Category Archives: Google News Blog

The official blog from the team at Google News

Helping journalists experiment with 360 content

There’s already a huge amount of innovation in virtual reality and immersive storytelling—with many newsrooms experimenting and succeeding in the field—but for some, the ability to create 360 content can still be limited.

Perhaps predicting the rise of 360 technology, in 2014 Australian creative agency Grumpy Sailor worked with Google’s Creative Lab in Sydney on an experiment called Story Spheres, which stitches together photos and audio. It allows journalists, documentary makers and educators to tell powerful stories if they don’t have access to video.

Working with the same team behind the first prototype, the Google News Lab is now supporting the next iteration of the project. Today new features will help publishers—from individual journalists to large newsrooms—create and brand their immersive audio experiences. A new website will help journalists brand their creations with their own logos, help them credit their work and embed it on their own website. It’s now even simpler to upload a 360 image, edit the imagery, add an audio layer and navigate from one experience to another.

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In the UK, Trinity Mirror has already experimented with the new tool: The Liverpool Echo took their readers through the famous dockyards of the city, and the Manchester Evening News provided a snapshot of the flowers and balloons placed in St Ann’s Square as a tribute for the Manchester terrorist attacks. In Norway, Nettavisen has been experimenting with the tool by giving their readers a glimpse at the best podcasts for their readers this summer.

Emily McCartney, a coder and “techxplorer” at Grumpy Sailor, says the improved tool will help users, too: "There's so much news to consume, and people want to be able to jump between stories without losing any time, and Story Spheres help you do that."

Discover the tool for yourself, made by Grumpy Sailor with the support of Creative Lab in Sydney and the Google News Lab.

More than EUR 21 million in funding from Round 3 of the Digital News Initiative Fund

Two years ago, we established the Digital News Initiative (DNI), a partnership between Google and news publishers in Europe to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. As well as investing in product development, research and training, we also launched the DNI Innovation Fund, committing €150 million to innovation projects across the European news industry. Today, we’re announcing the recipients of our third round of funding, with 107 projects in 27 countries being offered funding worth €21,968,154 in total.

In this third round, we received more than 988 project submissions from 27 countries. Of the 107 projects funded today, 49 are prototypes (early stage projects requiring up to €50k of funding), 31 are medium-sized projects (requiring up to €300k of funding) and 27 are large projects (requiring up to €1m of funding).  

What’s new in this round? First and foremost,there is growing interest in fact checking experiments, with 29 percent more applications in that field in comparison to the previous rounds. We’ve also seen a rise in projects including artificial intelligence (+23 percent more applications than last round), investigative reporting (+20 percent more) and immersive approaches through virtual and augmented reality (+20 percent more). Last but not least, this round was also about collaboration between organisations and across borders, with 47 percent of all the applications selected for funding having a collaborative dimension. Here’s a sample of some of the projects funded in this round:

[Prototype] The Open State Foundation - Netherlands

The Open State Foundation promotes transparency through the use of open data and innovative and creative applications. It will receive €50k to prototype a real-time database of what politicians say and do, drawn from a wide range of sources. The goal is to increase transparency and give journalists better access to political information, in particular on niche topics, local politics, backbenchers and alternative local parties.

[Medium] Publico.es - Spain

With its Transparent Journalism Tool (TJ Tool) and funding of €208,500 from the DNI Innovation Fund, Publico.es will offer an open source application that gives readers behind-the-scenes access citizens to the newspaper’s editorial process, so they can trace the newsgathering and editing work in a radically transparent way. It will also provide the publisher with data about the cost of producing each story, with a view to monetizing more content via formats like micropayments.  

[Large] Deutsche Welle - Germany

Deutsche Welle reports in 30 languages and reaches more than 135 million listeners around the world. Doing so cost-effectively is a major challenge. But with €437,500 from the DNI Innovation Fund, the German public broadcaster is building “news.bridge - Bridge the Language Barrier for News” a platform that integrates and enhances a mix of off-the-shelf tools for automated transcription, translation, voiceover and summarising of video and audio content in virtually any language.

[Large] WikiTribune - UK

WikiTribune, a news platform launched by Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been awarded €385,000 to scale its operations. It seeks to counter the proliferation of low quality news sources with fact-based, transparently sourced articles that are written by professional journalists and verified and improved by a community of volunteers. Like Wikipedia, it’s free, and ad free, but funded by supporters.

