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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How Google’s News App is tackling some of social delivery’s tough problems

June 5, 2018 | By Dennis Yuscavitch, VP of Product Marketing—Outbrain @dennisy

Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off last month’s Google I/O by stating that “there is more great journalism being created today than ever before.” Pichai and Trystan Upstill, Head of News Product and Engineering at Google, went on to highlight the programs and products Google was working on to help publishers sustain quality journalism. A lofty approach by a company often on the receiving end of publishers’ ire. They are making an effort, however, by doing the work and committing the resources to change the narrative.  

The core of Google’s strategy relies solely on the Google News app. Typically, social feeds aren’t aligned with publishers’ needs. This is because social lacks brand awareness, revenue opportunity, and data about the end audiences. Furthermore, social feeds are often blamed for creating “filter bubbles” that negate a holistic approach to a topic and disintermediate the publisher/reader relationship. The Google News app has put some serious work into addressing some, but not all, of these concerns.

Here are the top four concerns that they appropriately addressed.

1. Featuring the Publisher Brand

The publisher brand is well-featured and prominent in the app experience. This helps bolster publisher brand awareness and avoids the “I read it on Facebook” dilemma. (This is what over 50% of readers answer when asked which publisher authored an article they read online.)

2. Avoiding the “Filter Bubble”

The “Headlines” section of the new app lets readers view what everyone else is reading. This helps address the “filter bubble” effect that comes from a 100% curated social experience. Discovery of new content from outside your social circle or creating more engaging ways to expose interesting content is critical.

3. Delivering Full Coverage

Our favorite geek-out feature is “Full Coverage,” which is a link placed under most news topics. Full Coverage provides multiple points of view from many different sources. As stories evolve over time, Full Coverage hosts a timeline so readers can understand the changes in the storyline. To enable Full Coverage, Google uses temporal co-locality. In layman’s terms, Google can understand the people, places and things related to a story in real-time and then package them. Even tweets, fact-checking and commonly asked questions are included in Full Coverage.

4. Creating Better Content Experiences

In the ‘make it easier to consume content’ category, “Newscasts” is a new user experience for packaging content. It neatly combines articles, videos, quotes and other types of content on a single topic, no matter where you are in the app. Upstill referred to it as “a preview that allows you to get a feel for the story.”

At Outbrain, we applaud any effort that helps readers discover new content, and addresses publisher concerns. We aren’t ignoring the legitimate business issues publishers have with Google, but are more than willing to highlight a great product, we’re all readers at the end of the day.

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