Sunday, July 18, 2010

The paradox of "Google News"--or, how AYR original content appears in Google News only when someone else borrows it

What's news?

"News is often a polite way of saying editor's whim," Tom Rachman writes in The Imperfectionists, his deft new novel about a newspaper.

(Cover at right from the Australia/New Zealand edition)

Trusting Google?

Google, which is based on algorithms rather them whims, should get it right, or at least be consistent, right?

It depends where you look.

If you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google Blogs, not only do Atlantic Yards Report posts and articles appear in the list, but AYR gets prominence up top, as shown in this screenshot from July 11.

(Click on graphics to enlarge)
Looking at Google News

But if you search on "Atlantic Yards" in Google News, AYR is ignored.

That's because Google News algorithms exclude sites written and maintained by one person, no matter the quality or reputation.

There's surely the logic behind the rule, and it would be difficult to police, but it disserves readers.

Google News includes self-serving press releases, which, however labeled, are less likely to provide solid information than legitimate standalone journalism, a concept that's more than five years old

And it leads to absurd results, because Google News includes news articles that are partly based on AYR--such as several Gothamist posts in Google News--or nearly completely based on it, such as:


Google's policy

I pointed that out to Google News (along with some recognition I'd received), but was ignored.

Google's automated response:
Thank you for your interest in Google News. We've received your suggestion and we're unable to include it in Google News at this time. We don't include sites that are written and maintained by one individual. We currently only include articles from sources that could be considered organizations, generally characterized by multiple writers and editors, availability of organizational information, and accessible contact information.

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Forum.
Blogs

The Help Forum does answer some questions. Google News does distribute some blogs, as explained in Content in Google News: Blogs:
Google News strives to provide you with access to as many sources of news and perspectives on current events as possible. Many users have asked us to let them know when they're clicking on a blog article in Google News. To satisfy this request, articles published in a blog format appear with a (blog) tag next to the publication name. (We add similar tags to video, press release, satire, and subscription content.)

Blogs typically identify themselves as such, and adhere to standard blog formatting by displaying regular entries in order from newest to oldest. In many instances, blog posts are excerpted on the blog's homepage instead of summarized by an editor or author. Finally, websites that organize their articles in a more editorial fashion and employ a complex layout are generally not considered blogs.

We acknowledge the difficulty in characterizing blogs and the rapidly changing publishing landscape, but we also hope to provide useful ways of helping you select what you want to read.
Press releases

Google News distributes press releases, as explained in Content in Google News: Press Release sites:
Google News strives to provide you with access to as many news sources as possible, including those that distribute press releases. We don't include, however, press releases that solely promote the site's own product, organization, or activities.

We mark sites that distribute press releases from different sources with the term (press release). This allows you to know if you're reading a press release from a distributor. We also designate subscription and satirical articles by appending a source's name with the terms (subscription) or (satire).

The irony

There is a way to get into Google News: post a comment on a news story or news blog, as I did regarding the New York Times's coverage of a report on public authorities (with no mention of the Job Development Authority) and the Village Voice's coverage of Al Sharpton's cozy relationship with the power structure (with no mention of the arena groundbreaking).

1 comment:

  1. Frustrating indeed. Curbed and Gothamist both make the news. Incredibly even some neighborhood blogs like Brooklyn Heights Blog even made the cut. We've been haggling with Google for a couple of years to get included but no luck yet.

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