Google, publishers team to develop online news tool

Tool from Google, New York Times and Washington Post updates, prioritizes breaking news

Google is looking to change the way you read news online.

The online giant, whose Google News page is a major - and conroversial - news aggregator, has teamed up with The New York Times and the Washington Post to develop a new online tool that's designed to prioritize articles on major news stories as they develop. The feature, dubbed Living Stories , is designed to highlight new and feature articles along with regular updates of breaking stories.

If all goes as planned, Google pointed out that the feature could be opened up to all publishers and sit on any of their Web sites to highlight hot news stories and new information about anything from a climate summit to the Tiger Woods car accident.

There's been no shortage of talk recently about the "future of news," wrote Google software engineer Neha Singh and senior business product manager Josh Cohen, in a blog post this afternoon. "But what's often overlooked in these debates is the nature of the news story itself and the experience of how it's read online. We believe it's just as important to experiment with how news organizations can take advantage of the Web to tell stories in new ways - ways that simply aren't possible offline."

Singh and Cohen said this thinking led to an experiment with news presentation that resulted in the Living Stories prototype.

The bloggers noted that Google engineering and interface teams spent time in the newsrooms of their partners this summer to come up with a way to present the news block.

"News organizations produce a wealth of information that we all value; access to this information should be as great as the online medium allows," wrote Singh and Cohen. "Living Stories try a different approach that plays to certain unique advantages of online publishing. They unify coverage on a single, dynamic page with a consistent URL. They organize information by developments in the story. They call your attention to changes in the story since you last viewed it so you can easily find the new material. Through a succinct summary of the whole story and regular updates, they offer a different online approach to balancing the overview with depth and context."

This move comes amid criticism of Google in some quarters over its news aggregation system. Some critics have blamed google for at least some of the demise of the newspaper industry, Some say that Google News, which posts a headline and short excerpt from news stories, keeps readers away from the individual publishers' own sites.

This new project, however, could expand upon what publishers could do on their own sites.

Google is asking readers and news organizations for feedback on the project, which is coming out of Google Labs, where the company incubates new products and projects.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
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