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Google's Plan To Save the News Through Reinvention 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-patients-are-beyond-treatment dept.
eldavojohn writes "It's no secret that Google doesn't create content, but rather helps people find it. And Google News is no different. So what does the company plan to do about complaints from the news industry that profits are dropping drastically? In a lengthy and comprehensive article, The Atlantic diagnoses the problem and looks at Google's plan to 'save' the symbiotic organism it is attached to, which older generations have traditionally branded 'the news.' The answer, of course, hinges on moving news from dead tree print to the information age via Google's many projects: Living Stories, Fast Flip, and YouTube Direct. But Google is also exploring the more traditional options of displaying ads and designing a paywall so users can easily migrate back to subscriptions like the newspapers of yore. You may also recall that last week the Internet was abuzz with the idiocy of suggestions the FTC had aggregated from inside the industry. Ars brings mention of other proposed plans, both good and bad, from the FTC's report on ideas that newspaper companies are kicking around."
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Google's Plan To Save the News Through Reinvention

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  • Google Shouldn't (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dishevel (1105119) * on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:56PM (#32486442)
    Google should seriously just send a form letter to all news organizations. Do you want us to list your content? Yes / No?

    That will piss off these fuckers.

    • by defaria (741527)
      Why to people insist the news needs saving? AFAICT the news is horribly broken. Anybody who trusts the news is an idiot. By news I mean old style news media. Who cares about papers....
      • Re:Google Shouldn't (Score:5, Interesting)

        by rtb61 (674572) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:22PM (#32486774) Homepage

        The truth is the old news model is dead. Years ago I used to get my news from the same three sources with only slight channel variation, the local newspaper, the local radio station and TV news. That is now gone forever. I have very little interest in only getting my news via those locked in sources any more.

        Generally I prefer to get the news from localised sources for international news, or news sources that align more closely with my interests at the time, or emailed updates from reputable sources, or even random stumbles. When it comes to getting more detail I much prefer to get a blog from a semi-professional journalists who is focusing in on a particular story.

        I very rarely go to a news site to read general news to see what is going on, in fact I haven't done it for years. Emailed news alerts, email news subscription and news as part of a internet portal are the becoming becoming the norm for access to the news.

        Oddly enough my only news lock in is a news lock out, an anti subscription to anything News Corp http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/News_Corporation [wikipedia.org] and Fox News, they would have to be one most corrupted multinational news source in the world and I specifically avoid them.

        • I had an awesome deal to receive a pretty well respected newspaper for only a dollar a month. This included daily papers and the big awesome paper on Sundays. I planned on having a grand ROI by utilizing the coupons which far exceeded the cost of subscription (not because I needed it, but because I have a sick, OCD financial mind). Anyways, fast forward a few months and I could not keep up with throwing these things out. Every morning I would kick the paper inside my door, and everytime I took trash out
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by jc42 (318812)

            ... Which brings me to my idea of reverse subscription. Spam everyone with free papers daily. Advertise that you will stop bringing them for a monthly fee.

            Heh. It'd be fun if a newspaper company tried that.

            My favorite comment on this issue is that nobody every bought a newspaper because they wanted the paper. This point seems to be missed by most people who write about this topic.

            Actually, we have long had a use for newspapers in our house. Because of my wife's allergies to furry critters, we have pet bi

            • > it's getting to be pretty obvious that electronic distribution is far superior to print.

              It's pretty obvious that it's faster. Since news organizations have always relied on the "scoop" to sell papers, speed is important to them, and now they're horribly slow. When I read the morning paper, half the shit is from HuffPo, and it feels like it happened 3 days ago (when it was really just 6 hours earlier).

              But I read the morning paper because it only takes ten minutes (or twenty if it's good). So I do lik

              • by jc42 (318812)

                At least the newspaper has the decency to admit when it's over. It comes with a sports section.

                Funny you should mention that. I've been using google news for a while, and usually have a firefox window open with several news.google.com tabs. Recently, since I'm living in New England (the one in the US, not in Australia ;-), I told google news to add a "New England" news tab to the set. Most of the time, this tab has almost nothing but sports news. I have no idea why. There's lots of local news hereabout

                • As someone who has been trying to get better crawling for several local news sources on google news, no it is not that all newspapers are blocking google, it is just that google has not been doing a very good job of determining local issue priority.

