Google Trends Newsroom is here for the World Cup; could that model essentially become the future of journalism?

Check this out: Google Trends Newsroom, with 20 or so employees, keeping track of search trends around World Cup games and really helping you tap into the mood and spirit of different countries (and/or the world). If you go there now, you can see trends around painted fingernails or learn this:

In The Netherlands, Arjen Robben is receiving 3x more search interest than all other players in the Spain v Netherlands matchup combined.

Damn on that last stat, eh?

Fast Company did a short article on this and here’s a brief explainer:

“What we’re planning is similar to Google Flu Trends, in terms of getting predictive analytics for things,” Google representative Chris Dale said. “This means measuring sentiment around a particular game, seeing if Ghana is anxious or Australia is optimistic by using search trends and seeing what’s rising. We want to determine things like whether conversations about Neymar’s hair are more popular than conversations about all of the Belgian team. As things go along, we want to analyze sentiment about red cards and things like that.”

Here’s the other quote to note:

The company’s in-house Google Trends Newsroom consists of more than 20 employees. “This is our first experience with this, and we’re excited for what the future may hold for using this sort of model,” Soleimani said.

People have been writing the eulogy of traditional journalism for about 20 years now, if not a bit longer — there are still newspapers in almost every major world city. Magazines still publish. The end isn’t necessarily imminent (I also wouldn’t say it’s the easiest way to make a living). But think about the explosion in recent years around “predictive/analytical/contextual” journalism — hell, I named my blog this for a reason — in the form of Nate Silver, Ezra Klein, etc, etc. Journalism may not die; it simply may take a different contextual form than it did even in the late 1990s. Could Google get behind the change and even drive it? Google News is probably a bigger driver of information and content to people than all but a handful of different newspapers, and Google literally has the world at its fingertips — it knows what certain people, and certain countries, are interested in essentially at that moment. That’s big. I know their game isn’t original content and hasn’t ever really been, but … why not? Couldn’t it be someday? They don’t even need a ton of outgoing content; they just need to mine what people are already doing on their site (and they can mine it anonymously to user — hell, I think they can — to get broader data on regions and topics, etc. because of privacy issues) and I feel people would be interested. Could they necessarily do deep-dive reporting and human interest stories? No (although they could contextualize the interest in them), but I’m not arguing for the end of all journalism except Google. I’m just speculating on the interesting nature of Google getting into the original content (derived from stats and context) game.

What do you think? Doable?


Ted Bauer