27
Sep 11

Small Google News blogpost: big development

This post on the Google News blog has not had the attention I think it deserves. It’s a small item with large implications.

At first sight the note simply sets down an announcement that a Google team made at the recent Online News Association conference. News publishers can now “tag” (or flag) journalism which they think is particularly special or “standout”. There’s limit to the number of times they can do this with their own content (seven times in a week) but no limit to the frequency with they can bestow the accolade on someone else’s content.

Google News has been wrestling for years with a dilemma which gets worse as the mountain of unsorted online information grows higher and higher. How do you find the information which is of the highest value to you? Google’s most basic algorithm, the foundation of the firm’s fortune, ranks links by the number of connections any given item has. The more links, the higher the place in the list Google returns. But that is a crude sorting mechanism which has long been open to gaming and manipulation.

Google News is plainly very keen to avoid any suggestion that they are choosing between news outlets, despite the fact that its engineers have been tinkering for years with ideas about ranking and sorting journalism for “quality”. It’s a minefield, for obvious reasons. But news is increasingly swapped in social networks. Can Google get involved (especially to help their own new Google+) while staying out of the judgement business? This commentator from TechCrunch thinks not (but note the disagreements in the comments).

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06
Jul 10

Ponsford to Finkelstein: 5 ways to raise The Times game online

Discriminating and useful post from Dominic Ponsford of UK Press Gazette on The Times new site addressed, as I imagine it, to Danny Finkelstein, the man in charge. Dominic’s right (point 4) to draw attention to one of the oddest aspects of that elegant site: the lack of links going elsewhere. It just cannot be that readers born into the digital generation are going to believe that all the information they can need or want on a subject is going to be generated by one editorial staff.

While skirting the subject of paywalls, here’s the invaluable NiemanLabs on some of the latest thinking on new, painless (“skip the negotiation”) ways of getting people to pay for content. It’s dense, granular stuff but only that kind of work will crack open the solution to charging without having to erect walls which destroy linkage.

And lastly, a rare interview with the founder of Google News, Khrishna Bharat. Right or not, anyone in news or media needs to now what this man is thinking. (OK, I admit it: I haven’t had time to watch it right through. Yet).


30
Jun 10

Newspaper executives should look away now

Hard on the heels of the news that online advertising revenue will soon be the largest category of ad income in the UK, comes this polling result on the sites people go to for their online news. As The Guardian reported it:

“Newspaper executives should look away now. For the 83% that said they had accessed news online in the past month, websites of the national newspapers didn’t even make the top five. The top five visited news websites for these users were, in order: BBC News (34%), Google News (17%), Sky News (6%), Yahoo! (5%), and MSN (5%).” (Full version of the story, revealing a strong preference for print, here).

What’s the common denominator among those five sites? They’re either aggregators or broadcasters. So they have immediacy and range (or breadth).

Much of the logic behind newspapers putting paywalls round part or all of their content makes sense. But one of the flaws in the argument is they can’t quite compete on either. However excellent the journalism in the Financial Times, the Times or the Sunday Times can they be seen as valuable enough to pay for – when these results seem to give a clear guide what people actually opt for when wielding a mouse?

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