Why settle for just publishing rumours found on twitter, when we can have journalism based on metarumours, i.e., rumours about rumours, thanks to Googles "biggest expansion of Google trends since 2012" as announced on the Google blog here. This "new window" into the world with real-time trends serves up results based on what people are searching for " the questions and topics we search for can tell us a great deal about who we are and what we care about" - thus creating real-time trends. If you've been even five minutes on Twitter - now a top "current" result in Googles search engine - you know that someone publishing a single tweet at the right time can start rumours that eventually will be considered truths no matter how often they're disproven. A photo from one conflict can be reused to spout propaganda about a current one. Rejoice, journalists, at this new tool spoonfeeding you what the astroturfing lobbyists and trolls of all stripes want you to see as news. We don't even need "activists journalists" any longer, just enough activist twitterers and searchbots.
Many newsrooms are already using Google data to inform and shape their reporting. Here are a few examples:
The Washington Post launched an interactive data visualization on climate change where viewers can discover the most pressing environmental issues in various cities. The Guardian and Buzzfeed used Trends data to tell the story of the recent U.K. election; Buzzfeed produced a map of most-searched party leader in each constituency, and the Guardian used trends during the campaign to showcase what voters were asking Google about the candidates. HLN integrated Google Trends data into their television programming during LGBT Pride Month to explore when terms like “transgender” became widely used around the world. CNN Politics published monthly updates on search interest and top questions around U.S. Presidential candidates as they announce their candidacy.
Below Ezra Klein, Mariana Santos, David Leonhart and Mona Chalabi among others explain how data has driven journalism since the dawn of journalism, this is just a new better quicker tool for finding it. Welcome to "data journalism". Google explains that this tool is birthed from "feedback we’ve collected through conversations with hundreds of journalists and others around the world—so whether you're a reporter, a researcher, or an armchair trend-tracker, the new site gives you a faster, deeper and more comprehensive view of our world through the lens of Google Search." As an example Google shows this Buzzfeed article about Google election maps.
"In addition to Search, we now look at trends from YouTube and Google News and combine them to better understand what topics and stories are trending across the web right now. " So in other words, a well trafficked gif-laden rumour-engine that takes idle gossip on twitter as a serious source can start the trending. Churnalism is now but a tiny step away from programmatic journalism, because why bother employing human writers at this point? Just throw some animated gifs in each article and call it a day.
I can't wait to see the first successful trolling that then is covered in earnest by all Guardian, Vox, Buzzfeed and friends because it trended in searches and on youtube. It's only a matter of time.