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Whirlwind recap of Google News Lab Summit APAC 2017

All the tools Google wants journalists to know about

By Elaine Ramirez and Brolley Genster
/ Photos by Mike Raomanachai

Google’s News Lab Summit APAC 2017 brought together 176 attendees from across the Asia-Pacific region including AAJA-Asia’s own Brolley Genster, Elaine Ramirez and Mike Raomanachai for three days of intensive workshopping on innovations in digital journalism tools and how to use technology to distinguish fact from fiction.

For 2017, Google is focusing on using its tools and partnerships for journalists under four categories: trust and verification, data journalism, 360 video and inclusive storytelling.

Google gave us a crash course on APAC’s ever-changing digital journalism industry.

Here are the products Google wants journalists to know about:

  • First Draft, Propublica’s Electionland and Duke Reporters Lab help reporters build trust and verify facts.
  • Documenting Hate, Electionland and Crosscheck are great sources to create data journalism without too much tech.
  • Google Trends Datastore is a massive data curation database.
  • Flourish, built by Kiln, helps build easy and beautiful data visualizations.
  • Journalism 360, set up by Google News Lab, Knight Foundation and the Online News Association, is a program to help accelerate the understanding and production of immersive journalism. You can subscribe to updates at bit.ly/Journalism360.
  • Reveal Labs, Ida B Wells Society and Witness Media Lab provide tools to use tech to represent the underrepresented.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Google encourages newsrooms to hold their own training courses and provides plenty of tools at the Google News Lab.

Innovations in APAC

Aida Aguilar from Google highlighted innovations in APAC that are impacting how newsrooms reach communities.

News’ social roles can be divided into three key categories: civic duty (journalism’s watchdog role), interests (giving readers info about their interests) and aspirations (helping readers accomplish their goals).

Media companies can’t just focus on “viewers” or “readers” anymore — news is now a multi-platform experience. Based on readership data analysis in partnership with Kantar TNS, these are the five things news consumers want us journalists to know:

  1. They want help to “keep up” — readers want news to spell out the most important things to stay aware of.
  2. They read news online for speed and ease — in the smartphone era, readers expect their news in timely, digestible tidbits.
  3. They consume news on every platform — the average news consumer uses 4-6 platforms a day, and news has to fit on every single one.
  4. They prefer different formats for breakfast, lunch and dinner — news consumers prefer reading articles in the morning when their mind is fresh, social media at lunch to discuss the news, and videos in the evening when they want to unwind.
  5. For breaking news, videos are the preferred medium.

The future of news media

What can KakaoTalk tell you about the future of news? That’s what the Institute of the Future (IFTF) is trying to crack.

Andrew Trabulsi and Rebecca Chesney believe that Asia’s full-service chat apps such as WeChat, KakaoTalk and LINE are transforming the way information is shared and represent a growing proportion of information and news consumption. They are writing a white paper on their case study of South Korea’s KakaoTalk, which will be published in the next few months.

Why KakaoTalk? In Korea, KakaoTalk is a way of life. It’s installed on 99 percent of smart devices and used by virtually every age group. Koreans prefer sharing content on KakaoTalk rather than social channels like Facebook or Twitter because it’s more private and people are concerned about their reputation. People can use it not only to send messages and cute emoticon stickers, but also read news, play games and send payments to friends. That makes the app a great barometer to gauge how all of South Korea is consuming news in the digital age.

There’s plenty for global newsrooms to parse from these trends. Here’s a sneak peak of their findings:

Korean journalists use KakaoTalk as a newsroom. Editors use chat apps to give assignments, allowing reporters to stay in the field longer. Government spokespeople use them as a virtual pressroom, ensuring accountability. Chat apps also bring journalists closer to sources through open chat rooms.

Koreans consume news in chatrooms. Users tend to consume news through trending features, and people are telling visual stories through graphics and card news. However, it doesn’t seem like Korean media outlets have caught up to the trend — they are not yet driving the conversation on chat apps effectively, the researchers found.

Newsrooms see chat apps as a channel out, but not a two-way engagement. Newsrooms still need to figure out how to adapt hard news stories to the evolving consumption patterns.

People are willing to pay. That’s evidenced by KakaoTalk’s multimillion-dollar sticker market. But while they’re willing to buy insane emoticons, they won’t pay for mediocre news.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Southeast Asia and Seoul subchapters are planning follow-up events to share the Google knowhow with AAJA-Asia members. Stay tuned on your local Facebook groups for details.