Daniel Sieberg

Google's Daniel Sieberg Wants to Help You Tell Better Stories

5 minute read
Bill Sobel avatar

As senior marketing manager and spokesperson for Google News Labs, Daniel Sieberg’s mission is to teach journalists about the many resources Google has created to power ― and empower ― their profession.

For Sieberg, the opportunity to educate his colleagues in the media world about Google’s digital newsgathering and storytelling tools is an exciting fusion of his expertise as tech maven, Emmy-nominated broadcast journalist, author and speaker.

Defining Healthy Technology

A native of Western Canada and self-described "news junkie," Sieberg wrote "The Digital Diet" in 2011 about ways to embrace a healthy approach to technology in our connected world.

We caught up with Daniel Sieberg recently for a chat about Google News Labs, his guidelines for unplugging at home with his wife and daughters and why, at first, he missed having deadlines.

Sobel:  From your earliest days as a business and technology reporter for the Vancouver Sun you’ve seemed to have an understanding of the intersection between the two. Can you share with us your journey as a writer, reporter and anchor person?

Sieberg: I started journalism school at the University of British Columbia in the late 1990s with interests in both technology and writing. Our director, Donna Logan, insisted that everyone have a specialty so I simply combined the two. From there, I was lucky enough to work at the Vancouver Sun for a couple years, which was my dream job growing up.

Eventually I moved on to places like CNN, CBS News, ABC News and BBC News. Now, being at Google with the News Lab, I feel like everything that came before led me straight here. I’d love to say I predicted this moment in my career but the truth is I mostly got lucky with some hard work thrown in along the way.

Sobel: You are also known as a guy who explores ways to streamline our everyday use of devices and looks at ways to understand and manage how technology is affecting our daily lives. That’s quite a mission!

Sieberg: I always say, love your technology, just don’t love it unconditionally.  It’s something I feel strongly about because I’ve spent considerable time immersed in technology and I can readily see the pros and cons. Without a conscious effort to consider how tech fits into your life, it’s easy to lose sight of the benefits.

But I won’t pretend to be perfect.  Just like with food, there are many choices. Especially now, with kids, it's important to know when to put down the devices and be more present.

Sobel: In your book “The Digital Diet,” you state, "Technology has overwhelmed our daily lives to the point of constant distraction. Many of us can no longer focus on a single task or face-to-face conversation without wanting to reach out — or retreat — to the virtual world every few minutes." Can you elaborate?

Sieberg: In our connected world there will always be distractions. And sometimes it can be really hard to resist. But studies increasingly highlight the need for us to detach on occasion and find the right balance for our digital lives.

Our relationship with technology plays a key role in our well being. We should commit to being our best selves, whether in reality or virtually. That could mean charging your smartphone anywhere but the bedroom ― a rule in our house ―  or consciously deciding when to log on or off. 

Learning Opportunities

Sobel: After years as an Emmy-nominated TV correspondent and host for such names as ABC and CBS, you joined Google as a senior marketing manager in late 2011. Can you tell us a bit about that transition?

Sieberg: Believe it or not, my biggest adjustment was no longer being beholden to daily deadlines. I think I'd become a news junkie, hooked on an accelerated model of producing content.

These days, I’ve learned that I can empower journalism and media without personally needing to create copy or stories.  It helps that I’m surrounded by brilliant, motivated people and there’s never a dull moment.

Sobel: Tell us more about the Google News Lab, which aims to connect journalists with programs, data and other resources to aid in their reporting.

Sieberg: We launched publicly in late June with a mission is to collaborate with journalists and entrepreneurs to build the future of media. To do that, we want to corral and then galvanize a number of projects within Google.

There are ten of us based throughout the US and Europe, led by News Lab Director, Steve Grove. We train journalists how to use our digital newsgathering tools, share Google Trends data, create partnerships with the media startup community and find ways to use new technology such as virtual reality (VR) to tell stories. 

Sobel: How can our readers get involved with Google News Lab?

Sieberg: We always love to hear from people at the intersection of media and technology.  We can be found on Twitter at @googlenewslab or @GoogleTrends.