Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
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.
How The Washington Post built — and will be building on — its “Knowledge Map” feature
The Post is looking to create a database of “supplements” — categorized pieces of text and graphics that help give context around complicated news topics — and add it as a contextual layer across lots of different Post stories.
How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
Here’s how Fusion, Vox, Quartz, Slate, the AP, The Times of London, and Thought Catalog are using Slack for workflow — and which features they wish the platform would add.
The New York Times built a robot to help make article tagging easier
Developed by the Times R&D lab, the Editor tool scans text to suggest article tags in real time. But the automatic tagging system won’t be moving into the newsroom soon.
What to read next
1119
tweets
New Pew data: More Americans are getting news on Facebook and Twitter
A new study from the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation finds that more Americans of all ages, races, genders, education levels, and incomes are using Twitter and Facebook to consume news.
701Newsonomics: The halving of America’s daily newsrooms
If you’re lucky enough to have the right deep-pocketed owner buy your paper and steady it, you’ve won the lottery. If you’re in a town whose paper is owned by the better chains, or committed local ownership, your loss will probably be mitigated. Otherwise, you’re out of luck.
575How 7 news organizations are using Slack to work better and differently
Here’s how Fusion, Vox, Quartz, Slate, the AP, The Times of London, and Thought Catalog are using Slack for workflow — and which features they wish the platform would add.
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 ➚
Conde Nast
PBS NewsHour
PolitiFact
The UpTake
West Seattle Blog
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
Daily Kos
The Bay Citizen
Semana
Examiner.com
Newsmax
Creative Commons