October 20, 2021

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Big Moments could mark an editorial shift for how Google presents news

The feature would serve to highlight breaking news in real time


Social media plays a huge role in where and how we consume our news. Right now, Google News can be really inefficient when it comes to ongoing, breaking news events. Instead, we get our breaking news from places like Twitter, where someone can just pull out their phone and tell the world what’s happening in seconds. Google seems to want to catch up a little in this regard, which is why the company is reportedly coming up with something called “Big Moments,” which has the potential to change how we read our news.

In order to understand what Google wants to do, we first need to understand the problem it wants to solve. If you clicked on this article from your Google News feed, that’s probably because this isn’t a breaking news event. This article was likely sitting alongside other news pieces from other outlets that have likely been published for a few hours. In the rare few scenarios you do get an article reporting on something that’s currently unfolding, it’s rarely going to stick out from the crowd of older articles unless several places are reporting on it.

That’s not an ideal scenario if all you want is to know what’s happening and get prompt updates. But, we’re already served in this regard by social media. It’s a more democratized approach, as news coverage goes viral, and reaches more people, thanks to user interaction.

As per The Information, Google’s Big Moments feature has been in development for more than a year, and it’s being further developed as a response to Google struggling to keep up with events such as the U.S. Capitol siege on January 6th. Big Moments attempts to provide insight into ongoing events by providing more historical context, highlighting the most authoritative details about a specific incident in real-time, such as death and injury statistics, and updating them as new information becomes available.

Google News is currently handled by algorithms, AI, and machine learning. For Big Moments, Google will have to make editorial decisions to figure out what constitutes a Big Moment that’s worth covering. decisions are “being made algorithmically and based on the signals that are baked into the algorithms and policies,” so the implementation itself may be pretty similar to what Google News currently does.

Google is already under fire for its advertising and search dominance, among other anti-competitive practices, and this move would also make it, essentially, a judge on what constitutes an important event, or Big Moment, and what doesn’t.

Once Big Moments roll out, you should be able to see them on both Google Search results and the Google News service itself.


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