Going to NTU (Nanyang Technological University) in Singapore is quite an adventure, but reaching it after an hour and a half of transportation was worth it. Google showcased a few but efficient tricks and ideas to use their tools as journalists, as part of the Digital Journalism Festival 2013. Let’s dive into it, as this is quite straightforward, but should give you new ideas.
Identify & Analyze trends early
Using the basic Google Search tool, you can detect quite a bunch of things :
- Typing in a name in Google Image to be sure you’re talking of a man or a woman
- The command “site” (which allows you to use Google search power in only one site). Look for “site:www.ft.com election Singapore” to find any article in the Financial Times which talked of election in Singapore
- The command “filetype” to reduce your search to a certain type of document. Look for any request with “filetype:.pdf” or “filetype:xls” to find these reports or spreadsheets full of information but which are always buried deep into websites
Google Trends is another amazing and basic tool to have an idea of what is the intent of people at a given time. Compare a few brands of cars, or even “beer” and “hangover” to check when do people look for these requests.
These tools will help to look for the first informations that you can then refine with interviews or bigger data
From data to stories
If you’re in journalism, an important trend is about data. The Guardian is most likely one of the best example, with a dedicated part of their site publishing both data-based articles and resources.
You can use Google tools, too, to play with data and show things under a different angles:
- Google Spreadsheet can help you sort and play with data (as any Spreadsheet yes, but with the Google touch, and possibly in a real-time collaborative mode online)
- Google Refine, to clean data, it happens when you import them that they’re quite in a mess
- Google Fusion Tables, which helps combine data, make mash-ups and more
Good examples of how these tools work together can be seen with the Google Crisis Response Team. They organize and make great data-vizualisations when a catastrophe occur, be it the Sandy Hurricane in New York, the bush fires or the floods in Indonesia. Both the visual “magic”, the fact that anyone can add data, local data, and other data sets (traffic jams, weather forecast, etc) make these tools quite useful.
A few suggested readings if you want to dig this topic would be
- Edward Tufte “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, to know how the whole viz things work as a way to showcase complex information
- David McCandless “Information is Beautiful”, for a huge collection of great info graphics from all over the world
- Nate Silver “The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction”, to read about this genius guy who was able to predict most of the US election results through heavy data exercise
Videos change everything
Last array of Google services useful to search relevant information: Youtube! Just remember how differently you got to know about the fall of the USSR or event 9/11, and most recent breaking news such as Fukushima or Occupy Wall Street. Video search can be powerful, and in fact, Youtube itself is the biggest search engine. Why is it a great tool:
- First because you can get tons of stats on one video, by clicking on the small “chart” icon
- Second because you can contact the uploader with a trick. Try to “report” the video as if it were a spam or an offensive content, and before confirming, you’ll be able to drop a message to the author
- Third, because now you know how to get in touch with the author, you have 90% chances being allowed to use its content on your own website or media by just asking for it
- Then, a Trends tool is included in Youtube, where you can compare demographics and geographic audiences for any video
A few tips when you do your own video, again from guys working both in media and Google
- Keep it short, and be extremely relevant for the first 15 seconds
- Use if possible a mic, even with a smartphone, a little mic can do miracles
- Call to actions during the video or with a text you add on it
- Look for a colorful background
- Tag and title relevantly
You can do many contents on any issue, that will catch attention, such as
- interviews and quick thoughts after a conference
- products and services reviews
And nowâ€¦ your turn to play with these tools ! Many thanks to the host and neat organization by Lau Joon-Nie from NTU in Singapore, and great talks by Robin Moroney and Anthony Baxter from Google.