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How Blogs Hurt Google News
Ed Kohler
Is the quality of search results on Google News dropping? A few recent comments from A-list political bloggers and certifiable news junkies seems to point in that direction.

First, we have John Aravosis from AmericaBlog raising the subject:

"Is it just me, or has Google News become useless? Their definition of "news sites" seems to include an ever increasing number of simply bizarre Web sites that aren't even the top in their category of site. Meaning, they've tried to include blogs, but only some blogs, and many of the ones they have you'll never have heard of, and many of the ones you have heard of are just plain bad. When I'm doing a news search, I want news site - not blogs, not left-wing conspiracy sites, or right-wing religious nutjobs. News."

That was followed up with comments from Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos:

"A "news" operation needs to present news, and credible news at that. That means get rid of the blogs (mostly opinion), get rid of the no-name sites, the conspiracy sites, and the rest of that crap.


I voluntarily asked for Daily Kos to be removed from Google News since it was returning results from this site that quite frankly weren't up to the sort of standards I expect out of a service offering up credible news. Obviously, I was alone in trying to preserve the integrity of the service. Not even Google News seems to give a damn."


Aravosis and Kos make a living from reading the latest political news and offering commentary on their popular blogs. Reliable sources of credible news stories provide the fuel for their blogging fire. It can't be a good sign when people who read news for a living are knocking your service.


Greg at The Talent Show brings up another common annoyance with Google News regarding duplicate content from wire services:

"Equally bad is that Google's news search doesn't [do] enough to make their results meaningful. It looks neat when you do a search for "Hastert", "sexual predator", and "cover-up" and Google News returns a few hundred entries, but when 95% of those results are the same repackaged stories from the Associated Press or Reuters, then you quickly realize that clicking around looking for interesting news is largely a waste of time. You're better off finding a dozen or so news providers that do unique work and going to them instead."

And Duncan Riley provides an example of blog spam showing up in Google News.


While Kos thinks most blogs don't belong in Google News since they're more commentary than news sources, even cleaning up the blog spam would be a big improvement over how things and working today.


How Blogs Could Abuse Google News


Here is my own take based on an experiment I ran back on September 27th: Google News can too easily be gamed by nefarious bloggers.


Google's Gmail application went down for a few hours on the 27th. When I saw this, I decided to throw a quick post onto Technology Evangelist noting this fact. Since Technology Evangelist's content is syndicated into Google News, my three sentence post immediately went to the top of the results for terms like "Gmail down" causing a big spike in traffic through that channel. Here is a graph showing the relative daily referrers from Google News before and after the 27th of September:


Traffic from Google News
Spike in Google News referrers caused by "Gmail is Down" post.


Theoretically, a blogger could simply write junk posts about whatever happens to be the news of the day and receive traffic from Google News for their marginal efforts. I'm sure Google puts some work into measuring the quality of news sources, so someone with a personal blog wouldn't likely bump the Washington Post, NY Times, or CNN from the top spots on stories. However, people will still find your site if they find the story interesting enough to check additional sources.


It's actually quite similar to the behavior I see on Techmeme.com, where blog posts on hot topics are grouped together so you can easily track the buzz on the tech news of the day. As bloggers become more familiar with the site, and Techmeme's traffic grows, bloggers will be tempted to contribute to memes simply for the traffic generated through me-too posts.


So, should Google News allow blogs into their News index? If so, should their be more editorial control. Or is blogging different enough from traditional news gathering to warrant its own search engine?



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Comments

1. Posted by: GoReporter on October 17, 2006 2:49 PM:

I agree that Google News is not as good as it gets, and they could do better.

The solution would be to disallow blogs (even though I have a very important one :) ......) under 'google news' - but to absolutely include blogs under 'google web' searches.

Personally, I'm not real fond of blog searching - but it's probably a necessary component in the field of Internet search. I feel that the information in blogs is often much more relevant and current than regular web sites - which is why it should be included in regular web searches.

I dislike the idea of the so-called 'credibility ratings' for blogs. The idea that just because a website or blog has been around longer somehow gives it more credibility is not 100% accurate and should not be used as a criteria for search relevance.

Under google's blog search they should add a blog news button. People who feel they are providing news can elect to become part of the blog news searches - which will eventually lead people to use blog search more often. Getting a personal touch to the news makes it more interesting.

We do have to remember that Google is only a 'search engine' and it is definitely not a news service.

Just some of my random thoughts on the topic. Internesting post. Thanks.




2. Posted by: Pradeep on October 18, 2006 1:38 AM:

It's quite a worrying point. Being a vast unmonitored unregulated ocean of information, the webworld suffers from the disadvantage of credibility. Regulating it would take away the advantage the webworld offers.

