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I sometimes find reading world news laborious because I have a hard time putting stories about regions of the world I have never been to in context. A new feature in the virtual 3D world map, Google Earth, may help remedy that: Geo-coded news that pins a story to where it took place on the map.

Google is partnering with The New York Times to roll out this new Google Earth layer. News will be added in real time with automatic updates coming every 15 minutes. The functionality will work similarly to Google Earth’s layers for photos (via Panoramio) and videos (via YouTube). A small NYT icon will appear on a region that has news to display. A click on this icon will launch a window showing that news.


While this feature sounds great, it will be disappointing if the news is only limited to New York Times’ pieces. We’ve contacted Google on whether such functionality will eventually be added for other publications and/or blogs and will update when we receive word back.

update: Google responded to our inquiry and stated while they don’t have anything to announce at this time, they are certainly open to the idea of including other news organizations in the future.

This layer is also not quite as imaginative as it sounds. Nintendo’s Wii video game system introduced basically the same exact thing last year. Using a 3D world map application on the Wii, users were able to use the device’s unique motion controls to move around and find top headlines from sources such as the AP.

It doesn’t seem unreasonable that consuming news in the future will involve a much more visual and interactive approach such as this Google Earth layer is adding. However, such an interface is still limited in drilling down for stories beyond big headlines. This idea might also be more interesting and accessible if it were added to the browser-based Google Maps as well, suggests Google Operating System.

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