From IVP Wiki

Josh Cohen speaking to Editor & Publisher conference in Las Vegas


Paton at Eppy/ Google at Eppy/ Charging at Eppy/ Blueprint to Build at RJI / CONFERENCE

Running notes by Bill Densmore

Cohen talks about businesses built on controlling the flow of information are turned on their head. He wants to talk about the postive things about this.

  • Google isn't talking about saving the news industry but talking about re-inventing it.

"I don't we think that news need to be saved," says Cohen. "It needs to be transformed. We want to participate in those discussions."

  • In the tech world, there is always somebody gunning for you. He puts up images of AmericaOnline and MySpace.com as he talks about companies "that got passed by." Then he adds logo of Microsoft and Yahoo -- and then the logo of Google with a question mark on top of it.
  • The opportunity is "to innovate through this . . . we can emerge with a much more robust version of what the news industry can be."
  • "At Google we don't have all the answers. I think it is safe to say we don't know what all the questions are at this stage." Looking at finding the ability to inform more and more people. "Journalism matters to us and it matters to more and more of our users."

Talking about how Google works with the news indusry

  • Krishna Bharat developed Google News. He felt the delivery of news was a "tremendously inefficient process." He wondered about finding an automated way to pull links together and have similar stories matched together. In the beginning of 2002, the first version was release.
  • 50,000 sources, 30 languages and 60 editions in 40 countries. Now ends publishers about 1 billion clicks every single month. If you add Google's other service, that figure quadruples. "We crawl it, we group it, we rank it."
  • The look at the HTML code for instructions from publishers about what is to be crawled and what is not to be crawled. Each day that results in several hundred URLs available for organizing. They index it all, do a full-text analysis, look for key words or metadat about the story to group it in story clusters.

"Reflect the judgement of your editors"

  • Final step is ranking. It's a two-step process. There is story or cluster ranking. You take 50 stories and rank them 1 to 50. And there's article ranking, to rank a story within a given cluster. "What we're basically trying to do is reflect the judgement of your editors ... what stories they think is important."
  • Article ranking: They look at a ton of signals. Looking for originality and novelty. Rehash is different from original. They look for location: "If there is a local source doing original reporting on a story." They look for things about the quality of the source. They look at volume of original publication and user feedback to help make those distinctions.

Maintaining the sense of innnovation

He throws up a screen with the question: What's your news source today? It includes the logos of Digg, Facebook, New York Times, USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Gmail.

Google news was unique and innovation when it began, Cohen says. "If we are going to keep doing what we are doing, which is to help people find the news they are looking for, we have to keep innovating." He says he wants to preach about innovation. "Change is permanent and there really is no single solution or answer to all the issues you're being faced with."

Three golden rules for innovation:

  • Ship early and ship often?
  • Analyze the results and data
  • Iterate

They are trying to apply those principles to the news space.

Google news tomorrow: Customization

  • They are experimenting with Google customization. Right now a small subset of Google news users are being asked to fill out a survey to given explicit advice about what they want to read.
  • "Another thing we are thinking about a lot is this idea of serendipity." The stories you don't know you want to read until you see them. "We have been trying to a few things try and surface that content better." What have they been doing on this:
    • The "Spotlight" section. Longer shelf-life stuffy. (Densmore comment: Isn't this like The AP's idea of "landing pages?") Longer shelf-life more viral content.
    • The Fast Flip application. A different user interfact. Launched in Google Labs last year; 100 titles are participating. Latency matters, creates a "discovery mode" application where tiny snippets of full HTML page views load in split seconds. You browse visually and can discovery more quickly. "The intial results have been really positive -- three times more visits to stories and six times more time spent." The are excited and are working on shortcomings.
    • Editors' Picks: Launched last week. These are recommendations selected by human editors at participating news organizations like WashPost, NY Newsday, People magazine.

What about engagement?

There's a big difference between time spent on print news and time spent online news. Much more on print. Google is trying to close that gap.

  • One thing that does this is the application programming interface (API) to Google Maps, available to all to program to. He gives examples of uses by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.
  • YouTube Direct: Puts a call to action on a video, asking users to take some action. HuffPost, WashPost, Politico, Chicago Tribune and Al Jazeera are all using this.
  • Google Translate: BBC and Boston Globe are using this with their World Cup coverage.

Question Cohen asks: How can we tackle engagement for tomorrow?

"Living Pages" plug in for Wordpress available

Another idea they have worked on is "Living Stories." The put some of Google's engineers in the New York Times newsroom to think about a new way of presenting news. In a three-month experiment, their editors reform their stories in a new structure so that all the stories are in one place. (Densmore comment: This also sounds a bit like AP Landing Pages, as well as Matt Thompson's idea about create context pages for ongoing news issues.)

What they learned from "Living Pages." People spent about nine minutes on these pages. "If you create really copelling jouranlism and you display it in a really compelling way as well people are going to come to it more often," says Cohen. They have now released a free plug-in for Wordpress for people who want to try this approach.

A few words about advertising

They made a big bet by purchasing DoubleClick.

"In the not-to-distance future, display advertising is going to be smarter, it's going to be a lot more relevant for users and it will be a lot more real time," says Cohen. But he says advertising isn't the only answer. They have been working with publishers about charging for content.

Charging or not charging -- not mutually exclusively. You can do both. Mentions First Click Free program. "We are also thinking about ways we can leverage our technology platforms ... extending things like checkout ... things like billing and authentication."

He says the news industry has the same opportunity to disruptively innovate as the technology industry. Cohen says he's not a journalist, he's a technologist. But he says he is sure there are people out there thinking about how to build the next New York Times just as people are thinking about how to build the next Google.


Q: How does the $5 billion that Google hands out to partners really work?

A: What is in the black box, what is the rev share. Google recently announced publicly what the rev share is in the the AdSense business. Sixty-eight-cents go to the publishers. "We did make that publicly available."

Q: A year ago there was a lot of talk about behavioral targetting. What do you see as the future of that?

A: There are a lot of people who are looking at that. Key thing is giving users control over their own information. Context-based ads make a lot of sense for search, but maybe not for display advertising. They have given people a dash board where they can customize their profiles.

Q: How do you determine expertise in ranking news stories?

A: One is how much activity, production of news, a source exhibits. But they are more and more looking at user feedback. When you click on the fourth link first on a page, rather than the first link that sends a message about the first link and how that was ranked. "Those signals over time as you aggregate that and normalize that for a given user, that gives a really strong signal."

Q: What about partnering with smaller papers? How do they connect with Google?

A: For a lot of experiments, try to get a cross section of big and small papers. He talks about major as Washington Post and smaller as New York Newsday. (No mention of community papers). Living Stories as open source code and plug in for Wordpress is so everyone can take advantage of that. They look for geographic diversity, too.

Q: A lot of papers are looking at a paid wall. Questioner doesn't think it will work but there is talk about a licensing fee. What does Google see as the idea model?

A: There is not an single solution. Paid content often viewed as monolithic solution. It's not. Newsday vs. WSJ pay walls are different. "The New York Times is talking about a metered model, which is similar to what the Financial Times is doing today."

Q: Talk more about monetizing YouTube direct -- local publishers and pre-roll ads?

A: He doesn't know specifics of revenue in the YouTube Direct program. The idea is you never have to leave your local site. It all works in background so that the front end is an experience on your site. "We are sitting in the background on that."

-- END --