The Killer App: Google News + Human Editors?

Posted: June 12, 2010 in Content, Convergence, Curation, Digital Media, Innovation, News, Newspapers

Four years ago, when I was running digital media at CBS, we had a meeting with Google’s top management to see how we might work together on some projects. We started the discussion with video, which Google wanted badly from us because they were hungering for video content to help jump start what was then a fledgling video business (pre-itunes).

But for a brief moment I shifted the subject to news. My thought was that if we put Google News together with CBS News, we could create the killer application for news. The idea was that they were the hands down leader in aggregating news from all sources without actually creating any news of their own. If a story broke, you could go to Google News and find links to almost every version of that story available from almost every source. CBS, on the other hand, would “Curate” the news and use their extensive experience in journalism and their room full of smart editors and producers to put news in perspective and, in effect, rank the news of the day and cover the best of it.

If you put the two together well, you really had something. CBS would guide you to the important stories, and put those stories in a context that would help readers know where to spend their time and what these stories really mean to them. Then Google News would allow the reader to go to any version of that story. If there was a ferry crash in San Francisco, you could go directly to a local news site that might be covering the event live, or at least in more detail.

This was the perfect mix for any reader. They would be helped to understand the relative importance of stories, but they would also be able to go to any version of that story, from any preferred source. The consumer wins.

But Google shut that discussion down almost immediately. Eric Schmidt said they were concerned about partnering with any news organization for news coverage because they wanted their audience to understand that Google News was a pure technology created to dispassionately display the news of the day based on their algorithms, and not reflect the agenda of one news organization or another. In fact, Google News was meant to reflect a consensus of what news is interesting.

Now, according to paidcontent.org, Google is asking selected news organizations to create “editors’ picks” for the front page of Google News. And, there are rumors from SearchEngineLand that there is a new version of Google News coming that is more share-friendly and a new look.

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