Google turns 'Spotlight' on news of enduring significance

Google News without much fanfare has a few days ago introduced a new feature called ‘Spotlight‘ which it says will highlight “in-depth pieces of lasting value” chosen by a proprietary secret algorithm.

The Spotlight can be accessed from the Google News homepage in the column on the left-hand side above the ‘most popular’ section, in both the US and the UK versions of the search engine.

What does Spotlight do? In Google’s own words:

The Spotlight section of Google News is updated periodically with news and in-depth pieces of lasting value. These stories, which are automatically selected by our computer algorithms, include investigative journalism, opinion pieces, special-interest articles, and other stories of enduring appeal.

Google spotlight is updated not every day but periodically, presumably to give some time to the algorithm to crawl further and deeper to find online articles of lasting value. As a result, some people think it may become the online version of a weekly news magazine.

The big question is: Can a computer algorithm be made intelligent enough to distinguish between stories of enduring significance from pieces which will become stale in a few hours?

Shane Richmond of the Daily Telegraph finds the Spotlight selection of articles a bit odd and Michael Arrington of TechCrunch is tickled that ‘The Onion Beats Investigative Journalism On Google News,’these are early days yet.

Zachary M. Seward of Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard sees Spotlight as “part of an emerging class of news applications that use the byproducts of online activity to surface compelling material”.

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