Write-arounders and SEO hounds beware: Google is looking to prioritize original reporting over what’s most recent when it comes to search results.
In a new blog post, Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of News, said the world’s biggest search engine just made some changes to its sorting algorithm in an effort to surface and keep surfacing news reporting that is original, i.e., not pieces of content that re-report big stories that are getting good SEO or trending.
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“In today’s fast-paced world of news, the original reporting on a subject doesn’t always stay in the spotlight for long,” Gingras wrote.
Until now, Google’s News search tended to surface whatever was most recent and most comprehensive going by the hour, so a breaking story, an investigative piece or a big exclusive interview would often fall off the first pages of search results, pushed down by follow-ups from other outlets.
With the changes to the platform’s “rater guidelines,” the more than 10,000 third-party individuals it uses around the world to actually rate search results have been instructed to start rating all original news reporting with the highest rank of “very high quality.” This rating is defined as anything “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it.” Gingras said raters have also been asked “to consider the publisher’s overall reputation for original reporting.”
“We hope these updates to elevate original reporting will provide people with a deeper understanding of their changing communities and the conversations going on around them,” Gingras wrote. “Giving everyone better access to original journalism across all types of stories — ranging from movies, sports, music and celebrity scoops to the serious journalism behind #MeToo, the Panama Papers and the opioid crisis — is all about helping people stay informed about the news that matters to them.”
The move will also likely appeal to news publishers, the smaller of which often have stories they break or exclusives they secure overshadowed by larger or more popular publishers and web sites that maybe do their own follow-up reporting, but did not do the work of breaking a big story. It’s often up to the most popular news outlets, like The New York Times or The Washington Post, or web sites with a huge audience, like BuzzFeed, to choose to cite another outlet that broke a story in their own follow-ups.
In the case of Jeffry Epstein, for example, it was largely the investigative work of reporters at The Miami Herald that led to his further investigation and arrest, and also the release of previously sealed court documents that many other publications used for their reporting. But a simple Google search for stories surrounding the case shows only a single story from the Herald in the first 10 pages of results.
Google’s change to news prioritization comes the same week that executives from major news outlets, including Gannett, The Los Angeles Times and News Corp. through advocacy group The News Media Alliance, went to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress to approve the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act. The bill is aimed at giving publishers more negotiating power with platforms like Google and Facebook, which operate largely by surfacing publisher content.
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