                  Sports is easy, but it is more difficult for the google bots to quantify other types of news. Google likes to pull in similar stories and grade them based on popularity and then more or less randomly show the articles for each subject. Sports scores are easy to
                  • by jc42 (318812)

                    I think you might be right. Also, I've noticed that it can be very difficult to figure out where a lot of "local news" web sites are located. I frequently see pointers to local news stories, in places like Dave Barry's blog [herald.com], where the readers send in local stories that they think are relevant to the blog. In his case, these are usually funny/twisted stories, of course, but this happens with a lot of blogs. When I follow a link, I often find myself wondering where in the world this happened - and I often

            • by jp10558 (748604)

              Of course, you have to have the sense to understand that not all news is reliable, and to read every story with a certain degree of skepticism. This problem is really helped by the ease with which one can pick out keywords and feed them to a news-search site to get multiple versions of the story with different biases.
              I've actually been rather disappointed with trying that on several different news stories recently. They all seemed to be very slightly changed version of the same text, if not just cut and pa

              • by jc42 (318812)

                I've actually been rather disappointed with trying that on several different news stories recently. They all seemed to be very slightly changed version of the same text, if not just cut and paste of the AP or Reuters copy.

                Yeah; I've seen a lot of that. It does somewhat depend on where the story originated, and who might be interested.

                Just a bit ago, I was perusing a few of the recent Yemen stories, for example, and found that in addition to all the usual UPI/Reuters/BBC/... stories, news.google.com had a n

        • Re:Google Shouldn't (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Fractal Dice (696349) on Monday June 07, 2010 @03:19PM (#32488586) Journal

          I agree. What google news, by its aggregation, so eloquently proves is that 99% of the "top stories" content out there is completely redundant - most papers provide just a token tweaking of a newswire story. We don't need a hundred versions of that. I think a more serious threat than google is wikinews - the sum of many writers, combined with clear citations linked to the story and an edit history is already becoming my first choice of where to look on complex issues where I want the facts and current situation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 (1322357)

      I like it. Old Murdoch will have to shit or get off the pot, then justify his actions to investors.

      Put up a paywall, or don't put up a paywall. Personally, I don't like Murdoch's kind of "news", and I don't read it for free - I sure as hell won't pay to read it.

      As has already been mentioned, the real "news" is being reported via the internet in many different ways already. If some old rich fools can't figure out how to make money off of what they have always done, and can't figure out a new way of doing

  • ...to save the news, Lois!

    But unfortunately, Superman is out of work and living off food stamps these days.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mcgrew (92797) *

      He's [wikipedia.org] dead, [wikipedia.org] Jim. But guys like Murdoch are the new Lex Luthor; the newspaper publishers are killing their own businesses and blaming the internet.

      When you buy a dead-tree paper, you're paying for the cost of printing; or at least you used to. The rest is paid by advertisers, and some papers even give printed versions away for free. But the real reason newspapers are dying is because publishers are charging too damned much for them! When I was a kid, the St Louis Post Dispatch, a big city reputable paper, cos

      • With the advances in printing technology you'd think it would'nt have gone up at much or even at all, but it's a buck now.

        I subscribe to the daily paper (only 6 days per week, no Sunday paper here) and it costs close to $300/year for it.

        Every time I renew it I debate whether it's really worth the money. One of these years I'll convince myself that it's not.

        I just have a particular time of day that I always sit and read the paper and I'm such a creature of habit that it would be tra

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Well, there are advantages to the old newspapers. You can read it anywhere, swat your puppy's nose with it, line your birdcage, make party hats... If I rode a bus I'd probably buy a paper every day, but now I just read the news online. I probably hit five newspapers a day.

  • Adwords it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zerth (26112) on Monday June 07, 2010 @12:58PM (#32486494)

    Every article gets an Adword block, Google takes a smaller cut than usual, and the newspaper gets paid.

    Shortly after that, the better independent writers will probably start publishing to Google directly.

  • by garcia (6573) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:00PM (#32486506) Homepage

    From the article:

    One Google employee who asked not to be named mentioned another report on journalism's future and pointed out a section called "Focus on the User." "They just mean, 'Get money out of the user,'" he said. "Nowhere do they talk about how to create something people actually want to read and engage with and use." On the topic of engaging modern users, Google feels very confident right now, and the news business feels very nervous. Apart from anything else, that certainty gap makes Google important to the future of the news.

    So far I am completely unimpressed with Google's attempts at engaging the modern user. I use a lot of Google's products but none of them are really "engaging". Yeah, they're trying different engagement tactics such as copycatting the "like" feature and adding social commenting to Google Reader. They've tried and failed to engage people with Wave and Buzz. They have some input on Google News from "pros". Otherwise, it's just your typical aggregator. Not impressed.

