GoogleNews Refinement Plan Could Oust Blogs

Google is applying for a patent on a revised version of its popular news aggregator that could take blogs out of the mix.

Google Plan To Refine News Search Finds Early Critics (E-Commerce News)

Google has filed a patent application for improvements to its widely used news search and aggregation feature, one that some say will result in a future version of the still-beta product favoring corporate-backed news sites. Currently, Google’s news search returns results based on how recently a story was posted online and how closely the story appears to align with the keywords in related stories. However, the search giant has filed for a patent on an improvement that seeks to filter stories by certain measures of quality as well.

Critics are already noting that the approach might be flawed or at least misleading. Short of having news stories read by experts who could rank them based on quality, the technology will instead rely on pre-determined factors such as the reputation of a news site, how much Web traffic it generates and how old and large the organization that produced the story is in terms of news bureaus and employees.

Critics say the result will inevitably be a ranking that favors established news sites and could put an end to the current level playing field, where individuals’ blogs often appear alongside reports on the same topic from the New York Times, CNN and other news outlets, helping to generate significant traffic to sites that otherwise would go unnoticed or be forced to invest in traffic-generating endeavors.

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However, that democratic approach has also been called into question, with criticism ratcheted up during the 2004 presidential election, when blogs from conservative and liberal perspectives, where little editing takes places and few standards for what constitutes news exist, appeared alongside stories that had been carefully vetted.

Small news outlets might lose out in the new scheme, even if they are niche publications that target a specific industry or subject area — and therefore have a level of expertise that a larger outlet can’t match.

According to at least one source, there is no “might” to it:

Google announces a new system of news classification

New Scientist announces that the leader of online searches is planning to improve once again its services. The target of these improvements is Google̢۪s news service which will implement a solution for entry classification that will take into account the quality, sources, and credibility of the news. The database containing all the information and the sorting criteria of the news will compare different variables: the size of the news, the number of employees of the publication or the media trust and the traffic generated by a certain page.

Currently, Google News is offering thousands of results with news sorted according to the relevance of the key words supplied by the user. This criterion is completed by placing the most recent news at the top of the list. The system proposed by Google will give priority to the sources with the highest credibility and traffic on their site, like BBC, CNN or Associated Press, granting these sources the rightful importance.

See the New Scientist piece here.

The full text of the Google News Patent Application is available online.

Given the OTB is among the blogs currently included in Google’s news aggregator, I’ve got a stake in the outcome. While I was initially dubious about the inclusion of blogs, which frankly vary widely in quality, the average blog in the aggregator provides more value than all but a handful of newspapers. Most of the stories from regional newspapers are nothing more than short versions of AP, Reuters, or AFP pieces. The blogs provide links, excerpts, and commentary–often all in the same story. That’s a valuable service.

Are blogs biased? Absolutely. But so are the mainstream media sources, as has been well documented, not least of which by the blogs. The difference is that blogs don’t pretend to be objective.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media, Science & Technology
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. bryan says:

    I think Google’s new formula is destined to lead to a confirmation of the status quo ante blogs, at least for the time being. “Measures of quality” can mean little when a news outlet gets something wrong, and a weblog points out the correct information.

    It’s of course heartening to know that Google is maintaining the hegemony. 😉

  2. The blogosphere is big and getting bigger quickly. If Google takes that stance, I think that someone else will step up to fill the void.

  3. yetanotherjohn says:

    So combine googles new “quality” search with this (http://www.dailypundit.com/newarchives/001390.php#001390) showing a distinct google left wing tilt and I think we can see it won’t just be MSM designation that may go into the “quality” designation, but if the google people agree with it.

  4. Here are a few of the propaganda sites Google considers “news”:

    Uruknet
    Peace Link
    Iraq Occupation Watch
    Zmag.com
    Jihadunspun

    And just for fun, they throw in the site “Unconfirmed Sources”, which states clearly that it is a satire site.

    The GoogleNews editors don’t just have a leftward tilt, they have an extreme bias toward anti-American sites. “Quality” has nothing to do with what GoogleNews is up to; “agenda” has everything to do with it.

    Frankly, to call much of what comes up in a GoogleNews search “news” is tantamount to false advertising.