Media companies with vast budgets who produce “professional content” should get some preferential treatment from Google, according to a weekend report in Advertising Age.
I’ve avoided using sensationalist headlines because I think there’s value in looking at the underlying principles here.
It would be very easy for me, as a blogger, to have a knee-jerk reaction against those calling for Google to favour certain brands, particularly as one content executive described bloggers as “parasites off the true produces of content”.
It seems to me that certain publishers already receive preferential treatment from Google, being invited on to the Publishers Advisory Council, and yet that isn’t enough. Google’s algorithms, which we all know can throw some bizarre results to the top of the pile from time to time, are being criticised for not differentiating these established brands (the likes of BusinessWeek, ESPN, The New York Times, WSJ, and so on) from the “mush” of social media and blogs that also cover subjects in their own way.
Perhaps part of the issue is that these established players expect to top the pile for extremely broad, single keyword results pages. The example given is that of the New York Times’ senior VP, Martin Nisenholtz, who was infuriated for not topping the list when searching for “Gaza”.
I know some novice Internet users still type in single keywords into search engines, but honestly it’s much more of a lottery to rank well for such a broad word than had he searched for “Gaza conflict” or “Gaza Israel conflict” or even “Gaza news”. To expect to be at the top of the pile for “Gaza” every time would suggest some serious results massaging.
In fact, Google has a section – funnily enough called “News” – which, while not perfect, does filter out a lot of the dross that these executives are complaining about.
Perhaps Google should make it clearer where the results come from, given that many sites don’t put their name in each article title, and that many users tend moy to look at or understand the displayed URL. I wouldn’t have a problem with this, but creating a two (or more) tiered system because certain publishers don’t like the influx of sites is definitely not on.
Another executive spoke logically on the situation. “They don’t owe us that we show up a particular way. They do publish a whole lot about how to make your site show up as much as possible. If people haven’t taken action on it, that’s their own damn fault.”
What do you think? Should Google do more to differentiate content from different “classes” of publisher?