Google Dec. 8 teamed with The New York Times and the Washington Post on Living Stories, an experimental news platform that streamlines news content on one page to keep users from clicking on story links that send them veering off to different destinations.
The move is the latest in a series of overtures Google is making toward the beleaguered news publishing industry, which is struggling to stay afloat in an ocean of online content and intrepid bloggers whose publishing cycles run fast and furious.
While those are more behind-the-scenes infrastructure access plays, Living Stories is a Google Labs experiment that offers a different format for presenting news content on the Web. See the full run-through with pics and video on Google Watch here.
Newspaper articles lead with the most important news, attempting to answer the 5 W's in journalism 101 parlance (who, what, when, where and why). But information from prior coverage is often repeated with each new online article and the same article is presented to everyone regardless of whether they already read it.
Living Stories organizes information by updates in the story and calls readers' attention to changes in the story since they last viewed it so readers don't have to reread the same coverage. Google explained in its Living Stories support page:
"Each living story resides at a permanent URL, making it easier to follow the latest updates to the stories that interest you, as well as review deeper background materials that are relevant for a story's context. Living Stories automatically track your interaction with the story, making sure that you are always presented with the news you need, the way you want it."
"We believe it's just as important to experiment with how news organizations can take advantage of the Web to tell stories in new ways - ways that simply aren't possible offline," wrote Neha Singh, software engineer, and Josh Cohen, senior business product manager.
Living Stories currently only features content from The New York Times and Washington Post, with writers and editors from those publications feeding Living Stories their content, which Google hosts.
Google expect to eventually make Living Stories available to any publisher that wants to use them. Google is considering offering tools that could aid news organizations in the creation of these pages.
This isn't the first online news experiment Google has triggered in 2009. In September, Google unveiled Fast Flip, another Google Labs bid to enhance the way readers find and view publications' content online.
Fast Flip is designed to make the news Web browsing more like the way readers turn the pages of print newspapers and magazines. Web pages with publishers' articles are rendered on the Fast Flip page, where users can click on them to begin reading. Users may also scroll through scores of articles simply by clicking the mouse on up, down or side-to-side arrows.
As with Living Stories, Google has partnered with content providers for Fast Flip, though at 39 the partner list is considerably longer and includes TechCrunch, The New York Times, Fast Company and Business Week.