Google News turned 20 this year, and it’s getting a major redesign that reflects changing priorities in journalism. The newly launched News desktop revamp now prioritizes catching up on important stories. In addition to top stories and personalized picks, there’s a particular focus on local news. That section is finally at the top of the page, and you can add multiple locations in case one city’s coverage isn’t enough.
The company is also bolstering its fact checking. Google News now shows the original claim next to a headline, along with fact checks (from independent sources) that show whether the claim holds up. You aren’t locked into the topics Google chooses, either. Click a “customize” button in Your Topics (pictured below) and you can add, delete or reshuffle subjects to match your tastes.
The reworked site also marks Google News’ official return to Spain. Google dropped the local offering in December 2014 ahead of a law that would have required paying publishers to use their content, including headlines. A newspaper coalition pushed for Google to restore News, however, and Google announced plans for a revival last November following a Royal Decree that let Google negotiate licenses with individual publishers (in sync with the EU’s European Copyright Directive) instead of having to pay all of them.
The updated site helps support the Google News Initiative, a long-running campaign to support newsrooms amid concerns the internet is eroding access to quality journalism. Accordingly, Google has started taking applications for a Global News Equity Fund that helps back news for minorities and underrepresented groups. They have until July 21st to apply for money. The tech firm is also handing out its first round of funding ($1 million) for a Data-Driven Reporting Project that assists communities with data-heavy investigations.
It’s too early to say if the redesign will prove a success. It does give local news much higher priority than in the past, though (you previously had to scroll past multiple sections just to see it). And simply speaking, the new layout is overdue — the cleaner, more modern look is easier to digest. In theory, this could get more people to use Google’s hub instead of visiting specific media outlets or relying on dedicated apps like Apple News.