Saturday, October 28, 2006

Google Readies News Aggregation to Drive Conversations Amongst Newsmakers

Philipp Lenssen on "Google Blogoscoped" posted a very interesting peek into the plans of Google gleaned from internal papers, including this interesting tidbit relating to potential plans for Google News:
One more specific objective Google outlined as company goal earlier this year in another paper available to me was to internally test a Google News prototype during the fourth quarter. This “radically improved” prototype should allow “other news sources, and organizations and individuals mentioned in news stories to debate specific points.”
This is a quite a twist that amplifies the potential for online discussion far beyond what outlets such as Digg and Newsvine have tried to accomplish with their online news bookmarking communities. Rather than have just the rabble of everyday online users comment on news stories Google News would act as an automated interview show of sorts, drawing in key figures closest to a story to provide their own insights. Such a move would be, in effect, automated journalism that feeds off of existing news stories.

Somehow if I get past my fears of a Larry King avatar from Second Life moderating these debates I can see that this has the potential to reshape news gathering in some fairly profound ways. Just as weblogs have provided a way to draw together elements of the news through links and comments a service that invited all comers an opportunity to shape news and opinion in an open forum based on being in the news would in theory offer a major leap forward in the quality of both the news and the debate.

Will the assets of AP and, possibly, Newsvine surface in this new venture as I speculated in an earlier post? I think that the AP content is quite likely to surface, but by the sounds of it Google may be thinking that it can accelerate beyond the Newsvine concept rapidly enough to render a Newsvine alliance moot. Newsvine continues to grow but as with many social services it may be settling in to servicing a relatively select number of special interest groups that will not be able to propel the quality of its news selections forward quickly enough to pick up significant new portions of market share. On the other hand the new spellchecking software for Google's Blogger weblogging software bears a strong resemblance to the spellchecker in Newsvine, so you never know.

Whatever the result Google is clearly planning for a major leap forward in the debate as to how news can and should be shaped. Add in footage from YouTube and you can expect some pretty interesting fireworks in the news industry when this package makes its debut. Allowing conversations to shape news as much as news shapes conversations is one of the key factors driving user-generated content forward; that conversation is about to get one honkin' big megaphone, by the sounds of it.
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