Notable things: Google’s sneaky $1 billion; a visual story with no visuals = ridiculous; there’s a $50 limit on teacher gifts

Google is well known as an advertising company and/or a search company, but it’s also a full-fledged services company. It’s time we started thinking of it as such.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Over the past year Google generated around $1 billion from the sale of Google Apps and separate mapping software to businesses and governments, said people familiar with the matter. Google said more than five million businesses use Google Apps, though the vast majority have fewer than 10 users and thus use the free version. In total, Google has said more than 40 million people use the free and paid versions of Google Apps. [Emphasis added.]


Why would a story with the headline “The world’s deadliest road” only feature a single photo? There’s a semi-related slideshow, but that’s focused on a driving school rather than the road itself.

The highway story tries to paint a picture through colorful description — a lot of description — but that’s not good enough. Not these days when you can capture everything with high-res multimedia.

Example: This is a nice paragraph, but where’s the video that shows us how it feels to be on this road?

Passenger buses loaded with luggage overtake each other at high speed on blind corners, missing oncoming traffic by inches. The rusting skeletons of smashed-up vehicles litter the side of the road. Open-backed trucks filled with people – tonnes of thundering metal – career down the road at 90km an hour, shaking the windows of our car as they scream past. Amid this, streams of garment workers in brightly coloured saris, children walking home from school and men on wobbling bicycles share the road with these machines …

This is unacceptable on two levels:

  1. The visual opportunities in this story were apparent from the beginning. This isn’t an expose on actuarial tables. We’re talking about a deadly highway.
  2. The story is not objective. It’s an attempt to rally outrage and support. If you really want to inspire action, you must show and tell.

I didn’t know this:

[Massachusetts] State ethics law prevents public school teachers from accepting any gift, Christmas or otherwise, with a value of $50 or more. And, they must disclose the gifts they accept that are worth less than that.

Via Patch.

I love how BuzzFeed tells a story

Take a look at this story on BuzzFeed: “Everything You Need To Know About The Internet’s Feud With Papa John’s Pizza

Rather than unload paragraph after paragraph of text-based exposition, writer Ryan Broderick (“writer” isn’t the best title — “composer” perhaps?), crafts a backgrounder through a savvy use of subheads, images, blockquotes and meme highlights.

Is it the whole story? Of course not, but it’s a useful and highly scannable method for filling the gaps of a story.

(And you’ll notice they resisted the urge to turn the damn thing into a slideshow. That’s yet another reason I appreciate BuzzFeed.)

“Twitter Effect” Story Covers Consumer Tech Without the Hysteria (… It’s About Time)

I was ready to rip this Twitter Effect story for being one of many “trend out of thin air” pieces commonly found in consumer-centric technology coverage. But I was pleasantly surprised to have my initial assumptions proven incorrect. The headline…

I was ready to rip this Twitter Effect story for being one of many “trend out of thin air” pieces commonly found in consumer-centric technology coverage. But I was pleasantly surprised to have my initial assumptions proven incorrect.

The headline teeters on hype, but the story itself asks a reasonable question — do rapid-fire Twitter reviews influence film revenue? — and (gasp!) presents multiple viewpoints that don’t glom on to comfortable conclusions. The piece, which is really worth a read, says Twitter might influence receipts for some films. It’s nice to see nuance for a change.