So, the Google can separate authorised websites and weblogs of recognised institutions from weblogs of individuals. I am sure Google has, or if not, come up with a technology to do this.

Not that all blogs are not credible (I am a professional journalist and I have a personal blog too.) But individual or personal blogs are different from one of an institution because of the factor of recognition, which brings in a certain amount of accountablity.

Remember, a good number of blogs are under pseudonymns. And even if bloggers reveal their real names, rarely do they have their addresses, phone numbers and other contact details. So, there is a big difference between blogs/websites of institutions and individuals.

This point is different from the factor of credibility. The blog of an institution need not be credible, and conversly an individual blogger may be more credible.

Like it has been suggested above, blogs shouldn't be allowed into Google News. If at all they do, let it be of recognised institutions, and not of individuals. That is, in other words, let my personal blog not get mixed up with the website of the institution I work for.




3. Posted by: Ed Kohler on October 18, 2006 10:23 AM:

GoReporter, what do you think of a hybrid approach where news and blog results are presented on the same page, but clearly differentiated? That would imperfectly break down content based on news & commentary.

I think there does need to be at least some kind of credibility rating. Without that, searching for blogs would be almost impossible do to the high number of splogs out there. Using things like link popularity does unfairly punish new sites that happen to be credible, but it does tend to mimic how people judge credibility in the real world.

Pradeep, great points about the credibility of bloggers as news sources. There certainly are different journalistic standards at play here.




4. Posted by: John G on October 23, 2006 2:49 PM:

It's so true. When I search Google News, I want to see news services, not MonstersAndCritics.com. However, it should be said that the new Google Archive is an awesome Lexis-Nexis killer.




5. Posted by: Iozzi on October 23, 2006 3:43 PM:

Posted by: GoReporter on October 17, 2006 02:49 PM:
just because a website or blog has been around longer somehow gives it more credibility is not 100% accurate
I definitely agree. My blog has been around in one form or another for about 4 years. Only an idiot would consider it a credible news site. I attempt to be accurate, but that doesn't make it news.
It seems obvious to me that a "web log", is different than a "news source". According to Dictionary.com a log is "any of various records, made in rough or finished form". Thefore a web log would be "any of various records, made in rough or finished form that is web based". Definitely not news.




6. Posted by: Peter on October 23, 2006 4:35 PM:

this blog post is theatre on top of absurdity. what about columns and other opion pieces in newspapers? should they be considered 'news' because they are in the WSJ or on Fox, etc.?

what about the inherent pro-American, pro-corporate slant of even 'straight' 'news reporting' in national, corporate media outlets - the outlets that Kos would prefer reigned in control over what was permissable reporting and what was not? his blogging and that of Atrios regulary point out severe conflicts of interest in the 'straight news reporting' of many national media/newspaper/television organizations - news which, therefore, is hardly news, but paid-for advertisement? nonsensical.

i remember a little website called the Drudge Report that Dems were killing a few years ago, until this little 'conspiracy theory' from some 'Miami-based nutjob wacko on the internets' proved to have legs. Kos, of course, would rather these wackos not have a say in the discourse. That's his prerogative, but it's obviously anti-democratic, and obviously it is not something we should support.

I'm sorry, but i'm not into 'A-list bloggers' maintaining the whitelist of 'legitimate' news sites. I'll decide that for myself, thank you very much. Now that Kos has a voice he's all about eliminating any upstart competition. This was full expected by the astute among us, but there's no reason we have to take Kos or any other nutjob seriously. Everyone can decide for themselves.

What happens when people like Kos are up in arms the next time a citizen-journalist is arrested/beaten/tortured by the U.S. government? Will it matter if that citizen-journalist is a Dem or Rethug? What if they're Green, or what if they think political parties are for the birds? What if that citizen-journalist is not carrying a press credential? Should bloggers be able to cover major media events as 'press'? Remember the stuff that Kos was crying about just a couple of years ago. If I witness a crime, do I have the right to report it as news? Do I have the right to 'report it' at all, or must someone seriously-paid off to take my stuff seriously approve of my news?

There are just so many holes in the logic put forth in this post that it's difficult to know where to start. With 'friends' like Kos...

http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/




7. Posted by: Ed Kohler on October 23, 2006 8:29 PM:

Peter, it's worth noting that Kos pulled his own site from Google News because he didn't think the content of his own blog was appropriate for a news aggregation site like that. That being the case, your argument that Kos is simply trying to suppress news from a slant other than his own or simply maintain his position as an A-lister among political blogs doesn't hold up. He talked the talk and walked the walk.

