How it works
Right after the Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News announcements, Google also launched a new platform that aims to help journalists around the world to be connected to programs, data and other resources to aid in their reporting. Google News Lab — which shows off the new effort of Google to empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media — is a three-pronged initiative aimed at making the company’s powerful analytical tools, data and curatorial expertise available to journalists around the world.
The aforementioned tools — such as Google Alerts, YouTube or Image Search — aren’t exactly new, but Google has created a Material Design-inspired web portal to highlight and demonstrate their potential usage in the course of reporting. It will also showcase Google’s numerous efforts surrounding new media partnerships and citizen reporting.
News Lab with Google divides the search giant’s products down into four focus areas: research, report, distribute and optimize. Each offers step-by-step introductions to the bevy of editorial resources available to writers, such as breaking down how to embed Google Maps in articles or how to rely on Google Alerts to follow breaking stories. There are case studies highlighting news organizations which have used Google’s offerings particularly inventively — the New York Times, for instance, mapped the number of Americans without health insurance using data gathered from the United States Census Bureau and Google Maps.
Among the many tools is Google Trends, a visualization engine for Google queries and the second foundational pillar of Google’s News Lab program. It received an overhaul last week — its biggest expansion since 2012 — that Google says provides journalists with more targeted data. Trends now feature real-time data, a homepage with a list of trending stories across the Web, better coverage for niche topics in smaller geographies, and a daily selection of interesting data sets from Google’s News Lab editorial team.
As the smartphone becomes the defining device for online news and the environment is dominated by a few successful brands, publishers will increasingly struggle to reach a wider audience, both via apps and browsers, according to the fourth annual Digital News Report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).
Across all countries a quarter of the respondents (25%) now say the smartphone is their main device for accessing digital news – up from 20% last year. That figure rises to two-fifths (41%) of those aged under 35.
Within the growing social space, Facebook is easily the most popular social network for news consumption, enjoying more than twice the audience of its nearest rival, YouTube. The report shows a 42% increase year-on-year in referrals from Facebook to the top 20 global news organisations, showing the increasing importance of social media in driving traffic and revenue. The proportion of all respondents that say they read or shared news on Facebook in the last week grew from 35% to 41% year-on-year.
Debate has stormed across the media industry as to whether partnering with new services from the likes of Facebook will be an invaluable traffic and revenue driver – or whether publishers will eventually find themselves increasingly beholden to third parties such as Google, Apple and Facebook.
“Fragmentation of news provision, which weakens the bargaining power of journalism organisations, has coincided with a concentration of power in platforms,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Centre at Columbia University, in a lead commentary for the report.
The report also found that although 70% of smartphone users have downloaded a news app, only a third actually use them on a weekly basis.
“The reality is that only the most loyal users are downloading and using apps,” said Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, director of research at the RISJ. “For others, social media, messaging apps, email and mobile notifications are becoming an increasingly important route to news”.
Kleis Nielsen speaks about the relative difficulty in monetising content on mobile devices compared to traditional desktop websites, and the rise of ad-blocking technology, means that news brands will find it increasingly hard to make money.
The report also found that the paid-access model is facing issues, with only a small year-on-year increase in the number of people willing to pay.
“A small number of loyal readers have been persuaded to pay for brands they like but it is proving hard to convert casual readers when there is so much free news available from both commercial media companies and public service media,” the report says.
Since last week, publishers and other app developers can sell subscriptions with recurring payments through their Android apps. For the past year Android developers could conduct one-time transactions, such as single-issue sales, through in-app purchases. But only now can Android users authorizeÂ automatic monthly or annual paymentsÂ for a subscription.
Apple has offered in-app subscriptions on iOS devices since February 2011. Just like Apple, Google will process subscription payments and take a 30 percent cut.
The change could improve the profitability of developing for Android, which has more users than iOSÂ but has generatedÂ less sales revenue. Google says 23 of the 24 top-grossing apps in its marketÂ already use in-app billing, and the revenue from in-app purchases exceeds revenue from paid app downloads.
Other challenges for Android development remain, however, including a varying spectrum of devices, software versions and screen sizes.