Since February 2016, we’ve evaluated more than 3,000 applications, carried out 748 interviews with project leaders, and offered 359 recipients in 29 countries a total of €73m. To mark this milestone, we’re hosting our first DNI Innovation Fund event today in Amsterdam, where 24 project teams that received funding in Round 1 or 2 will share details of their work and results to date.


We’re also publishing the Fund’s first annual report, which outlines the early impact of the projects funded so far. From startups to large newsrooms, at national and local news outlets, DNI-funded projects are embracing the opportunities of big data, blockchain technology and machine learning, evolving and reinventing everything from subscriptions and fact checking to video production and reader engagement.  These projects are helping shape the future of high-quality journalism—and some of them are already directly benefiting the European public today too.
Digital News Initiative Fund: Experiment, Innovate, Invent

Finally, we’re excited to announce that the application window for Round 4 of the DNI Innovation Fund will open in early September and will run for 30 days. Based on feedback from Round 3, we’ll be making a few changes to the application process, and we’ll be posting details to the digitalnewsinitiative.com website in the coming weeks.

Helping journalists tell stories with data

The Data Journalism Handbook, published in 2011, is considered the guidebook for telling stories with data. To ensure that journalists are up to speed on the latest data journalism practices, the Google News Lab is partnering with the the European Journalism Centre to launch a new version of the Data Journalism Handbook, which will be published in four languages next year.

The original handbook was born at a 48-hour workshop at MozFest 2011 in London, and became an international, collaborative effort involving dozens of data journalism's leading advocates and best practitioners.

Over the past three years, the handbook has been digitally downloaded 150,000 times, and almost a million people have accessed the online version. But the world is changing, and so are the ways we use data to tell news stories. So this project is one of a series of initiatives by the data team at the Google News Lab to support data journalists and help them understand how to best incorporate technology into their work—you can find out more on our site. We’re also proud to partner with the European Journalism Centre on their mission to connect journalists with new ideas through initiatives like the News Impact Summits and the News Impact Academy.

On July 31, we will open a call for contributions. Later this year, around 50 authors and experts will join a Handbook Hack to create and edit content for the new edition. And you won’t have to wait long to start reading the new chapters: we’ll make them available online as they are completed. Check out the official site for the latest updates.

How The New York Times used the Google Sheets API to report congressional votes in real time

There’s a common phrase among reporters: “The news never sleeps.” This is why many news outlets rely on cloud-based productivity tools like Google Docs and Sheets to share information, check facts and collaborate in real time. And The New York Times is no exception.

In May 2017, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on a new health care law affecting millions of Americans. To report the news as fast as possible, The Times’ editorial team used Sheets to tally and display House votes in real time on NYTimes.com.


Engaging voters with the Sheets API

“People want to feel connected to the decisions their legislators make as soon as they make them,” said Tom Giratikanon,  a graphics editor at The Times. But rules in the House chamber make reporting on how every representative votes in real time difficult. Photography is restricted on the assembly floor, and there is a delay until all votes are displayed on the House website—a process that can sometimes take up to an hour.

To get around this lag, Giratikanon’s team used the Google Sheets API. The editorial team dispatched reporters to the chamber where they entered votes into a Google Sheet as they were shown on the vote boards. The sheet then auto-populated NYTimes.com using the Sheets API integration.

Says Giratikanon: “It’s easy to feel like decisions are veiled in the political process. Technology is a powerful way to bridge that gap. Sharing news immediately empowers our readers.”

It’s easy to feel like decisions are veiled in the political process. Technology is a powerful way to bridge that gap. Tom Giratikanon Graphics Editor, The New York Times
House votes

How it worked

To prep, Giratikanon tested the Sheets integration ahead of the House vote. He created a sheet listing the names of legislators in advance, so his team could avoid typos when entering data on the day of the vote. Next, he set up the Sheet to include qualifiers. A simple “Y” or “N” indicated “yes” and “no” votes.

After a few practice rounds, Giratikanon’s team realized they could add even more qualifiers to better inform readers–like flagging outlier votes and reporting on votes by party (i.e., Democrats vs. Republicans). The editorial team researched how each of the 431 legislators were expected to vote in advance. They created a rule in Sheets to automatically highlight surprises. If a legislator went against the grain, the sheet highlighted the cell in yellow and the editorial team fact-checked the original vote to reflect this in the article. Giratikanon also set up a rule to note votes by party.

As a result, The Times, which has roughly 2 million digital-only subscribers, beat the House website, reporting the new healthcare bill results and informing readers who were eager to follow how their legislator voted. 

