It’s been almost a year since we started the News Lab here at Google. In our first year, we’ve been proud to work with hundreds of news organizations around the world to experiment with new forms of storytelling using technology. Today, we’re launching a Medium publication to share our work more regularly, and to engage in the great dialogue happening here about journalism and technology.
We created the News Lab because we wanted to be a useful partner to journalists and media entrepreneurs as they build the future of the news industry. Since this is our first post on Medium, we thought we’d tell you a little bit about what the Google News Lab does, what we’ve learned in our first year, and what you can expect from us here.
So, what does the Google News Lab do?
We work with newsrooms, startups, and innovative journalism organizations around the world to use Google technology, data, and resources to tackle new opportunities in media. We organize our work under three basic pillars: Training, Trends, and Programs.
- Our Training effort is focused on educating journalists around the world on Google’s tools — ensuring that newsrooms know how to use everything from Google Earth to YouTube to Fusion Tables. We’ve launched 35 lessons in 18 languages on g.co/newslab to help journalists and digital storytellers anywhere learn how to use our tools easily.
Our Trends work focuses on curating Google data relevant to the most important global news events every day. In addition to pushing out a daily feed of curated trends on google.com/trends (and on Twitter), we also work with media organizations on bigger data journalism projects.
- News Lab Programs seek to bring together Google tools and resources holistically to tackle key challenges in journalism where we think technology has a unique role to play. So far, we’ve focused on programs in Politics & Elections, Crisis Reporting, and Virtual Reality journalism.
So what have we learned through these efforts?
Technology is creating new opportunities for immersive storytelling at a pace never seen before.
There’s never been a more exciting time to be a storyteller. If you’ve ever put on a VR headset, you know exactly what I’m talking about. VR helps journalists create empathy with their audiences in a fundamentally new way, bringing viewers closer to a topic than ever before possible.
We’ve been experimenting with newsrooms around the world on VR storytelling. In Germany, we worked with our friends at Berliner-Morgenpost to create an immersive VR video of refugees camps for migrants in Berlin. In the UK, we partnered with The Guardian on “6x9” — a powerful 6-minute video that gives viewers a sense of what living in solitary confinement feels like.
While the technology is developing rapidly, only a few newsrooms have the time, resources, and expertise to start creating VR stories. We want to help accelerate this process by convening experts to share best practices, creating curriculum to help newsrooms get their feet wet with their first VR pieces, and developing a community of practitioners who are experimenting and learning together. (More to come on this soon.)
Of course, VR is just one of the immersive technologies we work with alongside news organizations. Google Earth, Maps, Street View, Photospheres, and other geospatial and mapping tools are giving journalists new ways to bring their readers closer to stories. As many journalists are telling us in newsrooms around the world, these technologies make it one of the most exciting times in history to be a storyteller.
Technology has made journalists’ jobs infinitely more complex.
Two million blog posts are written every day. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. The world is awash with information.
On the one hand, this is a good thing: journalists have more sources available to them to report on a topic. On the other hand, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by so much third party content and data — and the new skills required to make sense of it all.
Data journalism has become one essential tool to distill clarity from the chaos. But that’s a challenge for many reporters who don’t come from a data background. That’s why we’ve invested so heavily in revamping Google Trends to become a simple and useful tool — a real time window into what Google users are curious about. We collaborate with news organizations on data projects that cover everything from search interest in the wake of a terror attack to more lighthearted projects like examining which fanbases were most optimistic about their Super Bowl chances.
Another growing field that helps journalists leverage the scale of the web for good is social media verification. The web has democratized the content creation process — but that presents daunting challenges around verifying what’s real and what’s not. From the Boston Marathon Bombing to the Charlie Hebdo attacks to the fighting in the Ukraine, reporters often struggle to separate fact from fiction as quickly as possible. To help amplify insights from news events like these and others, we brought together pioneers and thought leaders in social media journalism to create the First Draft coalition, which produces best practices for verifying eyewitness media. And we helped create the YouTube Newswire, in partnership with Storyful, to organize verified newsworthy content from YouTube for journalists around the world.
Solving big challenges takes lots of organizations experimenting together.
Journalists everywhere compete with each other to get the story first. But we’ve been pleasantly surprised by how often news organizations are willing to collaborate on big projects and explore the potential of new technologies together. We think part of this is a recognition of the extraordinary moment we’re living in — with huge changes in the way news is created, delivered, and consumed. To really take advantage of the opportunities those changes present, media organizations are sensing and acting on the need to experiment and explore together.
We’ve sought to echo this spirit of collaboration in our own work. Through our partnership with the European Journalism Centre, we’ve built a series of News Impact summits, bringing together journalists and entrepreneurs to address some of the biggest challenges in media today. We’ve also come on board as the first technology partner for Matter, a startup accelerator in San Francisco focused on early stage media startups. And we’ve launched a series of Google News Lab Fellowships around the world that partner aspiring young journalism students with top newsrooms to tackle specific challenges they’re facing.
And finally, why Medium?
We’ve just gotten started here at the News Lab, so we see joining Medium as an opportunity to further open our doors at Google to journalists and news entrepreneurs around the world. Here’s what you can expect from us:
- Updates on our work from around the world
- Case studies and how-to pieces on ways Google technology and data can be used for journalism
- A conversation with the Medium community on how Google can best contribute to the fast-changing news landscape
We’re excited to be here and are looking forward to connecting with you!
To learn more about our work and receive updates, visit g.co/newslab and follow us on Twitter at @googlenewslab.
— Steve Grove, Director, Google News Lab