    Now, the whole getting money out of the user thing is all the newspaper industry cares about. While some are coming around to the fact that community is what is most important, right now at least, to their bottom line they are so far behind the curve that they may never catch up. Blogs are great not only for the content they aggregate or create themselves and deliver for free, but the commenting that's permitted, encouraged and which flourishes far better than on any newspaper site.

    Once Google stops concerning itself with pandering to the pay-for desires of the other industries, perhaps the lessons and wars waged and won on the blogs will make themselves known to others. Until then the newspaper industry, even with Google backing them in some sort of lame attempt at winning a war they lost 10 years ago, will continue its slow death.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Urza9814 (883915)

      So far I am completely unimpressed with Google's attempts at engaging the modern user. I use a lot of Google's products but none of them are really "engaging". Yeah, they're trying different engagement tactics such as copycatting the "like" feature and adding social commenting to Google Reader. They've tried and failed to engage people with Wave and Buzz. They have some input on Google News from "pros". Otherwise, it's just your typical aggregator. Not impressed.

      I don't think that most of Google's current products are _supposed_ to be engaging. Seems to me that they're supposed to be transparent. Google doesn't make content, they make content discovery and distribution. Ideally you wouldn't see their apps at all, you would only see the content.

      • by Aladrin (926209)

        Most of them aren't supposed to be engaging, that's true. He was referencing that ones that -are- and fail to be.

    • by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:31PM (#32486910)

      WD-40, known as "Water Displacement 40"... took years of development before it was perfected. The lightbulb, which took over a hundred years of researching thousands of filament materials before finding a good one. Duct tape, which started out as a way to seal ammo boxes during WWII somehow wound up finding its way into just about every major engineering undertaking in modern history, fashion, and a lot more.

      These are just one of the many technologies we now take for granted, and it was made possible by a combination of luck, research, and people finding applications for it that the designers hadn't intended. Google is an incubator of technologies -- they try a hundred different things to find one that works.

      There will always be a need for people to know what's going on in the world... And someone needs to produce that information, and then it needs to be packaged in a way that can be easily and quickly understood. People who want reliable information in a easy to use format will pay for it -- like intelligence agencies. People who don't need reliable information (which is most of us, most of the time) probably won't pay. Google is for the latter group.

      • by 0123456 (636235) on Monday June 07, 2010 @02:13PM (#32487564)

        Google is an incubator of technologies -- they try a hundred different things to find one that works.

        So where's Google's 'WD40'?

        Perhaps I've missed something, but Google do advertising, web search, advertising, online email, online word processing, advertising, online maps, online photo storage, advertising and a few other odds and ends that are either old hat or just online versions of things people have done on PCs for years. If they're such a great technology incubator I'd be interested to know what great new technologies they've incubated; Google Earth is about the most innovative I can think of.

        • by ChatHuant (801522) on Monday June 07, 2010 @03:25PM (#32488654)

          Google Earth is about the most innovative I can think of

          Google Earth wasn't new technology either; it's just a more webified version of the old Terraserver [wikipedia.org] project at Microsoft, which had been operating for close to 8 years before Google launched Google Earth.

          • Google didn't incubate Goole Earth. They bought an existing product called EarthViewer by another company called Keyhole and renamed it Google Earth.
            • Good to know. But whether they've written products from scratch or assimilated them (which is how Microsoft got big), they've done this:

              Search with pagerank
              Translate
              Images search
              Maps with driving directions
              Satellite View
              StreetView
              News
              Froogle
              Google Video + bought YouTube
              Gmail
              Books
              Google FastFlip ("Reader"?)
              Android
              Chrome browser (I'm using now, it's the fastest at loading Slashdot comments)
              ChromeOS

              They are doing everything a software company should do, which is to write or collect all the software they could

              • by Danse (1026)

                Good to know. But whether they've written products from scratch or assimilated them (which is how Microsoft got big), they've done this:

                Search with pagerank Translate Images search Maps with driving directions Satellite View StreetView News Froogle Google Video + bought YouTube Gmail Books Google FastFlip ("Reader"?) Android Chrome browser (I'm using now, it's the fastest at loading Slashdot comments) ChromeOS

                They are doing everything a software company should do, which is to write or collect all the software they could ever want. If I ran the company myself, I wouldn't do much different.

                Lots of good stuff there. I'm liking Google Goggles a lot too.

