Google adds local COVID-19 news coverage: Google is experimenting with a new way to bring local news about the COVID-19 pandemic to its Google News app. In partnership with regional news publications in certain cities in the United States, the Google News application will now offer a dedicated section on certain markets detailing essential information such as community reopening times, business updates, school openings, as well as information on local health infrastructure, public transportation, events and how to help families in need.
At launch, the new feature is available for readers of Raleigh, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Lafayette, Columbus, Portland, Cleveland, Myrtle Beach, Albany, Sarasota, Cap Girardeau, Richmond, Memphis, Cincinnati, Boston, New York , Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.
To access the newly added local information, users of the application will click on the COVID-19 banner which will direct them to the existing section devoted to the coverage of the coronavirus epidemic. They will then scroll down to find the new “Local News” section directly under the “Top News” section.
This new section will not appear if the user’s city or city is not yet covered. However, you can force the section to be displayed by selecting one of the supported cities and making it your city in the Google News app.
To provide this local information, Google works in partnership with 21 news organizations for the supported markets, including Raleigh’s The News & Observer, NOLA.com, CBS Chicago, Oregon Live and Gothamist, among others. News organizations must already provide this COVID-19 information as abridged content. For example, this page from The News & Observer offers a short list of bullet point updates that Google can easily republish in the Local News section of the Google News app.
The app will still allow users to click on the local post to find out more.
Google tells us that all publishers will have to offer news in a similar format to include for now. In other words, Google does not automatically create short summaries from news articles to fill out this section.
The new COVID-19 locale is currently undergoing pilot testing, but Google plans to expand coverage in the U.S. and Canada in the future. It also plans to offer the functionality outside of the Google News mobile app itself.
To some extent, the addition is a way for Google to offer its own version of Facebook’s “Community Help” feature, which the social network expanded in March due to the COVID-19 crisis. The Facebook hub now offers users a way to get information about the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on their own region and what they can do to help them. Google’s functionality also comes at a time when Flipboard is back on the scene with its new focus on local coverage, including updates on coronaviruses.
And of course there is the direct rival of the Google News app, the Apple News app. Apple News has also added its own vision for local coverage with a “City Guides” section in its own COVID-19 special coverage area. These city guides focus on providing essential knowledge about tests, resources, jobs and more for the larger US metros.
In addition to updating the Google News app, Google also says it recently expanded access to local search news and Google Assistant.
Now when users search for information on coronaviruses in Google search, they see both a dedicated news carousel and a new dedicated local news carousel. Google has also extended its new carousel by highlighting the best tweets from local and health authorities in more than 30 countries.
Meanwhile, users can ask Google Assistant for local information on coronaviruses by saying something like “Hey Google, read news about coronaviruses in Boston” in certain markets.
Google has also contributed financially to local news organizations itself following the COVID-19 crisis, having recently provided emerging funds to more than 5,300 local news organizations worldwide, ranging from $ 5,000 to $ 30,000. The company has said it expects to spend “tens of millions” through this emergency relief fund for journalism. In addition, Google recently launched a local news support campaign to encourage individuals and businesses to subscribe, donate, and advertise in local media in the United States and Canada.