Beware of Blog Apartheid
Duncan Riley> Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc., fame is calling for people to sign a petition that calls on Yahoo! and Google to add blog search to their sites. (here)
The crux of the proposal is simple: add a blog option to Google and Yahoo similar to the image and news options that are there now. Calacanis argues that opening blog search up to the masses would revolutionalize the web by making blog data more accessible and providing a level playing field with the mainstream media. He does indicate however that he doesn’t want blogs taken out of the main search index, or out of the news services either.
But I’ve got a problem with the proposal, and its a concern relating to the very blog apartheid that Calacanis is saying he doesn’t want: any moves to provide seperate search for blogs from within the current interfaces of Google and Yahoo! risks blogs being reduced in value from the main search engine, or partially or totally excluded all together.
Paranoid? here me out, because we already have a small scale form of corporate apartheid today thanks to Google and Yahoo! based upon their news services.
Google currently only allows sites into Google News based upon undisclosed deals that allow some sites in and not others. I once argued that it was based on layout and format of the content provided, and I was wrong. Getting into Google News has more to do today with not criticizing Google and making sure your pumping lots of revenue into the company with Adsense ads. There can be no other explanation for some of the bizarre choices of blogs that are in Google News today.
Yahoo! use to be the purest of the two in terms of blogs: in their eyes all blogs were pretty much bad and weren’t included in Yahoo! News. But money and celebrity status talk at Yahoo and the Huffington Post, an attempt by celebrities to try and gain influence in the only form of media they don’t control on the planet (the blogosphere), has been added to the Yahoo! News list.
On a side note: ask yourself this also: why does Google continue to ignore the fact that they are arguably hosting the worlds largest servers of spam, not just of blogs but websites in general, Blogger? Why won’t Google act to stamp out the continued crap that pollutes the blogosphere every day. I’ve written about this before here. The net result of a polluted blogosphere is exclusion.
Which brings me back to Calacanis’ proposal. Providing seperate blog search from the main page makes it a whole lot easier for Google and Yahoo! to take blogs out of their general search. Let’s face it, the serious advertising money comes from the main stream media. Google in particular lives and dies on this money. Blogs threaten the main stream media, who do you think Google will barrack for: humble bloggers who provide little direct worth or corporations whose spend will make or break Google as a company. Blog Apartheid is possible, because in todays world money still speaks louder than words, and no amount of noise from the blogosphere will change this….but there would be a backlash you might well say? sure, but it wouldn’t be big enough for Google or Yahoo! to change there minds: look closer to home and see what SixApart did with MT3: there was a massive backlash but they pursued (rightly or wrongly) that strategy because it was based on numbers: corporate blogs pay more than the general freebie loving unwashed of the blogosphere, and Google could potentially do the same. Even if it lost 5% of its users overnight because of such a decision (say the entire blogosphere) the current rate of growth in the internet would result in these numbers being replaced within months, if not sooner. The rage would only be amongst some parts of the blogosphere, others wont care. Over time people will forget and the rally against the blog apartheid from general search would eventually fade away to all but a few fanatics (and me).
By all means, I hope the big guys introduce blog search functionality on a separate site or service, but any moves to incorporate blog search onto the main pages of Yahoo! and Google present and clear and present danger to the future of the blogosphere as it currently stands. We must, under all circumstances, remain within general search results. To be separated would mean the beginning of the end for the blogosphere as we currently know it.
Excite says it went out of business because it failed to monetize 97% of its search clicks ~ the Long Tail, and relied too heavily on mainstream media. I’m sure that lesson has been learned by Google and Yahoo. If this separation did take place, and it seems inevitable now, with blogs taken out of general search, it may be that the blogosphere would become the principal revenue source, overturning all expectations. An analogy: when China took over Hong Kong, what happened? Hong Kong took over China.
Bob Wyman says that the figure of 100 million blogs will be reached this year. It’s a market no ISP can ignore. With RSS in IE next year blogs will become increasingly important to the whole internet.
BTW Duncan, Jason specifically says he doesn’t want blogs separated from general search but a Technorati-style service that works like Google. I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll get, and probably from Technorati itself. Competition works wonders in these cases ~ see Dave Sifry’s comment on my blog, and on various others around the blogosphere.
Yes, I think you’re paranoid. :-)
Just because bloggers have a had a hit or miss experience with getting into the Yahoo News and Google News indexes, and because Google’s Blogger is now a spam haven, does not mean they would ever remove anyone from the search index.
News pages are not removed from search because they are also in News, and groups are not removed from the search index because they are in the Groups search.
Google has stated many times they want to have a complete search index. They would never–NEVER–take content out of the index. It’s against everything they stand for!
Now, the problems we all face (Weblogs, Inc. included) in understanding and getting into the Yahoo News and Google News are real. However, I can tell you it is not some sinister plot by either firm, but rather the fact that they are “figuring it out.”
I’ve had many–like dozens–of conversations with folks at both firms about why they have Huffington Post on their site but not us (it’s a test deal), or why some of our blogs are in the news index and not others.
Yahoo has rebooted their whole content group as everyone knows (you can read all about this over at paidcontent.org). They are figuring out what their new model will be while they deal with their last model (paying for content to put on their site!). I think you’ll see more transparency from Yahoo shortly.
Google News does a good job overall adding folks to the index. 99% of blogs are not “news” sources, we all know that. However, many are becoming news sources (like the Blog Herald, Engadget, Autoblog, etc). I’ve found that if you’re persistent–and polite/reasonable–with the folks at Google News you’ll get good results.
In short, you’re concerns about blogs being left out of the *search* index are not even close to valid. You’re 100% wrong. Google and Yahoo would not remove blogs from the index because a) it’s against their stated mission, b) it would cause a huge backlash, c) they’ve never excluded anything before, and d) it would be bad for business.
You’re concerns about Yahoo and Google News are very real and valid and I think Yahoo and Google should put up pages stating what their policies are.
How do you be “persistentâ€“and polite/reasonable” with the Google News folks if all you have is a comment form? This is a serious question. I’d like to get my site added to Google News, but (a) I’m not sure if my site has the right format and (b) who I should be talking to. Do I just use http://www.google.com/support/news/bin/request.py to suggest my site as a news service, and that’s it?