Google has announced it will elevate “original reporting” in search and news results, promoting in-depth news coverage which includes elements of investigation. It hopes that this will draw attention to quality news stories and credit individuals or publications that break news stories.
“In today’s fast-paced world of news, the original reporting on a subject doesn’t always stay in the spotlight for long,” Google Vice President of News, Richard Gingras, said in a blog post. “This can make it difficult for users to find the story that kicked everything off… 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.”
Google says that news coverage which includes original reporting “may stay in a highly visible position longer.” However, it does not offer a definition of original reporting, nor specify what bar a piece must meet to stay in a visible position.
PhotoMIX Ltd./PexelsThis lack of transparency is par for the course for Google, which is famously secretive about the algorithm it uses to rank search results as well as news results. It says that this is to prevent spammers from using this information to artificially inflate their place in rankings. But Google has taken direct action to adjust search results in the past, such as trying to lessen the impact of fake news and lowering rankings for sites that deny the Holocaust.
The search giant does offer some clues about how its new push to promote original content will work. Gingras said the company has more than 10,000 people around the world acting as raters to tune the algorithms used in search and news. The criteria these raters use for evaluation are available in a public document that describes the values in ranking. For example, raters are instructed to give the highest rating to content “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort.”
In an era of fake news and a rapid-fire 24/7 news cycle, these changes could help original content to get the time in the spotlight it deserves.