Google partners with NYT, WaPo to create ‘living story pages’

Today The Washington Post announced the start of a new partnership with Google.

The search-engine giant is working with WaPo and The New York Times to create Living Story Pages, which are designed to serve as a place where all content about a given topic can be found.

The Living Stories will be updated automatically with content about a given topic, determined by each news outlet.

Right now, the project is still in its testing phase, but if it goes well, the pages will be turned over to each news outlet. Although some, such as WaPo’s own Howard Kurtz, don’t think this will revolutionize online journalism, but I think this might be the first step in the right direction.

It reminds me a lot of what Jeff Jarvis has talked about on his blog, Buzz Machine.

He has talked about the concept of a stream, which he says would be a topical page that continues to distribute information about a given topic after the regular story is published.

It is a very wiki-like (see Wikipedia) idea that allows the news to find people, rather than the other way around.

A news stream would then flow to the people who want to know about a given topic, and people can contribute in a variety of ways, maybe even adding content such as users can at Wikipedia.

With the release of Google’s Wave product, which allows for online collaboration in an easy-to-use way, this could be one step toward the future of how news will be disseminated and consumed.

Is this a complete answer to the woes the media industry faces in the online arena? No. But if this works well, then it isn’t hard to see that it will be built upon and expanded to help shape the future of online news, especially considering that online is definitely the future for journalism.

Of course, for such one-stop-shops for news to thrive, one key element will need to remain – strong, high-quality journalism that focuses on accuracy and fairness.

That isn’t to say, of course, that citizen journalists can’t play a vital role. I think they are important because they cover news items that mainstream media might overlook. Anyone, such The Digital Journalist who thinks we should “Abolish ‘Citizen Journalists'” is flat wrong and ignorant for making such an asinine assertion because citizen journalists are filling in the gaps left open by more traditional media outlets.

Having one page dedicated to a topic is key to taking back journalism because it harkens to the days before the Internet when everyone had to read the local paper to know what is going on. Now, instead of combing through Web site after Web site or article after article to get a complete picture of a situation, all that information can be found in one place, even if right now it is still categorized by news outlet.

This eliminates the need for a Web site, kind of. See, by using a steam mentality, the Web site no longer becomes the focal point, which is already the case since most news sites get traffic via deep links that go directly to a story rather than from the site’s homepage.

Now, a Web site will be needed more as a place to store the articles, while the stream will become the new “homepage” where users can quickly and easily find the information they want.

Such innovations are exciting, and it should get the wheels in any media-minded person’s head spinning.

Here are just a few thoughts flying through my mind right now: How will this evolve? How will this help consumers and distributors alike? Where will the next step in this evolution come from? Who will adapt this methodology first and most effectively? Will this same notion be applicable to small-town, local journalism? . . .

And the thoughts go on and on.

Google has often be criticized for being part of the problem because it generates ad revenue by showing links to news stories, something The Wall Street Journal’s Rupert Murdoch has spoken out about often, but Google isn’t hurting journalism the way it is portrayed. Google’s linking sends people to the news Web sites, which translates into to page views. Page views are the currency of the Web. The more page views, the more the site can charge for its own advertising spaces.

Murdoch thinks journalism needs saved, which he sees as making sure even online stories are paid for, so he wants to block Google from linking to his companies’ content. Google has put systems into place that allow news companies to opt out of having their content listed in searches.

Murdoch’s urge to save journalism by combating the mentality that everything online is free is a noble cause, but it isn’t realistic. Too many people are used to getting everything for free online, and it is going to be a long row to hoe in order to turn that tide.

(Christoph Keese, head of public affairs and an architect of the online strategy of German publishing company Springer, wants to save journalism too. The thing is, he wants a world-wide pay wall that people can buy into at varying levels, such as a cell phone plan. Upon picking his or her “package” or “news plan,” the customer would then have access to the news outlets of his or her choosing. I don’t think this is a very viable option either. All the news outlets are in fierce competition and undoubtedly greedy. What makes anyone think they would play nice to work out this kind of concept, which would require profit sharing and everything else?)

However, with innovations such as the Living Stories concept, it is conceivable that the Web could become monetized. If people were streaming to one page to get caught up on an event, such as the Tiger Woods saga or the shootings at Fort Hood, think of how much advertising on that page would go for.

Sure, the content produced is worth paying for, but why not pay for it in a way that isn’t has offensive to online customers, which is how those customers see paying for news content?

The best part about this, of course, is that Google has often been painted as the villain in the story of journalism’s battle with the digital horizons. Now, Google could very well be the hero of this tale.

And just because Google is the first to develop this type of system doesn’t mean others won’t replicate and improve upon the model because that is what the age of online journalism is all about – innovation and entrepreneurship, not legacy media companies who have squandered their chances to stay kings of the proverbial mountain.

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About toddvogts 773 Articles
My name is Todd Vogts. I am an assistant professor of media. I like the color green, riding my motorcycle, and being with my family and friends. A good book is a perfect companion for me any time, and I'm a published author and journalist. Visit my website at and follow me on Twitter at