Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Google’

New Google News

In Online media on 20 Jul 2017 at 2:42 pm

We all have go-to spots on the web for news and one of mine is Google News.

I appreciate what to me seems like an honest curation of the top stories of the day and the fact that I can sample many sources in one place. There are channels for top stories and sports and whatever else interests you and you can even set it to find your particular interests.

Recently, the crew at Google redesigned the interface. I guess the sweet spot with such things is to tweak them for better usability without completely upsetting the virtual apple cart, and by that standard I would have to say it’s a success. (Though, truth be told, I don’t think it’s much better than the original, which worked for me just fine. Do you think the “card format” is easier to read than the old blue headers? Perhaps you do.)

There are a couple of things I do like. Google is now tagging stories as “Local Source” when that is the case. Seems like that would be good to know as we all know that local media sometimes has a different and more grounded perspective on some stories. And it’s pretty breathtaking in some instances to click “full coverage.” Doing so can bring you dozens of stories on a topic, related video and tags that can bring you deeper into a story. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to Google.

One last thing: If you aren’t already setting Google alerts to send you emails of stories that mention your town or beat… you should. If you can’t figure it out, lemme know.

— Clay Lambert


Alexa, tell me the news

In Innovation on 11 May 2017 at 2:13 pm

I don’t have a voice-activated device like Google Home or Amazon Echo. In fact, I live in Silicon Valley and I’m not sure I know anyone who has one. That said, these things are coming and they may well turn out to be useful home appliances and not simply parlor toys.

That is why some smart organizations — including Gatehouse Media — are experimenting with producing audio news reports that can be read on these things. The idea is that you might tell Amazon Echo to read your local news and it might deliver a news summary from your local newspaper. NPR has secured the default placement with Amazon and now a familiar human voice reads that news rather than the weird robot voice you would expect from these things.

The potential is huge; the known is nil.

Gatehouse Media’s Bill Church told Rick Edmonds at Poynter: “It’s product first, then audience, and monetization later.” Hmmm… where have we heard that before?

I have a bias against audio reports of the news. I find print, video or photo presentations a lot easier to skip through and past. I open a newspaper and I get clues by placement, headline and photos about whether the gatekeeper thinks this is important for me to know or whether it’s something of lesser importance. I listen to NPR for hours on end in the car, but that’s because can’t do much else. When I hear a podcast, it is an immersive experience. Unfortunately, I don’t have time nor inclination for too many immersive experiences. What about you? … Read the rest of this entry »

Covering Google

In journalism on 4 Feb 2016 at 4:15 pm

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This week, The New York Times Insider featured reporter Conor Dougherty and his hunt for Larry Page. Dougherty is the NYT reporter assigned to cover Google, and people like company CEO Page.

The headline sort of says it all: “Try to interview Google’s cofounder. It’s emasculating.”

Today’s tech giants, companies like Google and Apple, are dedicated to sharing information, often information about you and I for which these companies pay nothing. Yet, they are some of the most closed ecosystems on the planet. Tech execs are famous for making maids sign non-disclosure agreements. They have state-of-the-art security and reporters rarely if ever really get a glimpse of what truly goes on behind the website. The New York Times asked to interview Page more than 18 months ago and is still waiting for an answer.

Being in Google’s figurative backyard, we run into this a bit at the Half Moon Bay Review. Recently, we wanted to interview Liv Wu. She is the director of something called the Google Teaching Kitchen. I’d like to ask her what that is, but she is sworn to secrecy. Even though she is a “local” who lives near the Review, was once a newspaper reporter like me and we were specifically guided to her with her email and phone number by a publicist. We wanted to ask her about her completely non-Google work as a member of a committee putting on a local festival.

Such requests had to go through Google, we were told. So we chose someone else to feature.

I mention all this because today’s business titans are more inaccessible than ever before. They rarely consent to interviews with journalists, preferring to issue their own unchallenged statements via social media. It’s so much easier that way. None of those pesky questions. … Read the rest of this entry »

Virtual reality changes everything

In Innovation on 12 Nov 2015 at 6:23 pm


The New York Times completely rocked my world on the morning of Nov. 8. I waddled to the driveway, cup of joe in hand, and picked up the thick wad of newspaper that always greets me on Sunday mornings. It wasn’t until I got inside and unwrapped the thing that I noticed the cardboard box.

What’s this?

It turned out to be a virtual reality machine, for lack of a better term. The result of a partnership with Google, the box unfolded to form something that looked a lot like the Viewmaster from my childhood. A sheet that came with it instructed me to download the NYTVR app on my cellphone. After that, I clicked a link to a video – a 10-minute documentary really. I put the phone in the cardboard and …

There is really no way to describe the experience, but here goes: The New York Times, through a phone app and a piece of cardboard, transported me to war-torn Africa, a Syrian refugee camp and into the ravaged Ukraine. I was alongside three of the 30 million children worldwide who have been displaced by war.

I will never think of video or news the same way again. Period. Here’s the Times announcement.

Of course, I knew about virtual reality. I was vaguely aware that it was being used for gaming and all sorts of training purposes. It seemed to require big, bulky headsets, fancy cameras and who knew what all. It just didn’t seem like something I would be interested in. And I wasn’t alone. … Read the rest of this entry »

Is Future News the news of the future?

In Innovation on 12 Jun 2014 at 12:43 pm
This graph shows that news builds before your moment of perception and interest in it continues to grow, sometimes due to predictable upcoming events, for some period of time.

This graph shows that news builds before your moment of perception and interest in it continues to grow, sometimes due to predictable upcoming events, for some period of time.

