Now free: Google Earth Pro for immersive news reports and digital storytelling

Journalists and digital storytellers can take advantage of the video tour feature of Google Earth Pro, which used to cost $399 a year but is now available for free, for an immersive audience experience with locations and places.

In Google Earth, you can “fly” around a place and, where available, view street views of that location. Usually edited with other visual elements, this feature has been widely used in news reports to illustrate the location of a news event, such as this report about the Paul Walker car accident.

Google Earth used to come in two versions – a free version and a Pro version. In the past (prior to January 2015), the free version only generates a log file of the tour, not the actual video, which means the recipient of that log file needs to have Google Earth installed on his or her computer to view that tour. The paid Pro version, on the other hand, allows user to made an actual video file that can be viewed the same way as a regular video.

The video below introduces the video tour feature, and you can read more on Google support site for how to create and play tours of places.

Google Earth video has also seen popular uses in digital storytelling. As an example, in my open online course on Google mapping, a participant created a tour of the 223-kilometre-long Larapinta Trail along the West MacDonnell Ranges in Central Australia. The tour video was edited with captions, selected photos and a music track.

Check out another interesting video that combines Google Earth and other audio/video elements to tell how researchers track the migration paths of birds.

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About Mu Lin

Dr. Mu Lin is a digital journalism professional and educator in New Jersey, United States. Dr. Lin manages an online marketing company. He also manages MulinBlog Online J-School (, a free online journalism training program, which offers courses such as Audio Slideshow Storytelling; Introduction to Social Media Marketing; Writing for the Web; Google Mapping for Communicators; Introduction to Data Visualization; Introduction to Web Metrics and Google Analytics.
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