Google’s Approach to the News – Living Stories

December 17, 2009 § Leave a comment

Last Tuesday, December 8th, Google unveiled a new project as a part of Google Labs.  It’s called Living Stories and is being offered in collaboration with The New York Times and The Washington Post.  If you’re an avid consumer of news, especially the big topics of the day, such as health care reform and the war in Afghanistan, I  suggest you take a look.

The idea is to take advantage of the Internet by presenting news in a format that is easy to digest for the reader and improves the publication’s ranking within Google’s search results.  “So much of what you see online today is a reflection of the way it’s told in newspapers,” says Josh Cohen, senior business product manager for Google News. “They haven’t taken advantage of what the Web offers to tell news in a different way.” The Washington Post

Ongoing stories are aggregated and presented on a single URL.  There is a time line of major events across the top and relevant articles listed in reverse chronological order down the page.  You need only to click on “Read more…” for the rest of a piece to be displayed on the same page, then click on “Show less” or the title to collapse the text.  There’s no need to go click back and forth, or to wait  for pages to load.  In addition, articles are grouped by topic which are shown on the left side.  Once you’ve visited a subject, the site remembers, and when you return new content is highlighted for easy viewing.  “It’s an experiment with a different way of telling stories,” said Martin A. Nisenholtz, senior vice president for digital operations of The New York Times Company. “I think in it, you can see the germ of something quite interesting.” The New York Times

Google plans to run the trial for two to three months, then, if all goes well, to transition the content to the publication web sites.  They will also make the offering available for free to any number of other online publications.

I’ve bookmarked Living Stories and have been visiting daily to check in on the health care debate, the war, and global warming.  I like how easy it is to keep up on a subject.  With that said, I also love The New York Times homepage where I can see everything that’s happening and choose what to dive into from there.  Bottom line, I like a bit of both.

It will be interesting to see how this experiment fares.  Will users skim all of the headlines on a given subject page?  Will they read the articles of interest?  Will it be adopted sufficiently to make the transition to the publications’ sites?  How will it succeed once transferred?

At times I feel a little “Big Brother” about Google, but this is one initiative that I think might be worthwhile without a lot of downside.

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