Google to Highlight Local Coverage of Major News Stories

Google News readers will start adding a 'Local Source' tag to major stories from local news outlets. The goal is to make sure local sources can "be heard."

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Starting this week, regular readers of Google News stories should start seeing a new "Local Source" tag highlighting local coverage of major news stories.

The tag is designed to ensure that the work done by local news outlets in discovering and researching stories affecting their communities is not overshadowed if the story were to be picked up by major news organizations.

"Not all local stories stay local," James Morehead, product manager for Google News, wrote in a post on the company's News Blog. "When a local story is picked up by national publishers, it can be difficult for local sources to be heard, even after they've done the legwork and research to break a story," he said.

The local tag will ensure that readers are offered a range of diverse perspectives, including those from local and hyperlocal news outlets, Morehead said. Google's search algorithm will look at the areas where a publisher has written about in the past to determine if an article should be labeled as Local Source or not, he added. "Local news publishers play a critical role in covering the stories that impact us every day in our cities, schools and neighborhoods."

Often, those reporting on such news are local to their communities and, therefore, add perspective and context that may not be available elsewhere, Morehead said. He pointed to a 2015 study conducted by Pew Research across three major metro areas in which 90 percent of the respondents said they followed local news. Of that number, about 50 percent claimed to follow local news very closely, Pew noted in the report.

The Pew study found wide variances in news choice and volume in the different metro areas. It found that when people have more choice, they tend to rely less on local news stories, compared to people in areas with fewer choices.

For instance, just 23 percent of respondents to Pew's survey in Denver said their community's main daily newspaper was often their source of local news compared to 40 percent in Sioux City, Iowa, and 36 percent in Macon, Ga., the two other areas where the study was conducted. Pew pointed to the much higher number of news providers serving the Denver market as likely one reason why fewer people relied on local news outlets often for their news.

Google News currently serves up content from more than 75,000 news providers globally. Many of them are local or hyperlocal news stories while others specialize in delivering content pertaining to specific locations or to specific topics.

Google uses the concept of a "story box" to group together articles on the same topic or event. By clicking on the box, users can see multiple stories on the topic, including those labeled "In Depth," "Highly Cited," "Most Referenced" and "Opinion." With this week's announcement, Google News readers will now get a Local Source option in the list of available types for particular news stories.

Google has made other attempts to help community news outlets. The company, for instance, has an ongoing relationship with Local Media Consortium, a body of some 1,600 local newspapers and broadcast stations. In 2014, Google announced it would create a separate marketplace for members of the consortium for ads, its ad serving technology and access to the company's DoubleClick ad network.

Last year, the two organizations expanded their relationship; as a result, content from members of the consortium are now offered through Google Play Newsstand.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.