Is Google’s Embrace Of ‘Original Reporting’ Good News For Publishers?

2019 IAA Frankfurt Auto Show, Press Days

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 11: The Google logo adorns an escalator during the press days at the 2019 IAA Frankfurt Auto Show on September 11, 2019 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The IAA will be open to the public from September 12 through

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Google announced today that it would highlight "original reporting" in its search results to enable readers to access the most authoritative information available on the Internet.

The company also was revising its instructions to its 10,000 raters around the world who help fine-tune its search algorithm to promote quality news.

 Factors such as journalism awards and a site's track record for accuracy will be part of the rating process. They will also be on the lookout for "information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it," according to Google.

  It also isn't clear how Google's plan would work. Many news stories are a blend of original reporting and information obtained from other published sources so any weighting system would be complicated.

 In a blog post published today, Google's Vice President of News Richard Gingras acknowledged the challenges the search engine is facing.

“There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is," he writes. "It can mean different things to different newsrooms and publishers at different times, so our efforts will constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story."

 Critics have complained for years that Google and YouTube's algorithms promote baseless conspiracy theories and hate speech at the expense of legitimate news stories. Alphabet owns both Google and YouTube. Facebook has faced similar criticism.

For now, media companies such as News Corp, the owner of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post .are reacting cautiously to Google's announcement. A spokeswoman for The Washington Post declined to comment. The New York Times didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

"We have long argued that provenance must be a priority and so applaud any change that actually highlights the qualitative difference in journalism and ends the crass commodification of content," said News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson in a statement. "We will closely monitor these alterations to the algorithm and trust that the promised reforms do indeed eventuate."

David Chavern, the head of the News Media Alliance, a trade group, echoed Thomson's views in an interview with The New York Times.

 "Google search results have not rewarded investments in journalism," he said. "If we can get to a place where they do better, that's good." 

 Other platforms such as Facebook also are offering olive branches to publishers. The social network reportedly is holding talks with news organizations to license previews of articles for a News tab in the Facebook App. Apple also is trying to bolster its Apple News subscription news service. 

 Every time it seems like the public's view of the mainstream media can't get any lower along comes a survey that proves that notion incorrect.

 A survey of 1,010 adults released earlier this week by the Bospar public relations firm found that 95 percent of respondents were troubled by the current state of the media. Nearly 70 percent of respondents expect media ethics to be worse during the 2020 election.

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Google announced today that it would highlight "original reporting" in its search results to enable readers to access the most authoritative information available on the Internet.

The company also was revising its instructions to its 10,000 raters around the world who help fine-tune its search algorithm to promote quality news.

 Factors such as journalism awards and a site's track record for accuracy will be part of the rating process. They will also be on the lookout for "information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it," according to Google.

  It also isn't clear how Google's plan would work. Many news stories are a blend of original reporting and information obtained from other published sources so any weighting system would be complicated.

 In a blog post published today, Google's Vice President of News Richard Gingras acknowledged the challenges the search engine is facing.

“There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is," he writes. "It can mean different things to different newsrooms and publishers at different times, so our efforts will constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story."

 Critics have complained for years that Google and YouTube's algorithms promote baseless conspiracy theories and hate speech at the expense of legitimate news stories. Alphabet owns both Google and YouTube. Facebook has faced similar criticism.

For now, media companies such as News Corp, the owner of the Wall Street Journal and The New York Post .are reacting cautiously to Google's announcement. A spokeswoman for The Washington Post declined to comment. The New York Times didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

"We have long argued that provenance must be a priority and so applaud any change that actually highlights the qualitative difference in journalism and ends the crass commodification of content," said News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson in a statement. "We will closely monitor these alterations to the algorithm and trust that the promised reforms do indeed eventuate."

David Chavern, the head of the News Media Alliance, a trade group, echoed Thomson's views in an interview with The New York Times.

 "Google search results have not rewarded investments in journalism," he said. "If we can get to a place where they do better, that's good." 

 Other platforms such as Facebook also are offering olive branches to publishers. The social network reportedly is holding talks with news organizations to license previews of articles for a News tab in the Facebook App. Apple also is trying to bolster its Apple News subscription news service. 

 Every time it seems like the public's view of the mainstream media can't get any lower along comes a survey that proves that notion incorrect.

 A survey of 1,010 adults released earlier this week by the Bospar public relations firm found that 95 percent of respondents were troubled by the current state of the media. Nearly 70 percent of respondents expect media ethics to be worse during the 2020 election.

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I have covered the media industry for major news organizations such as CBS News and Bloomberg News on and off since around 2000. My specialties include debunking conven...