Google's Upgrades & Tools Help Media Companies

Last Updated Oct 21, 2009 7:21 PM EDT

Google, as always, is on the move, and a few of its recent product upgrades deserve special attention.

First, there is larger search box displaying results in larger type by default, not requiring any special setting. When the search giant implemented this feature last week, at first I suspected that my pesky browser settings had shorted out, but in a good way this time.

Instead, as Marissa Mayer, Vice President, Search Products & User Experience, announced on the company's blog:

"Although this is a very simple idea and an even simpler change, we're excited about it -- because it symbolizes our focus on search and because it makes our clean, minimalist homepage even easier and more fun to use. The new, larger Google search box features larger text when you type so you can see your query more clearly. It also uses a larger text size for the suggestions below the search box, making it easier to select one of the possible refinements."

Mayer also provided the external PR (and internal political context) for this relatively minor upgrade: "Google has always been first and foremost about search..."

Meanwhile, the company continues to explore better ways to exploit its massive database of search terms in something approximating -- or at least closer to -- real-time.

It's also becoming more aggressive in demonstrating the value inherent in products like Google Trends.

An example of the latter is the launch earlier this month of Google Domestic Trends, which maps search traffic to specific sectors of the U.S. economy, including autos, retail, and unemployment.

Google economist Hal Varian evangelized how valuable this economic data could be in a fascinating piece by Cecilia King of the Washington Post over the past weekend. He pointed to signs that a national economic recovery may already be underway, based on several factors:

  • Searches for "unemployment benefits" began to drop last March.
  • Recently, there's been an uptick in searches relating to real-estate and house-buying.
  • Very early on, Varian stated, Google experienced a spike in interest in the "Cash for Clunkers" program. (This is what you'd call a "proof of concept" in support of the first two data points.)
According to King's report, Varian was in Washington to advocate for greater government use of Google's statistical tools, but there's much here of interest to media industry execs as well, of course.

Finally, Google News has added something called Spotlight, which appears to be geared toward better highlighting mainstream media special packages and investigative articles, but to my eyes at least, this product is a little too Beta to evaluate as of yet.

A few other Bnet posts about Google:

  • David Weir

    David Weir is a veteran journalist who has worked at Rolling Stone, California, Mother Jones, Business 2.0, SunDance, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, MyWire, 7x7, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which he cofounded in 1977. He’s also been a content executive at KQED, Wired Digital, Salon.com, and Excite@Home. David has published hundreds of articles and three books,including "Raising Hell: How the Center for Investigative Reporting Gets Its Story," and has been teaching journalism for more than 20 years at U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Stanford.