PhotoWill unpaid Google “contributors” replace professional beat reporters? Google is rolling out a publishing platform that encourages anyone to publish a hyperlocal news story. The tech giant says that its new application Bulletin will allow “for contributing hyperlocal stories about your community, for your community, right from your phone.”

“If you are comfortable taking photos or sending messages, you can create a Bulletin story!” Google says.

Of course, the ease of web publishing and social media already makes it easy for anyone to contribute stories about their community right from their phone. But Bulletin, which is currently being tested in Nashville and Oakland, is specifically targeted to the local journalism market.

Competing with local news outlets?

At the application’s launch in Nashville, attended by a Slate reporter, Google reps described Bulletin as a website that would let people publish news stories “instantly to the web without having to do any setup.”

It’s unclear whether such a platform would help or hinder local newspapers. Experts in the media industry have long described an unhealthy, codependent relationship between newspapers and tech giants

“The web was once thought to be a cure-all for media industries' growth problems,” Bloomberg’s technology columnist Shira Ovide wrote several years ago.  “Media's shift to the internet has meant bigger audiences, yes, but the piles of advertising money have shrunk or are barely growing.”

Facebook has also recently announced measures to highlight local news with a feature called “Today In.” At the same time, the platform is reformulating its news feed in a manner that may draw less traffic to newspapers and digital media.

In October, Facebook removed professional news organizations from the main news feed in six countries. Instead, only personal posts and paid advertisements are featured in the main feeds, a move that journalists in the countries affected described as “Orwellian.”


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