and Google Play Magazines. Chinnappa is also speaking at Friday's news:rewired event, the digital journalism conference run by Journalism.co.uk.
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