A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Google News Lab
How many times have you heard that phrase? How many times have you said it? You rarely hear “search the Internet” anymore, since Google seemingly has become synonymous with the Internet.
Google aims to make the user experience as positive as possible, with products for the Web, mobile, business, home and office. Now it’s come up with a way to enhance the journalist experience.
Realizing the creation and sharing of news is constantly changing, Google released News Lab, an online network that aims to connect journalists with programs, data and other resources to aid in reporting. The site features a number of tools for newsrooms, including tutorials and best practices on how to use Google products to report, provide access to the updated Google Trends service, and more.
How will Google News Lab impact journalists and media outlets? We sat down with Daniel Sieberg, head of media outreach with Google News Lab, to find out.
What is News Lab all about?
The News Lab at Google is our effort to empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media. Our mission: to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to build the future of media with Google. We do this through Google Tools, Data, and Programs. The News Lab engages entrepreneurs and journalists with the latest developing Google technologies to test out new applications and new ways to tell stories. And we’re constantly looking for new and innovative ideas in media, and experimenting with technologies inside and outside of Google ourselves.
How and when was the concept of News Lab born?
About a year ago, a number of us internally, led by Steve Grove, the director of the News Lab, began brainstorming on how we might unify various groups within the company that lean towards empowering journalists. I previously led a group called Google for Media, and others had interactions with newsrooms for other reasons – many of those people had been at Google for several years and others were relatively new. But we came together under a clear mandate, and thus the News Lab was born. We only had a more public launch in late June, but we’ve been working behind the scenes for some time.
What was your role specifically? You have a television journalism background, which must have helped in the production.
My background is actually a combination of print (Vancouver Sun), online (CNN.com, ABCNews.com), TV (CBS News, CNN, BBC) and radio (various). Initially, I was mainly focused on our media outreach efforts to train journalists on digital tools, but that’s expanded to include some of our work on experimental storytelling (VR, drones, etc.), which is a thread that runs through everything we do, and elections partnerships, which is in collaboration with other teams at Google. Others on the News Lab bring their own expertise and background to a group that’s about 10 of us right now, with hiring taking place in Europe and NYC.
What are your goals for News Lab?
Google started the News Lab because we believe that a strong and robust media ecosystem is better for people, governments, companies, societies, and the world. With the extraordinary change that technology has brought to the news and information landscape, we think the future of news depends on journalists and technologists working together to create a more informed world. At Google, we think we can play a more active and collaborative role in the development of that future – that’s why we started the News Lab.
Google is very supportive of quality journalism. How does the creation of News Lab tie in with Google’s mission?
It’s hard to think of a more important source of information in the world today than quality news content. At its best, journalism communicates truth to power, keeps societies free and open, and leads to more informed decision-making by people and leaders. We know that our mission to make information accessible and useful to people resonates with those in the news industry, because they’ve been doing it for far longer than we have! Just in different ways.
In the past decade, better technology and an open Internet have led to a revolution in how news content is created, distributed, and consumed. Along the way, Google has created many technologies and platforms that have changed the media industry – sometimes intentionally, sometimes not – which has made us a player in the media landscape, even though we’re a technology company.
We realized we could be a much more effective contributor to the media industry if we created a central access point for journalists and entrepreneurs to connect with our tools, our data, and our people in order to get the most out of what Google has to offer. And we wanted to have a much more collaborative, forward-leaning effort to help build the future of the industry alongside the most innovative people and organizations in media today.
Can you give us a breakdown of the various offerings News Lab has for journalists and explain how each one can help the media?
- TOOLS: The News Lab is designed to be one easy entry point for all newsrooms to discover Google’s tools that are relevant for journalists. We have a global outreach effort designed to teach journalists how to use Google to research, report, distribute and optimize their content, and we’ve developed product tutorials specifically for journalists at g.co/newslab. To date, we’ve trained 13,000 journalists in 34 countries.
- DATA: We’re building a new data journalism effort within the News Lab, focused on leveraging Google data to help journalists tell stories. We believe that aggregated, anonymized Google data can shed light on the most pressing and important questions of our time, and we’re advancing our Google Trends product to help journalists tell transformative stories through our data. We’re opening up new data sets all the time at Google.com/Trends, and on our Git Hub Page – and are always looking for new partners to work with.
- PROGRAMS: We create programs with innovative partners to support an ecosystem of new voices in media. In particular, we focus on media startups, user-generated news content, and online content creators. We believe the media companies of tomorrow will come from the startups and innovators of today – and we want to help them succeed.
You’ve partnered with The Center for Investigative Reporting, Storyful and Matter VC. How will you work together, and do you plan on developing other partnerships?
We’re also working with Hacks/Hackers on a series of global events to further stimulate and grow innovation in various markets and we’ve got a partnership with the European Journalism Centre that involves eight News Impact summits across Europe to provide training and thought leadership.
We also have a significant focus on highlighting/verifying UGC or eyewitness media content through efforts like First Draft and the YouTube Newswire. And we’re expanding existing programs like the Google Journalism Fellowships and the Computational Journalism Awards to more places and more people. Additional info here.
How can journalists start using News Lab today?
I’d suggest start with the g.co/newslab site and follow us on Twitter at @googlenewslab and @googletrends.
We’re also always looking for creative ways to experiment with various tools whether through VR, drones or anything else so get in touch!
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Evelyn Tipacti is an audience relations specialist at ProfNet. She is a former broadcast journalist with years of experience behind the television camera and radio mic.