The big media related news on the ‘net today is the addition of a “local” panel to Google News, which allows you to enter a city name, zip code, etc. and build a channel of local news.

Lots of commentary, including these:

Tech Crunch: Look Out Topix – Google Launches Localized News Service

Danny Sanchez: Google News is in your neighborhood

I’d say this bodes well for small and mid-size publications, since this feature will finally let folks easily find local headlines. Before, Google News was mostly a mishmash of nation and world stories, with online editors hoping to hit on a national story that could get picked up by the aggregator.

John Paczkowski: There goes the neighbourhood

On the great list of words no tech executive ever wants to hear, “Google has entered your market” ranks right up there with “Microsoft’s made a hostile bid for the company” and “Hello, I’m Chris Hansen with ‘Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator’.”

William Hartnett: Google News does local aggregation: Meh, qualified

I just don’t see the use of this. I want my news preferential and my data location-based. What’s more, don’t try to sell me some big honking city or ZIP code and call it local. I know what and where “local” is. I live here, remember?

Mathew Ingram: The gorilla moves into local news

I may be somewhat biased toward the “Web is friend, not foe” argument as far as newspapers are concerned, but I think this helps newspaper websites rather than hurts them. I know that there will be the inevitable arguments, like the ones the World Newspaper Association and others keep trotting out, that Google is “stealing” eyeballs and readers who just want a quick summary of the news, but I think that continues to miss the point.

Mark Potts: Living La Vida Local

Google and the others are coming for a piece of the $100 billion local advertising pie, and newspapers and local broadcasters need to start competing in this space, pronto.

As you can see, there’s a wide variety of opinions on the what-this-means question. I think that Mathew’s right that Google is a newspapers best friend for delivering traffic, but I also agree with Mark that Google, being the ad-driven monster that it is, poses a significant, eventual threat to local newspaper advertising revenues.

(And, at least in the local market, it may not be that kind to newspapers at all: at the moment, all three stories featured in the Vancouver local news section link to radio station reports, not newspapers.)

For me, this isn’t hugely significant. I don’t check Google News that often, relying instead on my news feedreader, (increasingly) updates through Twitter and pointers from other bloggers. But I do think it’s another sign, and perhaps one of the strongest yet, that newspapers really, really need to pay attention to their local markets. I’ve heard too many small-town newspaper folk from the business side write off any idea of an internet threat because of their “ownership” of local advertisers. I think they’re fooling themselves.

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