Google Changing Online News with “Living Stories”




In case you’ve been . . . I don’t know, asleep for the last two years, you probably realize that the Internet is changing the way people get their news. Newspapers are having a notoriously hard time adapting. But Google, in partnership with the New York Times and the Washington Post, is trying to change that—and change the way we use news on the Internet (and, from the sounds of it, possibly the Internet altogether).

google living story

The result is a more dynamic news page called a “Living Story.” At the top of the page, there’s a short summary of the whole story to date. Below that, they have a timeline of headlines, then all individual stories on a given topic on one page, sorting them in reverse chronological order (or filtered as you choose from the left-hand pane). To indicate individual stories’ importance, the summary of the story is longer or shorter (or omitted). The full text of the story is accessible on the page. The page “remembers” what stories you’ve visited and whether you’ve been there before, and hides or grays out things you’ve already read. And naturally, email and RSS updates are available.

Of course, Living Stories only work for stories that . . . you know, “live.” In their video, Google uses the war in Afghanistan page and the health care reform page as examples—stories that have some new related headline every day. (Note that both the Post and the Times each have a page for each story, so there are two health care reform living stories, etc.)

The left-hand navigation allows you to filter stories by location/subtopic (preselected), story/data type, importance and chronological order.

Although I do like the format, I’m not as impressed as I wanted to be with the implementation. (Probably has to do with the fact that the first coverage I saw led with a quote about how “pages” are a false paradigm for the web and we should be so over them by now.) The reality is that it’s just AJAX.

The organization is better for learning about the long-term view of a story. And it’s nice to know when checking up on a familiar story that you won’t reread something accidentally. For day-to-day news, though, unless you only want to track every story on a certain topic, it’s probably not the best way to remain informed about world affairs.

What do you think? Are Living Stories a revolution to online news? Will they be the wave of the future?

  • http://www.reputationtorevenue.com Rob Leavitt

    Hard to know if this is another Google experiment that fizzles or flies, but one of my own first reactions is that it could be an interesting model for companies looking to curate good content on business issues that interest their customers. If you’re promoting thought leadership on a big topic (and most B2B companies at least try to do this), having a “living story” page to cover the latest related developments in the industry could be a great resource for customers. Of course many companies already do something like this with blogs and microsites, but perhaps Google is offering at least the beginning of a better way.
    .-= Rob LeavittĀ“s last blog ..More evidence that give-to-get is the key to success =-.