NYT GIF

Try G Suite APIs today 

You can use Sheets and other G Suite products to help speed up real-time reporting, no matter the industry. Get started using the Sheets API today or check out other G Suite APIs, like the Slides API, Gmail API or Calendar API.

Google News Lab powers digital journalism training for Africa

For journalists, recent advances in digital technology present compelling new opportunities to discover, tell and share stories—like this one from the Mail & Guardian that uses Google My Maps to highlight top water wasters in metro areas during the drought. But learning how to use new digital tools for reporting can be intimidating or even daunting. This is particularly true in Africa, where digital integration in news and storytelling often remains a challenge. Few journalism institutions offer training programs in digital tools, and news organizations often lack the capability to use new digital technologies in their reporting.

That’s why we’re supporting a new initiative that will offer journalists across Africa training in skills like mobile reporting, mapping, data visualization, verification, and fact checking. In partnership with the World Bank and Code For Africa, this project aims to train more than 6,000 journalists by February 2018, in 12 major African cities: Abuja, Cape Town, Casablanca, Dakar, Dar es Salaam, Durban, Freetown, Johannesburg, Kampala, Lagos, Nairobi and Yaounde. By providing the instruction and support to better use available digital tools available, we hope to empower journalists across Africa to produce cutting-edge and compelling reporting.

Training will take place in three formats:

  • Beginning June 15, we’ll hold in-person training sessions on topics ranging  from displaying data with an interactive map to effective reporting with a mobile device. In each city, we’ll conduct trainings in three newsrooms and hold trainings twice a month for the duration of the initiative.
  • In August, a massive open online course (MOOC) will be made freely available online, covering a range of web concepts and practices for digital journalists.
  • We will also hold monthly study groups in collaboration with Hacks/Hackers (a global meetup organization) to provide more focused, in-person instruction. These monthly meetings will take place in Cameroon, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

In 2016, we announced our commitment to train 1 million African youth on digital skills during the year to help them create and find jobs. We hope this new initiative also helps contribute to the continued growth of Africa’s digital economy.

Please visit www.academy.codeforafrica.org to learn more and to register.

Building a better web for everyone

The vast majority of online content creators fund their work with advertising. That means they want the ads that run on their sites to be compelling, useful and engaging--ones that people actually want to see and interact with. But the reality is, it’s far too common that people encounter annoying, intrusive ads on the web--like the kind that blare music unexpectedly, or force you to wait 10 seconds before you can see the content on the page. These frustrating experiences can lead some people to block all ads--taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.

We believe online ads should be better. That’s why we joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group dedicated to improving online ads. The group’s recently announced Better Ads Standards provide clear, public, data-driven guidance for how the industry can improve ads for consumers, and today I’d like to share how we plan to support it.

New tools for publishers

The new Ad Experience Report helps publishers understand how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own websites. It provides screenshots and videos of annoying ad experiences we’ve identified to make it easy to find and fix the issues. For a full list of ads to use instead, publishers can visit our new best practices guide.

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As part of our efforts to maintain a sustainable web for everyone, we want to help publishers with good ad experiences get paid for their work. With Funding Choices, now in beta, publishers can show a customized message to visitors using an ad blocker, inviting them to either enable ads on their site, or pay for a pass that removes all ads on that site through the new Google Contributor.

Screen Shot 2017-06-02 at 9.51.14 AM.png

Funding Choices is available to publishers in North America, U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand and will be rolling out in other countries later this year. Publishers should visit our new best practices guide for tips on crafting the right message for their audience.

Chrome support for the Better Ads Standards

Chrome has always focused on giving you the best possible experience browsing the web. For example, it prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying. In dialogue with the Coalition and other industry groups, we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.

Looking ahead

We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising.

We look forward to working with the Coalition as they develop marketplace guidelines for supporting the Better Ads Standards, and are committed to working closely with the entire industry—including groups like the IAB, IAB Europe, the DCN, the WFA, the ANA and the 4A’s, advertisers, agencies and publishers—to roll out these changes in a way that makes sense for users and the broader ads ecosystem.

Building a better web for everyone

The vast majority of online content creators fund their work with advertising. That means they want the ads that run on their sites to be compelling, useful and engaging--ones that people actually want to see and interact with. But the reality is, it’s far too common that people encounter annoying, intrusive ads on the web--like the kind that blare music unexpectedly, or force you to wait 10 seconds before you can see the content on the page. These frustrating experiences can lead some people to block all ads--taking a big toll on the content creators, journalists, web developers and videographers who depend on ads to fund their content creation.

