How Google Tools can help your journalism


At the news:rewired conference, speakers Stephen Rosenthal and Madhav Chinnappa were aware of the irony of giving a presentation on Google with an Apple Mac in the MSN headquarters.

Luckily, they said, this was not a sales pitch as the following tools were free and available to use, and would be able to help journalists further in their work.

“Have you ever Google Searched by colour?” Rosenthal asked the delegates.

He then took them through the drop down menu within the search tools in Images, in which users can search via a colour palette. This is useful for fashion or sports stories, or even if a particular coloured picture was needed for a spread or page.

It’s also possible to search by image, by dragging a jpeg file into the search box.

Google Goggles is free a smartphone app which serves as another useful searching tool, as users can take a picture with their camera and Google will identify the object and bring up relevant search results, whether it be a book cover, picture or wine list. It can even solve Sudoku puzzles!

Real life events are often reflected in Google searches, and Google Trends anonymises search data, collates it, and records it within a 24 hour period. With millions of people often searching for the same thing when a big news story strikes, it can be really useful to see global interest spikes visualised.

The company’s social networking site, Google+ is rapidly gaining popularity with over 400m active users, but Rosenthal stresses that it is not another Facebook:

There’s more forethought in the content; more deliberate, careful and interesting posting. People aren’t really sharing what cereal they had for breakfast on Google+

With its circles and communities options, it’s also good for engaging niche audiences.

Google Correlate allows users to track semantically related searches and map concentric ‘layers’ of searches. Correlate was reverse engineered by Flu Trends, a Google experiment which found that certain search terms were indicative of flu activity. They correlated the data of their flu predictions with actual data of global flu occurrences when it became available, and they were found to be almost completely accurate. Correlate allows users to search by country, time or keywords.

Similarly, Google Books’ Ngram viewer uses word collocations from its book corpus to plot data graphs of certain ‘trends’ over a period of time. The example Rosenthal used was the spike on the graph of “chivalry” in the 1800’s and a spike of “feminism” in the late twentieth century.

Many people are familiar with the video conferencing facility Google Hangout within Google +, but Hang Outs on Air enables users to embed the code of the conversation onto YouTube and broadcast it live, for free, around the world. This is especially useful for political debates or music performances.

Rosenthal and Chinnappa also talked delegates through Google’s Knowledge Panel,, Google Fusion Tables, YouTube and Google Earth and advised journalists to explore Google more. Of the most well-known applications, he said:

The things you think you know the most about you actually know the least about.

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