On Monday, Google announced a brand new initiative: Google News Lab. The new program is an effort to help journalists and entrepreneurs change the way that news is created and consumed. Google News Lab, in its most broad level, is a set of tools and data for journalists to utilize. That said, the Mountain View company is also working with various partners to craft several opportunities and programs aimed at “empowering new voices in media.”1 Anyhow, Google News Lab has three main components:
Our mission is to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to help build the future of media. And we’re tackling this in three ways: though ensuring our tools are made available to journalists around the world (and that newsrooms know how to use them); by getting helpful Google data sets in the hands of journalists everywhere; and through programs designed to build on some of the biggest opportunities that exist in the media industry today.2
A large part of Google News Lab is education. Much like Google Tips, the News Lab offers a whole host of in-depth lessons and tutorials on the use of various Google products: from researching stories with a revamped Google Trends, to distributing stories through Google Play Newsstand and Google News.
Google News Lab is also putting several different programs together, with the help of industry partners. These initiatives are in two separate areas. Firstly, Google will be working with professional outlets and organizations:
One of the opportunities we’re focused on is increasing the number of media startups in the marketplace. We’ve launched partnerships with Matter, a media accelerator in San Francisco, and Hacks/Hackers, a global community group for developers and journalists, to provide financial support and mentorship from Google engineers that will help these organizations expand their impact to more startups around the world.3
There is also a separate wave of programs aimed at citizen journalism:
Now that mobile technology allows anyone to be a reporter, we want to do our part to ensure that user-generated news content is a positive and game-changing force in media. We’re doing that with three projects—First Draft, the WITNESS Media Lab, and the YouTube Newswire—each of which aims to make YouTube and other open platforms more useful places for first-hand news content from citizen reporters around the world.4
Google News Lab is quite the contrast to the new Apple News platform, as well as various other platforms. Rather than allowing news and content to rise or fall based on its merit, Apple and others are creating walled gardens where the companies alone decide what news is displayed.5 While there is hardly a consensus as to the future of media, it is clear that we are approaching a crossroads. Google, with News Labs, is sort of hedging their bets. Rather than picking a side or creating their own outlet, Google is giving journalists a set of tools to do with what they like.