We believe online ads should be better. That’s why we joined the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group dedicated to improving online ads. The group’s recently announced Better Ads Standards provide clear, public, data-driven guidance for how the industry can improve ads for consumers, and today I’d like to share how we plan to support it.

New tools for publishers

The new Ad Experience Report helps publishers understand how the Better Ads Standards apply to their own websites. It provides screenshots and videos of annoying ad experiences we’ve identified to make it easy to find and fix the issues. For a full list of ads to use instead, publishers can visit our new best practices guide.

Screen Shot 2017-06-01 at 7.39.13 PM.png

As part of our efforts to maintain a sustainable web for everyone, we want to help publishers with good ad experiences get paid for their work. With Funding Choices, now in beta, publishers can show a customized message to visitors using an ad blocker, inviting them to either enable ads on their site, or pay for a pass that removes all ads on that site through the new Google Contributor.

Funding Choices is available to publishers in North America, U.K., Germany, Australia and New Zealand and will be rolling out in other countries later this year. Publishers should visit our new best practices guide for tips on crafting the right message for their audience.

Chrome support for the Better Ads Standards

Chrome has always focused on giving you the best possible experience browsing the web. For example, it prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying. In dialogue with the Coalition and other industry groups, we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.

Looking ahead

We believe these changes will ensure all content creators, big and small, can continue to have a sustainable way to fund their work with online advertising.

We look forward to working with the Coalition as they develop marketplace guidelines for supporting the Better Ads Standards, and are committed to working closely with the entire industry—including groups like the IAB, IAB Europe, the WFA, the ANA and the 4A’s, advertisers, agencies and publishers—to roll out these changes in a way that makes sense for users and the broader ads ecosystem.  

Make your own data gifs with our new tool

Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex. In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.

Enter data gifs.

trends_BatmanSuperman.gif

These animations can be used for a variety of sophisticated storytelling approaches among data journalists: one example is Lena Groeger, who has become *the* expert in working with data gifs.

Today we are releasing Data Gif Maker, a tool to help journalists make these visuals, which show share of search interest for two competing topics.

trends_PBJ.gif

Data Gif Maker works like this:

1. Enter two data points

Trend_Step4.png

We typically use the tool to represent competing search interest, but it can show whatever you want it to—polling numbers, sales figures, movie ratings, etc. If you want to show search interest, you can compare two terms in the Google Trends explore tool, which will give you an average number (of search interest over time) for each term. Then input those two numbers in Data Gif Maker.

2. Add your text

Trend_Step3.png

3. Choose your colors

Trend_Step2.png

4. Choose your explanatory text

Trend_Step1.png

5. Hit “Launch Comparisons” and “Download as Gif”

Trend_Step5.png

And there you go—you’ve made your first animated data gif. Pro-tip #1: the high resolution download takes longer but it’s better quality for social sharing. Pro-tip #2: Leave the window open on your desktop while it’s creating the gifs as it will do so quicker.

If you want the visual, but not the gif, hit “Launch Comparisons” and it will open in your browser window. Just hit space to advance through the views (it’s set up to show five pieces of data, one after the other).

Find the tool useful? We’d love to see what you do with it. Email us at newslabtrends@google.com.

Make your own data gifs with our new tool

Data visualizations are an essential storytelling tool in journalism, and though they are often intricate, they don’t have to be complex. In fact, with the growth of mobile devices as a primary method of consuming news, data visualizations can be simple images formatted for the device they appear on.

Enter data gifs.

trends_BatmanSuperman.gif

These animations can be used for a variety of sophisticated storytelling approaches among data journalists: one example is Lena Groeger, who has become *the* expert in working with data gifs.

Today we are releasing Data Gif Maker, a tool to help journalists make these visuals, which show share of search interest for two competing topics.

trends_PBJ.gif

Data Gif Maker works like this:

1. Enter two data points

Trend_Step4.png

We typically use the tool to represent competing search interest, but it can show whatever you want it to—polling numbers, sales figures, movie ratings, etc. If you want to show search interest, you can compare two terms in the Google Trends explore tool, which will give you an average number (of search interest over time) for each term. Then input those two numbers in Data Gif Maker.

