How Google Is Changing Journalism

As user generated content (UGC) becomes more prevalent and relied upon by journalists for reporting the news quickly, the need for authentication has grown. Google has played a large role in this. Tools like Google Search, Google Maps and others have allowed journalists to research UGC information, photos and videos so they only disseminate the facts. Let’s look at a few.

Google News Lab

Launched in mid-2015, Google News Lab aims to “empower innovation at the intersection of technology and media.” The site offers written and video tutorials and case studies for journalists so they can more effectively use Google’s tools for verifying UGC. It also includes data gleaned from Google Trends and case studies o
n how newsrooms have used this data in their reporting. TechCrunch notes, “With citizen reporters regularly turning to social media first – and not typically on Google+, the company’s own social media site – Google is working to assert the variety of other ways it has to participate in the reporting process, ranging from first-hand videos posted to YouTube to its wealth of data and information collected from the world’s searchers.”

Though the tools on the site are not new, the tutorials are; Google recognizes its role in reporting the news and is showcasing its commitment to helping news organizations report valid information.


According to Google, 300 videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Identifying which are original, real and timely can be difficult for reporters. Amnesty International has created a step-by-step guide for authenticating videos using the information found on the YouTube user’s video and account. Steps include viewing how many videos the YouTube user has posted in the past, hidden data on the video, YouTube account creation date, checking geographical data (is the video you’re trying to authenticate captured in the same area as the other videos posted by the same account?), checking social media accounts associated with the YouTube account, and searching YouTube with keywords found in the video in question.

Additionally, Google partnered with Storyful to create YouTube Newswire, which authenticates videos for journalists’ use.

Google Search & Image Search

After emergencies, many images are uploaded to social media claiming to be taken during or right after the emergency. Some may be real, but others may be shares of the original photos, doctored photos or old images of a past, similar emergency. For shares and old images, journalists can use reverse image search on Google to authenticate a picture. The video below outlines how to do this. For doctored images, journalists will have to use or a similar tool.


Journalists can use Google+ to join groups like Storyful’s Open Newsroom, which is a “real-time community of news professionals working together to establish the maximum clarity and context around the big stories of the day. Our objective is to debunk, fact-check, clarify, credit and source.”

Google Maps

Google Maps is a useful feature for authenticating videos and images. Do the terrain, buildings, and other identifying items in the video/image in question match that of the Google terrain maps, satellite maps and Street View images? If not, a journalist can automatically discount the content.

Google Translate

Translating can be especially important for video that is recorded and uploaded in a language a journalist doesn’t speak. For this, journalists can use Google Translate. Copying and pasting a video’s title, caption and/or subtitles into Google Translate can help with deciphering exactly what the video is claiming to be.


Curious to see what verification looks like in action? Below is an example via Nieman Reports.

(Source: Nieman Reports)

(Source: Nieman Reports)

Watch the video here:

youtube-1158693_1920*All videos in this article have been authenticated for originality.




Snackable Content is King

There’s no question: Facebook is changing the way news is consumed. Some news outlets, such as BuzzFeed, have even begun to tailor their articles to increase the likelihood that their article gets shared on the platform. Facebook, and other social media platforms, allows news organization to reach a wider audience, so it follows that news organizations alter the way they report the news in order to increase readership.

Realizing this trend of news reporting and news reading via Facebook (and hoping to capitalize on this), Facebook has begun rolling out several tools specifically for journalists.

Instant Articles

Published natively to Facebook, Instant Articles (and the advertisements) load within a mere second or two. News publishers upload their articles directly to Facebook, add their advertisers to the article, and share it on Facebook. Readers can load the content more quickly because they don’t need to load an external webpage and/or another app. Plus, it keeps readers on the platform.


Created first for celebrities and then rolled out to journalists, Mentions allow for easier engagement with fans and readers.


A platform specifically for keeping up to date with what is trending on Facebook, Signal allows journalists to source content from the platform.

(Source: Giphy)

What’s next

Just today, Facebook announced they will allow independent writers to publish Instant Articles. Although the articles must first be uploaded to a website, this opens up the doors for nearly anyone to become a reporter. “Citizen journalists” might just take on a new meaning as Facebook rolls out this new feature.

Additionally Michael Reckhow, the product manager for Instant Articles, told Nieman Lab that he envisions that “individual pieces of media inside the article can break out and have a life of their own.” These pieces of media may then become stories apart from the larger article. This type of snackable content will likely become huge in the coming years (more on snackable content later).

I also believe video, especially short ones with captions, will become more widely used on Facebook. One news organization that is already doing this is Business Insider. They post short 1-3 minute videos that highlight the most important pieces of the video; some videos don’t even include speech. This feeds information to their followers quickly and also opens up a dialogue in the comments section.

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 11.11.43 PM

Snackable content is king

According to Slate, a full 38% leave an article before even reaching the end of the first paragraph. We are in “the age of skimming,” the article continues. Posting short articles and videos directly to Facebook (like the Instant Articles pieces of media and the Business Insider video mentioned above) help Facebook users to consume more content.

(Image via Smart Blogs)

(Source: Smart Blogs)

Rented Land

Posting content natively to Facebook does, of course, does raise a few eyebrows. And for good reason: should news outlets place all of their content on “rented land?” Mark Zuckerberg makes a compelling argument. News organizations are beginning to shift toward posting content directly to Facebook for a reason – they are seeing results and receiving ad dollars that could be spent with a competitor if they don’t receive said results.

Looking ahead

Will Facebook become the number one source of news in the coming years? Only time will tell, but it seems they are investing a great deal of effort and research to reach this point.