Google Quietly Ramps up its Twitter-Style Real-Time News Offerings

A person prepares to search the internet using the Google search engine, on May 14, 2014, in Lille. In a surprise ruling on May 13, the EU's top court said individuals have the right to ask US Internet giant Google to delete personal data produced by its ubiquitous search engine. AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE HUGUEN (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images

For some time now, Google has been focusing on real-time results in search, whether it’s live hotel listings or the current weather forecast. That’s a big part of why it re-signed a deal with Twitter that gives it access to the firehose, so it can show tweets at the top of the results page that are related to your search.

On top of all that, however, the search giant has also been quietly adding new real-time features of its own—features that include content created specifically for Google. In effect, the search giant appears to be trying to eat some of Twitter’s lunch in the real-time news space.

The first iteration of this showed up in January, when Google announced that it was allowing candidates participating in the presidential debates to create “information cards” related to various topics or aspects of their campaign platforms. When users searched for information about the debates or those topics, Google explained, the cards would show up at the top in a special carousel.

The next step came in March, when Google gave local businesses the the ability to create short information snippets about themselves in a number of markets. Then Google announced that it is offering a similar kind of deal to celebrity cricket players, who will be able to create short posts that surface when someone searches for them.

Screenshot from 2016-03-16 15:50:22

All of these features appear to be related to something called “Google Posts,” which has never really been launched or announced in any formal way. There is a page devoted to Posts, with its own dedicated Google URL, but you can’t see any of the content that has been created there. There’s just a landing page that says it’s “an experimental new podium on Google” that lets you “hear directly from the people and organizations you care about.”

Verified individuals and organizations can now communicate with text, images and videos directly on Google. Creating content is fast and simple, and once published, posts will appear instantly in search results related to the publisher. Each post can also be shared on popular social networks.

The description of the feature certainly implies that it’s not just politicians and cricket players, or local businessmen—Google clearly plans to open up this ability to “verified individuals” and entities of all kinds. Any content created through Google Posts will show up in the special carousel at the top of search results, with a brief Twitter-like excerpt and an image if there is one, ready for sharing on other networks.

Screenshot from 2016-03-16 15:44:14
Courtesy of Google

It seems obvious that since Google’s home-grown social network Google+ didn’t really work out the way the company had hoped, it is looking for other ways to get real-time, social-style content into its search results. One way to do that would be to acquire Twitter, of course, but in the meantime it seems clear that Google is trying to create its own real-time content.

Whether this is a large-scale effort or simply a small trial balloon remains to be seen, however. Google often tries short-term experiments and then kills them if they aren’t producing enough bang for the buck. The company even tried a comment-style project in 2007, where it sought out news makers and asked them to provide quotes, which Google then highlighted in its Google News search results. But that experiment was wound down in 2009.

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