Open-sourcing Living Stories

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

For the past two months, small teams of reporters and editors from the New York Times and Washington Post have been experimenting with Living Stories, a new format for covering news on the web. Using this technology platform, we can capture hundreds of developments as events unfold on a single dynamic page so that readers have many ways to easily digest the information. Living Stories has helped the Times enlighten readers on such subjects as global warming, the Afghanistan war, the N.F.L. playoffs and executive compensation. The Post has used it to report on health care reform, the Redskins' season and the overhaul of the D.C. school system.

Since we launched this proof-of-concept test on Google Labs in December, 75% of people who sent us feedback said they preferred the Living Stories format to the traditional online news article. Users also spent a significant amount of time exploring stories. This tells us there's a strong appetite for great journalism displayed in a compelling way.

In addition to the positive input from visitors, we've also heard from publishers interested in telling their own stories through the format. So we think it's time for the next stage of this experiment: releasing Living Stories more broadly to see what you can do with it. Today we're open-sourcing the code so all developers can build their own Living Story pages. (Here's the open-source documentation for technical details; read our Google News Help Forum to ask and answer general support questions.) Now that we're shifting into this public phase of the experiment, the Times and the Post are going to wind down their work on the version hosted on Google Labs. We'd like to thank them for embarking on this stage of the project with us. We're looking forward to continuing to work with them, and many other publishers, on Living Stories as well as other projects that help to advance how news is presented online.

In coming months we're going to look into creating software tools that make Living Stories even easier to use for news organizations. Until then, we can't wait to see what fascinating works of journalism developers, reporters and editors, working together, create using the open-sourced Living Stories code.