Google on Monday said it is piloting a new feature in partnership with local news publishers to understand how COVID-19 is impacting different communities. The company said it would test the News feature in a few geographic areas in the US and Canada in the COVID-19 special section of the app, where users can view community reopening timelines, plus updates around business and school openings.
They can also see the status of the local healthcare infrastructure, public transportation, events and sections with resources for residents looking for or wanting to help families in need. "We will also continue to expand our coverage across the U.S. and Canada, and plan to bring this feature to products beyond the Google News app in the future," the company said in a statement.
Google said it is also working to ensure that reliable local news and information about the coronavirus is easily discoverable in Google Search and Google Assistant. "When people look for coronavirus information in Search, they'll see the existing top stories carousel of articles, in addition to a new dedicated local news carousel highlighting timely, accurate news about their community," the company announced.
It has also expanded a new carousel highlighting tweets from local and health authorities so these important and up-to-date announcements are more easily available. This feature is now available in more than 30 countries. Google has also seen a significant uptick in people tuning in to local radio on Google Assistant. The company recently provided emergency funding for more than 5,300 local news organizations and launched a Support Local News campaign to encourage people and businesses to subscribe, donate and advertise across local news outlets in the US and Canada.
As traditional media outlets urge social media giants to give their dues for using their news content especially during the difficult Covid-19 times, Google last week announced a new licensing programme to pay publishers for high-quality content. To be launched later this year, the programme will help participating publishers monetize their content through an enhanced storytelling experience that lets people go deeper into more complex stories, stay informed and be exposed to a world of different issues and interests.