HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Apple Watch will expose how little publishers know about their readers
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Sept. 3, 2009, 9:12 a.m.

Google News shines a Spotlight on “in-depth” journalism

Google News has quietly added a new section that steps back from the ever-quickening news cycle to highlight “in-depth pieces of lasting value.” It’s called Spotlight, and like the rest of Google News, the stories are selected by an undisclosed algorithm. (This is the full-fledged version of a feature they previously tested with a “small percentage of users” under the heading, “Interesting Reads.”)

Judging by the story selection and a brief explanation by Google, the Spotlight shines on longer features that have bounced around blogs for a few days. Lifestyle and opinion pieces do particularly well, and The New York Times is a frequent source. Google describes the feature this way (emphasis added):

The Spotlight section of Google News is updated periodically with news and in-depth pieces of lasting value. These stories, which are automatically selected by our computer algorithms, include investigative journalism, opinion pieces, special-interest articles, and other stories of enduring appeal.

I see Spotlight as part of an emerging class of news applications that use the byproducts of online activity to surface compelling material. The best example is Marco Arment‘s blog, Give Me Something to Read, which features articles that are frequently bookmarked on Instapaper; it works because Instapaper is already a magnet for quality, long-form content. Delicious and Bit.ly, both link-sharing services, have recently begun to transform the remnant data in their servers into news streams. A new RSS reader, Fever, ranks content according to “signals” in the activity of blogs you trust. And Google Reader generates a feed of “interesting stuff” based on user behavior.

Closer to home, I’ve been loving The Hourly Press, a creation of Payyattention and managed by Lyn Headley, which mines certain activity on Twitter to surface “newsworthy” stories — in this case, about journalism. [UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: I corrected the preceding sentence. See Lyn’s comment below.] It’s a prototype that could be applied to any topic.

Of course, Google News has long analyzed web activity to populate its pages. (More on that in Josh’s post today.) But in favoring content with “enduring appeal,” Google’s Spotlight seems to be searching for better clues that point to quality content. If we can’t see their super-secret algorithm, then at least we can take this as a reminder that the best stories may be hiding in our metadata.

POSTED     Sept. 3, 2009, 9:12 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The Apple Watch will expose how little publishers know about their readers
Apple’s new wearable may or may not be a big hit. But either way, it’s a harbinger of a new class of truly personal devices whose users will demand customized experiences. News companies aren’t ready to provide them.
Newsonomics: The Vox/Recode deal is a sign of more consolidation to come
With venture funders itching for an exit, a few corporate giants — Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, the new Charter — could end up owning many of the entrepreneurial news brands that have captured attention in recent years. Big is eating small.
News as a design challenge: New ideas for news’ future from MIT
Students and Nieman Fellows spent a semester building solutions for audience engagement, better tools to explore data, and new ideas for local media startups.
What to read next
973
tweets
The State of the News Media 2015: Newspapers ↓, smartphones ↑
The annual omnibus report from Pew outlines a story of continued trends more than radical change.
670What happened when a college newspaper abandoned its website for Medium and Twitter
At Mt. San Antonio College, they’ve traded in print for distributed publishing, focusing on realtime reporting and distribution: “We’re speaking the language of our generation.”
576The Upshot uses geolocation to push readers deeper into data
The New York Times story changes its text depending on where you’re reading it: “It’s a fine line between a smarter default and being creepy.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
San Francisco Chronicle
Sacramento Press
The Batavian
Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
DNAinfo
The Orange County Register
Mozilla
ESPN
Forbes
Topix
Seattle PostGlobe
The Sunlight Foundation