In early May, Google (NSDQ: GOOG) VP Marissa Mayer told a senate committee that she believed stories online should be “living;” rather than post multiple articles on the same topic under separate URLs, publishers should instead update existing pages. Google has now unveiled the result of a collaboration with the NYT and Washington Post to develop a new online story format that fits with the “living” concept. The format features a summary of recent developments related to a topic, along with a timeline. The pages are automatically personalized so that the latest updates on the subject are highlighted for return visitors.
Right now, there are only eight “living stories” from the Washington Post and NYT on Google Labs, spanning topics such as the “struggle over health care” and the Redskins football team (See examples here). The pages also are not hosted on either the NYT or the Washington Post websites, although they do play up those publications’ branding. For the moment, there’s no advertising. However, a spokesman says that the goal is to eventually have “living stories” hosted on publishers’ own websites and also to make the “platform available to any new publishers that want to use it.” He said that if publishers decided to adopt “living stories” they would certainly also be able to put ads on those pages.
The initiative is Google’s latest to try to shake up how news is presented online — and it demonstrates again that despite some of the rhetoric the company is working closely with publishers. In September, the company unveiled another Google Labs project — called Fast Flip — which makes it easy for readers to quickly browse through articles. More than three dozen publishers are participating in that project.
Here’s a video of how the “Living stories” format works: