Helping news be news

Google News has just open-sourced its code to create what it calls Living Stories. What this really is, I think, is Google’s attempt to take editors to school on content presentation in our new world.

The article, I’ve argued, is outmoded as the building block of news. The new atomic unit(s) of journalism needs to reflect the transition of news from a product to a process. It needs to gather updates and corrections on a story. It needs to put that story in context and history. It needs to link to other versions of the story from other sources. Going past what Google’s Living Stories format does, it needs to open the door to collaboration. It can do so much more: showing the provenance of the news and linking to original sources, gathering comment and perspective, soliciting questions….

Daylife (where, disclosure, I’m a partner) its own vision of the future of the story, called Smart Stories, that will do more neat things; I’ll let them tell you about it. Daylife also sees that news needn’t exist in isolated, short-lived, repetitive units of presentation invented for the age of print. News should reside in a nest of relevance, which not only improves the presentation, it gives you more options on how you want to delve into the story and follow it and eventually contribute to it. It makes news more personal.

Both companies are doing something important for the benefit of journalists: making them look at what they create in a new way. This is just one possibility, just one step. We also need to think about making news embeddable and distributed. We need to insinuate news into your stream (“if the news is that important, it will find me“) and make it collaborative and enable you to triangulate from different viewpoints and footnote our work and….

The way for Google to serve the interests of news is not to make deals to mollify the mewling Associated Press or cater to pipe dreams of charging. The way that Google and other technology visionaries can help is by reshaping the form of news to show the people who do it how they can do it now. The open-sourcing of Living Stories is a welcome start.

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  • If this really is “Google’s attempt to take editors to school on content presentation in our new world”—and I agree with you and think that it is—then more power to Google. I don’t think news sites necessarily need to blow up the whole concept of the story—I’d be happy enough if they’d just embrace linking and operate more like wikis—but those who are willing to take a bold step like that will stand out among the crowd.

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  • Hi Jeff. Other than DayLife and Google’s Living News which other projects do you think have the potential to change our perspective of how news can innovatively be presented in the future?

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  • I think pauls right, google trying to dominate as usual

  • “It needs to gather updates and corrections on a story. It needs to put that story in context and history.”

    I’m suddenly struck by the possibilities. Are Google angling at a live newspaper that collects information from a miriad of sources and then compiles them into an Instant and Current News Broadcast ? This will be fantastic and probably put every newspaper out of business. What would be the point of reading yesterdays news and comment, when we can read the ongoing story in real time ?

    I’m sorry to dis-agree, but I think this could be brilliant !

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