        • by evilviper (135110) on Monday June 07, 2010 @04:00PM (#32489144) Journal

          If they're such a great technology incubator I'd be interested to know what great new technologies they've incubated; Google Earth is about the most innovative I can think of.

          Well, I do believe Google Maps pretty well sparked the Web 2.0 trend, and was pretty loudly revered by all who saw it when it first came out.

          Google image search was a rather fundamental change, and GIS has become as much of a verb as Google. Others have since copied it, but before GIS, searching for images was vastly more painful.

          I'd suppose their back-end technology is pretty good as well. Containerized data centers, et al.

          • Google Maps isn't much different from Mapquest. I think it was the satellite view and 3D application that got people's attention.

            >before GIS, searching for images was vastly more painful.

            Yes it was. But Google Images is still sad. It just checks the image tag name and if you're lucky, the developer tagged it properly. But even then, you're only getting one or two search terms out of it.

            If you take a look at a proper image database, they use dozens of keywords. And you pay through the nose for it.

            With e

            • by evilviper (135110)

              Google Maps isn't much different from Mapquest.

              It's quite different. Mapquest was only basic road maps, did not allow dragging the map around, did not allow recentering, etc., etc.

              think it was the satellite view and 3D application that got people's attention.

              3D wasn't added until quite recently.

              It just checks the image tag name

              Ummm... No it doesn't.

        • by hclewk (1248568)

          Where's Edison's WD40?

          Perhaps I've missed something, but Edison just did a few odds and ends that are just electric versions of things people have done other ways for years. Take the light bulb for example. That's just basically a candle that uses electricity.

          Put another (non-sarcastic) way, you've missed something.

      • by gmhowell (26755)

        Google has thrown a bunch of shit at the wall. So far, only search has stuck. Android is sticking a little bit, but they certainly aren't a Xerox PARC or Bell Labs.

        • by jp10558 (748604)

          I don't know how much this actually has to do with coming up with *new* stuff, but as far as I can tell GMail basically owns webmail now, Youtube is basically *the* video streaming site, and Google Maps as stated elsewhere is quite the contender in that arena. And Google News seems to be big enough as an aggregator to get the various media companies suing,talking and thinking about it, whereas, say, slashdot doesn't...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "So far I am completely unimpressed with Google's attempts at engaging the modern user. I use a lot of Google's products but..."

      That's all 'Engaging' the user is about though. If you're using their products instead of their competitors, then they've done enough. I don't think Google is naive enough to think they can impress every single person with every single service they offer - with us 'old hands' especially, we've probably seen features elsewhere they haven't considered yet. That said, with the range t

    • 'So far I am completely unimpressed with Google's attempts at engaging the modern user. I use a lot of Google's products but none of them are really "engaging".'

      I strongly disagree with your general premise, but agree with you with regards to where it has to do with the this /. story specifically. On my first point I use Google as my home page with a number of gadgets that show me the headlines from several sources as well as my local weather and a few stock picks, and etc. I feel naked without it. Wow factor? Nah, but they are kind of indispensable to me at this point. But lets consider the news papers and their utter loathing of Google, their common attitude that

  • by ihxo (16767)

    How to save the news? More data mining on the readers. More Ads.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      How to save the news? More laser mining on the readers. More Ads.

      There, fixed that for you.

  • by gd23ka (324741) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:09PM (#32486622) Homepage

    The one reason people don't turn on the news anymore is because they can see
    the huge disparity between reality and the useless propaganda thrown into their
    faces - in between a bunch of commercials for diabetes drugs and anti-depressants
    and anybody who hasn't seen the scooter guy with that scooter you can get on
    Medicaid when the junk food and prescription drugs have worn you down to the point
    you can't walk anymore.

    Wrapping this pile of crap into a new Google News Fajita with extra kool-aid?
    Not going to work.

    Let me quote Zbigniew Brzezinski one of the globalist go-fers:

    "For the first time in all of human history mankind is politically awakened - that's a total new reality - it has not been so for most of human history.""

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      when the junk food and prescription drugs have worn you down to the point you can't walk anymore

      Junk food a prescription drugs don't cause that, it's the body wearing out, like any machine. You'll find that the guys using canes and even scooters are the guys who performed hard physical labor all their lives, and the guys having heart attacks are in stressful jobs.

      Good luck with that heart condition without your nitrogrycerine pills.

