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Add Google (NSDQ: GOOG) to the growing list of companies like Flipboard, Pulse and Scribd’s Float with news aggregation apps. Google quickly rolled out Currents, a free iOS/Android app, this afternoon after an All Things Digital leak, and several signs point to the fact that Google wasn’t quite ready for the launch.
First, the official news: Google Currents, a free app for Android and iOS, launches with 150 content partners, including Huffington Post, PBS, All Things Digital, Slate and CNET. (Here’s the full list.)
A “self-service platform” lets publishers create editions of their content for Currents. Publishers can also link their Currents editions to their Google Analytics accounts to see which content users are engaging with.
Google wanted to give publishers the opportunity to do as much or as little work as they like in customizing the presentation of their content, said Lee Shirani, product management director for news and magazines. Publishers can dictate the presentation of their content at google.com/producer, giving those who don’t necessarily want to invest in custom mobile apps a chance to get their publishing brand across without having to develop an app from scratch.
The initial idea was to get the user experience right, so Google decided to worry about ads and ad formats later, Shirani said. “We plan to deliver ads shortly,” he said, but part of the problem is making sure that the ad formats for the Currents experience are the right ones, a problem that has bedeviled mobile advertisers for some time.
New content is presented both by publisher, in the “library” section, and “trending,” an algorithm-driven compilation of stories that are popular at a given moment (some of that calculation borrows from work done for Google News). The trending tab lets users add trending stories in categories like business, sports and entertainment. They can also pull over content from their Google Reader and subscribe to “curated” streams from Robert Scoble, Guy Kawasaki, Thomas Hawk, Mike Elgan, Trey Ratcliff and Lotus Carroll.
When you tap the sharing button, the first two options that pop up are for Google+ and e-mail. Tap “more” and you can share content on Tumblr, Facebook or Twitter, Instapaper or Pinboard.
Now for the bugs: There are many, including the fact that the app does not yet appear when you search the iTunes store. I had to find the download link via this post. The project was codenamed “Propeller” and is still referred to by that name in its (unfindable) iTunes page: “Google Propeller self-adapts to differently sized phones and tablets, with your subscriptions synchronized across devices. Google Currents — a reading experience not to be missed.”
Now that I have the iPhone app installed, I’m having some trouble: When I try to add a subscription to my library, nothing happens and none of the content appears–only the “trending” news updates are there. The app also did not save content when I signed out and back in. This makes it a little difficult to see how the app will actually work, but since it’s only been out for an hour Google may add some fixes soon. Updated: This bug appeared to work itself out after the initial launch buzz died down, we were able to add content on iPads and Android phones without difficulty.
We’ve added Google Currents to our ever-growing chart of content aggregating apps. See how the leading apps compare — and how each one is different: