When big news breaks, readers clamor for updates — but they also yearn for context. For example, when word got out Monday afternoon that Jeff Bezos had spent $250 million to become the new owner of The Washington Post, there was suddenly a demand for all kinds of information. Who are the Grahams? How long have they owned the paper? What kind of leader has Bezos been at Amazon? What’s the status of other historic newspapers — have any others been purchased recently?
Some of this information would have been clear after a quick Google search, but piecing together a full portrait of the significance of what happened would likely have taken a combination of queries and resources — maybe a Wikipedia article, some breaking blog posts, a couple of company biographies — to put it all together.
Google wants to change that. Today, they announced a new search feature that aims to put in-depth and longform coverage of people, places, events and themes at your fingertips.
Why It Matters:
One possible result of the new search might be that more eyes are turned toward content produced by journalists in newsrooms rather than the aggregators we have come to rely on when looking for background information — Wikipedia, IMDb, or WebMD. It also suggests that Google is aware of an information gap that others are also trying to fill, a centralized hub for background and context on an issue.
Thoughts on the potential of this sort of search engine:
As a journalist and seeker of content-specific longform, this is a dream come true. When writing a story, you want to know what’s come before, you want to know what excellent journalists have grappled with in executing stories before yours. Digging through the archives of publications and asking people for recommendations should not be the only way to discover this content.
As a news consumer and citizen of the world, my relationship with literary and longer form stories has been entirely serendipitous; I’ve relied on the magazines and journals I love to read great stories, and more recently, on apps like the one by Longform to find writing and writers I don’t know of. But if one is looking to learn about a topic, get lost on the internet, or deep dive into the life and times of their favorite celebrity, search engines pointing to great writing (as opposed to say, the Wikipedias of the world), has the potential to change consumption culture. Granted the content isn’t guaranteed to be great, but it could help us discover more “writing” as opposed to more “content,” which has the potential to get us used to reading and experiencing longer, well-thought-out, well-researched stories again. And that is something that really excites me, because that’s the sort of world I want my kids to grow up in.—Jihii