Google Currents: Ad-Sponsored Tablet Aggregates Mags, News

Google-Tablet-BGoogle may be trailing in the battle for mindshare in tablet hardware, but the search giant has stepped up its presence in content and advertising. Following Flipboard's lead, Google Currents is a new tablet and smartphone news aggregator that is refashioning branded media news feeds into magazine-like experiences.

The new app runs on Android and iOS and features major content providers such as Forbes, Saveur, and Slate. On the advertising side, the company also announced a Rich Media Designs for Mobile product that helps advertisers build complex ad units for tablets.

Google Currents is a free app that allows the user to customize feeds from scores of providers into a home page of icons topped by a carousel of featured stories. Much like Flipboard, the reading experience marries the image with text blurbs and allows the user to swipe across pages of branded content formatted with a page-like look and feel.

The articles are formatted for swiping across pages rather than scrolling through a Web landing page. Publishers can create their own presence in the ecosystem. A producer interface gives them control over layout choices, logo use and other aspects of design and tagging in the Currents catalog.

Google has entered the increasingly cluttered news aggregator market on tablets, which now includes Flipboard, Pulse, Yahoo Livestand, AOL Edition and CNN-owned Zite.

Google has also announced increased support of ad units on tablets with the Rich Media Designs for Mobile platform. In a walkthrough at the Google Mobile Ads blog, Vice President of Mobile Ads Karim Temsamani says the system offers templates that help the advertiser leverage existing creative assets that can be applied across tablet and smartphone platforms.

In an accompanying video demo, the rich media units include product catalogs turned into walls and stacks of tappable images, products with 360-degree views, embedded maps and slide shows. In diving more deeply into the tablet formats, Google cited its own research showing considerable interest in shopping on the devices and the spike in evening searches coming from tablets. 

Also, Google is launching a media ads format in beta that will bring video ads into search results. The thumbnail in a sponsored result can activate an overlay to run the video atop the search results page.

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