HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Aug. 6, 2013, 2:59 p.m.
In-depth articles - [taylor swift]

Google’s new search feature makes it easier to find seminal articles on big topics

Finding a great profile or in-depth interview can be like finding a needle in a haystack; Google’s new algorithm is here to help.

When big news breaks, readers clamor for updates — but they also yearn for context. For example, when word got out Monday afternoon that Jeff Bezos had spent $250 million to become the new owner of The Washington Post, there was suddenly a demand for all kinds of information. Who are the Grahams? How long have they owned the paper? What kind of leader has Bezos been at Amazon? What’s the status of other historic newspapers — have any others been purchased recently?

Some of this information would have been clear after a quick Google search, but piecing together a full portrait of the significance of what happened would likely have taken a combination of queries and resources — maybe a Wikipedia article, some breaking blog posts, a couple of company biographies — to put it all together.

Google wants to change that. Today, they announced a new search feature that aims to put in-depth and longform coverage of people, places, events and themes at your fingertips.

“We’ve done research that suggests this is a fairly common kind of information need, not a specific need but a broad interest,” says Google product manager Jake Hubert. For example, Hubert says that while most people who search for the term “YouTube” are looking for a video, or to be navigated to YouTube.com, some might be looking for, say, the essential essay on YouTube’s history, operations, business model and leadership. The new algorithm will help you do that.

It’s key to note that unlike doing an image search and specifying a type (“face” “clip art” “animated”), or a doing a news search and specifying a time period (“within the last month” “archives”), the in-depth feature is not something you can choose. Instead, if you search a broad term — “happiness” and “Taylor Swift” are two examples — you might see an inset box with a few headlines from major publications pop up.

Hubert wouldn’t go into detail about how the algorithm works, so we don’t know what factors are incorporated into the final results — renown of publication, length of article, number of views, publishing date. (He was clear, however, that there is absolutely no element of human curation.)

“This content can come from anywhere on the web. You’ll find content from well-known publishers, but also from lesser known publications and blogs,” he said. “Sometimes, for local angles on an in-depth topic from your hometown or a particularly niche subject, a smaller, lesser known publication may actually have the best in-depth content.”

Of course, as the feature rolls out over the next few days, publishers will increasingly want to know how to get their own content promoted as seminal works on a topic. To that end, Google has provided some support via their help center. Structuring article data in a certain way — specifically annotating HTML so that authors, headlines, text body, images, date are clearly demarcated — will help Google surface the kind of in-depth articles the algorithm is looking for. For example, Hubert was particularly proud that doing a search for “Gloria Steinem” not only turned up a couple of key interviews and profiles, but also her fundamental 1969 essay, “After Black Power, Women’s Revolution.” To find that kind of needle in the haystack of the internet, it can really help if the author is clearly marked.

One possible result of the new search might be that more eyes are turned toward content produced by journalists in newsrooms rather than the aggregators we have come to rely on when looking for background information — Wikipedia, IMDb, or WebMD. It also suggests that Google is aware of an information gap that others are also trying to fill, a centralized hub for background and context on an issue. The motivation is similar to what, for example, Fast.Co Labs was aiming for when its team started experimenting with stub posts, which Chris Dannen described as a “way of telling the reader, ‘If you’re not up on the story, if you need context, go back and read the stub and it will make sense why this is timely, and why this is a person we’re talking to.’”

Google says they’ll keep experimenting with the feature depending on feedback, but they’re excited to take steps towards surfacing the content that remains useful and interesting long after its published, but can easily be lost in the fire hose of content that is the internet. But there’s also a note of warning to publishers that increasingly advanced search may be doing a better job of giving readers what they want than the publications are themselves.

“It’s a tricky thing. Unless you really know what publications have written this kind of content, you’re going to find yourself going to these publications and trying to find them. We really want to help users find it all from across the web,” says Hubert. “This makes it easier for users to discover this kind of content, that used to be not as easy to discover.”

POSTED     Aug. 6, 2013, 2:59 p.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 Internet Archive hopes to boost its collections through funding from the Knight News Challenge
The home of the Wayback Machine and other efforts to preserve the Internet is among 22 projects based around libraries receiving $3 million in funding through the Knight News Challenge.
Constantly tweaking: How The Guardian continues to develop its in-house analytics system
Since its launch in 2011, The Guardian has consistently made changes to its in-house analytics tool, Ophan.
Bloomberg Business’ new look has made a splash — but don’t just call it a redesign
Bloomberg digital editor Joshua Topolsky on uncomfortable news design, new ad units, and why they killed the comments.
What to read next
2902
tweets
Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
The team that runs the Times’ Twitter accounts looked back on what they learned — what worked, what didn’t — from running @NYTimes in 2014.
728From explainers to sounds that make you go “Whoa!”: The 4 types of audio that people share
How can public radio make audio that breaks big on social media? A NPR experiment identified what makes a piece of audio go viral.
722Q&A: Amy O’Leary on eight years of navigating digital culture change at The New York Times
“In 2007, as digital people, we were expected to be 100 percent deferent to all traditional processes. We weren’t to bother reporters or encourage them to operate differently at all, because what they were doing was the very core of our journalism.”
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 ➚
The Bay Citizen
GlobalPost
New Jersey Newsroom
NPR
Sacramento Press
TBD
Press+
The Awl
Texas Tribune
The Batavian
Slate
Daily Kos