Google to boost articles with ‘original reporting’ in search results

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Google will start promoting news articles that feature original reporting in its search results in an effort to push users to more “authoritative” outlets, the company announced Thursday.

The shift could spell trouble for the media ecosystem that has grown around the practice of aggregating exclusive and original news stories.

{mosads}“While we typically show the latest and most comprehensive version of a story in news results, we’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting,” Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, said in a blog post.

“Such articles may stay in a highly visible position longer. This prominence allows users to view the original reporting while also looking at more recent articles alongside it.”

On top of the change for individual articles, Google’s search raters will also begin identifying outlets that have a track record of original reporting in order to boost their content in search results.

The change comes as Google is being subject to heightened antitrust scrutiny, in part because of its dominance in the online advertising market to the detriment of industries like the news media.

It’s being investigated by 50 attorneys general across the U.S. for potential antitrust violations, and over the summer news industry advocates testified before Congress about the state of the media as Google and Facebook dominate growth in online ad revenue.

For Google, the shift will mostly come in a change in guidelines for the 10,000 employees at the company who operate its search algorithms. The guidelines will now emphasize promoting an article that “provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it.”

And it will push raters to boost outlets with strong journalistic reputations.

“Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation,” the new guidelines read.

But some observers are taking Google’s pronouncement with a grain of salt because of the lack of transparency around the company’s operations.
“Directionally, this is a positive step — and something we have asked for many times,” David Chavern, the president and CEO of the trade group the News Media Alliance, said in an email to The Hill. “But Google algorithms are completely opaque, so until it is implemented and we see the effects it is hard to determine just how meaningful it is.”
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