2. Add your text

Trend_Step3.png

3. Choose your colors

Trend_Step2.png

4. Choose your explanatory text

Trend_Step1.png

5. Hit “Launch Comparisons” and “Download as Gif”

Trend_Step5.png

And there you go—you’ve made your first animated data gif. Pro-tip #1: the high resolution download takes longer but it’s better quality for social sharing. Pro-tip #2: Leave the window open on your desktop while it’s creating the gifs as it will do so quicker.

If you want the visual, but not the gif, hit “Launch Comparisons” and it will open in your browser window. Just hit space to advance through the views (it’s set up to show five pieces of data, one after the other).

Find the tool useful? We’d love to see what you do with it. Email us at newslabtrends@google.com.

AI in the newsroom: What’s happening and what’s next?

Bringing people together to discuss the forces shaping journalism is central to our mission at the Google News Lab. Earlier this month, we invited Nick Rockwell, the Chief Technology Officer from the New York Times, and Luca D’Aniello, the Chief Technology Officer at the Associated Press, to Google’s New York office to talk about the future of artificial intelligence in journalism and the challenges and opportunities it presents for newsrooms.

The event opened with an overview of the AP's recent report, "The Future of Augmented Journalism: a guide for newsrooms in the age of smart machines,” which was based on interviews with dozens of journalists, technologists, and academics (and compiled with the help of a robot, of course). As early adopters of this technology, the AP highlighted a number of their earlier experiments:

Boxing match image captured by one of AP’s AI-powered cameras
This image of a boxing match was captured by one of AP’s AI-powered cameras.
  • Deploying more than a dozen AI-powered robotic cameras at the 2016 Summer Olympics to capture angles not easily available to journalists
  • Using Google’s Cloud Vision API to classify and tag photos automatically throughout the report
  • Increasing news coverage of quarterly earnings reports from 400 to 4,000 companies using automation

The report also addressed key concerns, including risks associated with unchecked algorithms, potential for workflow disruption, and the growing gap in skill sets.

Here are three themes that emerged from the conversation with Rockwell and D’Aniello:

1. AI will increase a news organization's ability to focus on content creation

D’Aniello noted that journalists, often “pressed for resources,” are forced to “spend most of their time creating multiple versions of the same content for different outlets.” AI can reduce monotonous tasks like these and allow journalists to to spend more of their time on their core expertise: reporting.

For Rockwell, AI could also be leveraged to power new reporting, helping journalists analyze massive data sets to surface untold stories. Rockwell noted that “the big stories will be found in data, and whether we can find them or not will depend on our sophistication using large datasets.”

2. AI can help improve the quality of dialogue online and help organizations better understand their readers' needs.

Given the increasing abuse and harassment found in online conversations, many publishers are backing away from allowing comments on articles. For the Times, the Perspective API tool developed by Jigsaw (part of Google’s parent company Alphabet), is creating an opportunity to encourage constructive discussions online by using machine learning to increase the efficiency of comment moderation. Previously, the Times could only moderate comments on 10 percent of articles. The Times aspires to use Perspective to enable commenting on all its articles.

The Times is also thinking about using AI to increase the relevance of what they deliver to readers. As Rockwell notes, “Our readers have always looked to us to filter the world, but to do that only through editorial curation is a one-size-fits-all approach. There is a lot we can do to better serve them.”

3. Applying journalistic standards is essential to AI’s successful implementation in newsrooms

Both panelists agreed that the editorial standards that go into creating quality journalism should be applied to AI-fueled journalism. As Francesco Marconi, the author of the AP report, remarked, “Humans make mistakes. Algorithms make mistakes. All the editorial standards should be applied to the technology.”

Here are a few approaches we’ve seen for how those standards can be applied to the technology:

  • Pairing up journalists with the tech. At the AP, business journalists trained software to understand how to write an earnings report.
  • Serving as editorial gatekeepers. News editors should play a role in synthesizing and framing the information AI produces.
  • Ensuring more inclusive reporting. In 2016, Google.org, USC and the Geena Davis Foundation used machine learning to create a tool that collects data on gender portrayals in media.

What’s ahead

What will it take for AI to be a positive force in journalism? The conversation showed that while the path wasn’t certain, getting to the right answers would require close collaboration between the technology industry, news organizations, and journalists.

“There is a lot of work to do, but it’s about the mindset,” D’Aniello said. “Technology was seen as a disruptor of the newsroom, and it was difficult to introduce things. I don’t think this is the case anymore. The urgency and the need is perceived at the editorial level.”

We look forward to continuing to host more conversations on important topics like this one. Learn more about the Google News Lab on our website.

Header image of robotic camera courtesy of Associated Press.