David Smydra is strategic partner manager for news at Google and is finishing a stint as a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. He is also a former reporter at the Half Moon Bay Review, and because of that, he shared with me a really cool project. I’m about to share it with you.

He’ll explain it better than I, but the crux is that news isn’t only what has happened, but what will happen. As he points out, some upcoming news events are entirely predictable. What if we could publish those milestones before they happened? David said I could repost his blog here. If you have comments, by all means, please go here and let him know what you think. Take it away, David…

As I’ve covered in previous posts and elsewhere, news is more than what just happened — news is the important thing that has, is, or will happen. In other words, sometimes the most interesting or compelling news event is ahead of us, even though it hasn’t yet occurred.

So the question becomes: What’s the best way to track or report on future news events?

Newsrooms already gather extensive amounts of information regarding future news events. Publicists send reporters digital stacks of press releases. (I’ve worked as a publicist and a journalist, in that order. I know of what I speak.) But press releases are just the beginning — reporters also track calendars published by government agencies; they follow court dates for high-interest cases; and they subscribe to industry newsletters for their beat or obsession. Most importantly, they work their sources for leads. The heads-up for what will happen is one of the most prized tips a source can pass to a reporter. … Read the rest of this entry »

Google’s media tools

In Online media on 31 Oct 2013 at 3:03 pm

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You already know that the search engine boys down at Google have tools that help you reach more people and present information in easy-to-understand ways. I bet you search for stuff on Google a dozen times a day and that you already use Google Maps and maybe Google+ and Google Docs and other fun, free stuff.

Well, it just got more interesting. Check out this newish one-stop shop for Google’s tools for journalists. (It was actually announced a couple weeks back.)

I don’t know that there is anything entirely new here, but Google sure has made it easier to understand. The tools are arranged under headings like, “Gather and Organize,” “Engage” and “Visualize.”

Now open one of those tabs. Think maps are swanky but a bit beyond you? Click “Visualize” and “Google Maps Engine Lite.” Take the tour. Does that look hard? You know you can do that.

It wasn’t always so. … Read the rest of this entry »

Finding in-depth stuff

In Online media on 9 Aug 2013 at 8:12 am

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Lost in all the ink and pixels devoted to Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post this week was another significant story about information delivery in the 21st century. This one comes to us from our old friends at Google.

In the coming days, your Google search may include a box at the bottom of your screen that points you to “in-depth articles.”

Google’s stated reason for packaging these particular stories this way is to make context available without scrolling through pages of search returns. Google’s Pandu Nayak writes:

I’m happy to see people continue to invest in thoughtful in-depth content that will remain relevant for months or even years after publication. This is exactly what you’ll find in the new feature. In addition to well-known publishers, you’ll also find some great articles from lesser-known publications and blogs. … Read the rest of this entry »

Three big changes

In Online media on 9 May 2013 at 2:58 pm

This is a public broadcasting report from Minnesota. The talking head is Seth Lewis, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Minnesota. Much of what he says has been said many times before, but I thought he made some good points about the big changes in our business.

Feel free to fast-forward to about the 5:15 minute mark.

  • The loss of subsidy. Lewis notes that the new question is “what is really worth it?” He asks how we can provide value (and leaves unsaid that that value has, well, value.)
  • The “Googlization of everything.” Search is the primary portal by which people get their news. Folks aren’t so much going to our homepage — our virtual front page — as coming to us through the back door of link sharing.
  • The role of journalists relative to users. Social media has changed our relations with our readers. He mentions Andy Carvin (follow him @acarvin!) as a journalist who made his name as a curator and filter of social media. “He was trying to give this running stream of events” of Arab Spring. To me, that is a brand new thing.

Clay (via Spundge reporting.)

The future of news

In Online media on 16 Aug 2012 at 2:58 pm

Did you read Richard Gingras’ keynote address before the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication? No? You should.

Gingras is the director of news and social products at Google. As he notes, he is an unusual speaker before such a body. He is not a journalist and has never reported a story in his life. He describes himself as a “technologist.” I know, I know. It’s annoying to hear people like Gingras tell us what we should be doing. Believe me, I know. But he has an interesting perspective on the future of things that will intimately affect all of us, particularly those of us in news distribution. For instance:

The open distribution of the Internet destroyed that (traditional newspaper) leverage, but the openness of (the) Internet also brought the potential for many new voices. Would anyone really want to flip back the clock on that change? Disruptions of media marketplaces have happened before and will happen again. The 40-year golden period of newspaper profitability began with a disruption and ended with one. …

The openness of the underlying distribution architecture of an ecosystem has a huge impact on the number of voices and the levels of profitability. The more controlled the distribution, the higher the profitability but the fewer the voices. …”

Would you argue with any of that?

Gingras closes with some really interesting questions: … Read the rest of this entry »

In praise of dictionaries

In Writing on 27 Jan 2012 at 9:24 am

I know this is going to sound painfully 1973, but I still love my big ol’ dictionary.

Look, more often than not, I Google words too. If I’m in the middle of editing something on our server, I’m very likely to go online and type the word to see if I’m spelling it correctly. Sometimes it’s easier than reaching for the old Webster’s fourth edition.

But I realized today that I like that big, heavy book-version of the dictionary for much the same reason I like printed newspapers: Both of those old standbys teach me things I did not know I wanted to learn.

Example: Today I was editing a story and came to a full stop at “taxicab.” I didn’t know whether it was one word or two. So I reached onto the shelf and looked it up. Probably took 30 seconds or so. I’m guessing that is 10 seconds more than it would have taken to look it up online. The image you see with this post is pretty much what I saw.

Taxi dancer? Have you ever heard of a taxi dancer? … Read the rest of this entry »