      • by gd23ka (324741)

        To quote Burger King, "Have it YOUR way" then :-). Like I said, you can have my kool-aid,
        you seem to be really into it :-)

  • Intelligent life? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by swanzilla (1458281) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:22PM (#32486768) Homepage
    Idea FTA:

    Turn college students into journalists. "If the nation’s 200,000 journalism and mass communications students spent 10 percent of their time doing actual journalism," said one participant, "that would more than make up for all the traditional media jobs that have been lost in the past 10 years."

    You unintentionally stumbled upon a nice parallel there. Like the communications major looking for a nice engineer to marry, print media is out trolling for a sugar daddy.

  • by strangeattraction (1058568) on Monday June 07, 2010 @01:26PM (#32486812)
    The problem is that the people that created the problem are trying to solve it. This rarely works. The system is in flux and will remain so until a clear path is recognized by the consumer. ie I'll pay for NYTIMEs $14/yr but not $14/month. Cable TV is having a similar problem. The consumer wants ale carte but the providers want to maintain the status quo and keep your eyeballs 24/7. Unfortunately it is out of their hands. The market is fragmenting their structure is not sustainable with todays infrastructure providing more choices. Eventually some model will dominate and that will become the new status quo.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by 2obvious4u (871996)
      As far as cable goes, they really need to get ale carte. Full catalog of every show ever made, on demand, with live sports packages per team. Different price points for "add supported", "add free", "add supported ale cart", "add supported unlimited", and "add free unlimited". Oh and prepaid metered and sports package only.

      I do believe the hold up isn't coming from the ISP/Cable companies, but from the content producers. In the current model they sell packages, so you're paying for the shit programming
      • Content producers are doing it because they all need to get paid. And there's no incentive for the cable company to shut off certain channels because it's not saving them any appreciable bandwidth to offer a smaller package. Once it's on the wire, it might as well stay there.

        Content producers can break the model however by offering their content directly over the web. Which is already starting to happen.

  • You can read it here, from Google, with the online PDF reader( that don't need a plugin )

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://assets.theatlantic.com/static/coma/images/issues/201006/hal_varian_presentation.pdf [google.com]

  • Google could help small publishers by paying for the number of impressions on its Adwords platform, rather than by the much smaller number of "clicks" generated by Adwords on small news sites. The article never actually outlines any plan by Google to help save news organization. The unstated "plan" apparently is for Google to buy up all the news organization after they've gone bankrupt.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      You can get impression based ads, but many advertisers are lured by the "effectiveness" of CPC ads, so never buy impression ads.

      Plus, the Google ad system auctions off space such that CPM and CPC ads bid with the same "currency", so they end up costing the same.

      I often wonder why my local newspapers sell tons of ad space to Yahoo, but never to Google. Going by the ads, I'm assuming it is because Yahoo has looser rules about annoying ads than Google.

  • by sveiki_neliels (870930) on Monday June 07, 2010 @02:01PM (#32487386) Homepage

    Doesn't FOX News "reinvent" the news every day?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Its pretty obvious that creation and distribution of news is becoming decentralized. Now that the average person can make a reputable blog in minutes (assuming that what they have to say is worthwhile) there is no need for megacorps to push a very expensive distribution model involving dead trees and armies of journalists. Average people are the journalists of tomorrow and thank the Holy Noodle Monster for that considering the recent decline in journalistic integrity. People can use Google or other tools to
  • by assertation (1255714) on Monday June 07, 2010 @03:38PM (#32488824)

    I wouldn't be happy if either traditional news sources or news from the web went away. They are both needed to balance out each others shortcomings.

    Web sources of the news has forced mainstream media to cover stories that otherwise would have been buried.

    Mainstream media provides a base of credibility against the web where anyone can write anything.

  • How about the news become something other than just spitting out government propaganda? It's obvious that there is only one source for most of the news, when all the media comes up with the same stupid quotes, verbatum. Remember when all the media became concerned about "gravitas"? It's amazing that they all came up with the exact same weird word on the same day covering the same person.

    You see the same thing, over and over. It's obvious that they are all being fed these comments. They all show the same new

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not necessarily the government, but the Washington press corps is a cliquish bunch. Surprisingly, The New York Times Magazine ran an article awhile back about how a certain influential reporter is able to "shape" much of the day's news since he he's hyper-connected to the politicians, business people, journalists, and other influential people. The news media compete to some extent, but they're all just competing to serve gruel from the same bucket. Really, it's a lack of journalistic imagination on the

  • by robbyyy (703254)
    I fail to see why free to access content publishers have any great problem with Google. Google is 9/10 the number one driver of audience to their properties. Traffic = money.

The typical page layout program is nothing more than an electronic light table for cutting and pasting documents.

Working...