A case can certainly be made that opinion pieces from newspapers also don't belong in sites like Google News.

John G, it will be interesting to see what effect Google News and similar sites have on Lexis Nexis now that they're rolling out archive solutions of their own.

Iozzi, I imagine one challenge Google will face comes from true news sites running on blogging platforms. For example, there are a lot of community news sites creating real news that run on Drupal. Given that, it's tricky to differentiate a news site from an opinion blog just based on the publishing platform.




8. Posted by: Barack Svenson on October 23, 2006 9:40 PM:

I agree with the sentiment of this article.

Personally, I like using dotso.com to scan the daily headlines.




9. Posted by: HMTKSteve on October 23, 2006 9:55 PM:

When Yahoo ran the popular blog category at the bottom of their news pages I would "sometimes" read the blogs.

The important point is to know hard news from opinion.

Many of the hard news you read from outlets such as the NYT, Washington Post and other main stream print media post plenty of opinion pieces that are often masqueraded as hard news pieces.

Even hard news pieces can quickly become an opinion piece based on the choice of adjectives used to describe an event.

Example: "Four People Died in Florida auto accident Today" as opposed to "Four People Die in Horrific SUV accident in Florida Today." Both headlines may be factual accurate but which one is more sensationalist?

If I see a story is coming from a Blog I can assume it is an opinion piece right away. If I see a story from a major media company then I have to assume it is hard news but... Depending on who it is coming from I can usually figure out which way it is slanted.

Face it, print media is losing the power to inform the masses the way it used to. Who benefits by keeping out the bloggers?




10. Posted by: Stuart on October 24, 2006 4:49 AM:

You'd think it'd be simple though - news sites go into Google News, and blogs go into the Google Blog Search? That's why I assumed Google had those two separate services, anyway.




11. Posted by: Drew on October 24, 2006 10:09 PM:

Ed, Peter is likely well aware of Kos pulling itself from there. Kos already has a large following, as well as links all over the web. While Google can contribute traffic, it serves Kos better to remove itself if it can get others removed as well.
This is not to say it is a partisan issue. It is simply an issue of self-preservation. Slowing one's growth can be alright if the growth of competitors is slowed more.
If it looks like you are doing the honorable thing willingly, while others are forced into it, this can also provide a boost.
There's a lot to this.




12. Posted by: GoReporter on October 26, 2006 11:38 AM:

In response to Ed Kohler in Post #3 above, and to whoever else is listening....
I like the idea of blogs and news side by side. Blogs are much more current than most news sites. Blogs are not only a source of information, but an experience as well. Bloggers and Readers are able to communicate with each other, sometimes putting out information that can help a professional in their attempts to collect relevant information quickly. Every industry benefits from having a blog to communicate directly with their users. It is getting to the point that if you don't have a blog, you become known as hoity-toity and inaccessible.

I am concerned about recent Google tactics. More and more we are hearing of information being restricted. The Chinese people, YouTube viewers, people of certain political persuasions, have all been targets of Google interference. Google should be a search engine that provides searches to every single page on the web, with very few exceptions. If they continue down this path, someone else will come along and provide a better product.

Searching is like walking through a city. You cannot pick and choose which things you see along the way, they are there and it's up to you whether you want to take advantage of what they offer. It's always been a small world, but the internet is making it more like a small city.

We call America is the land of opportunity, the internet should reflect that sentiment or ideology. If only the big and popular sites are given the top spots in searches, then this is not reflected. The value of a site should not just be connected to the number of hits a site receives. We don't want search to become like a two party political system, where only the big companies get the attention. The internet is capable of providing millions of jobs to individual entrepreneurs (works for me) - we need to make it easier for the little guy to move up.

The good sites are like Mom & Pop shops, word gets around, if they're good, they become more and more popular. That's the only fair way to do it. People will decide for themselves which sources are credible, the search engines' job is to provide the opportunity.

To me, finding news on the internet is a fun journey. I never know what I'm going to find and it always leads me to new sites, like yours. :) I like it that way, I don't necessarily want to see the same news sites popping up everytime I search for news. I don't consider certain mainstream news sites to be credible, and I only visit them if I must.




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15. Posted by: Robert Weller on October 26, 2009 5:49 PM:

You just don't want competition. I worked 36 years in the mainstream media and saw gatekeepers block important news. I could give many examples but instead I will point out piece asking why conservatives hate environmentalists. It got 19000 views, without access to google news. we need citizen journalists. they certainly handled the balloon boy as well as the socalled professionals.




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