Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Pacific Content’s podcasts are all sponsored by companies — but at least there aren’t any ads
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.
Pacific Content’s podcasts are all sponsored by companies — but at least there aren’t any ads
Branded podcasts want to break out of the traditional intrusive model of advertising: “There are no interruptions for two or three minutes in the middle of a story. There are no top and tail ad breaks. There are no coupon codes.”
Hot Pod: What should an on-demand news podcast look like?
Plus: Remixing podcast talent to build new shows, Google prepares to enter the market in a big way, and how to avoid “radiosplaining.”
Newsonomics: The New York Times restarts its new-product model, in Spanish
After a few expensive misfires, the Times is building new products on a smaller, more targeted scale.
What to read next
0
tweets
Out of many, NPR One: The app that wants to be the “Netflix of listening” gets more local
A big update moves NPR One yet another step in the direction of becoming a one-stop shop for all audio content, from local newscasts to podcasts outside the NPR world.
0Need to find, keep, and maximize talent today? Look to an old-school example, Gene Roberts
“Virtually every hire should be part of a long-range master plan of journalistic excellence.”
0The New York Times and WBUR are bringing ‘Modern Love’ essays to life with sounds and celebrity reads
“We’re trying to touch people just through sound, in a really profound way.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
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 ➚
Houston Chronicle
National Journal
Connecticut Mirror
Drudge Report
Al Jazeera
Daily Mail
Knight Foundation
Chicago Tribune
Fwix
Baristanet
Ars Technica
El País