free html hit counter Why No One Comments on Google News | John Battelle's Search Blog

Why No One Comments on Google News

By - December 27, 2007

TechDirt comments on the NYT’s story on the fact that pretty much no one is commenting on Google News stories, despite Google’s attempts to get folks to do so. Why is that, we wonder? Why, given that Google News is one of the largest, most successful, most important drivers of news reading in the world, why won’t we engage in a conversation around it?

It’s simple, really, and it goes to the heart of what Google is not good at: Community. Look at the comment threads on Digg, for example, or Ars Technica, or Boing Boing. Why are there such long, boisterous comment threads? Because we know that the news we are reading there was driven by human beings, and when we respond, those human beings are paying attention, and want to be part of the conversation. But Google News is driven entirely by a computer algorithm. There is no explicit community. No one goes there to engage in community. Even if one can argue, as one can with web search, that the News algorithm is derived from community actions, it is not subservient to them, as is Digg’s. In short, there are no stakeholders in the Google News community. It’s not a place people go to be social.

Once again, Google has shown its Achilles heel – computers are great at generating smart results, and terrible as proxies for community. This is also reflected in the company’s approach to policy around new community features like those at Google Reader, an asberger’s of sorts when it comes to understanding how people want to connect.

Update: Many of you noted in comments that Google News Comments are only for those in the stories. This is true, and I should have mentioned it. Clearly this would be different if anyone could comment. Even so, I think, it proves the point – folks who are in news stories do not see Google News as a place to connect to *their* story.

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14 thoughts on “Why No One Comments on Google News

  1. Mark Kerzner says:

    John,

    It is a good question and a clear answer. Hard to disagree. This comment is a case in point.

    What would you suggest Google should do about it? What do Googlers suggest they should do about it? What do you think they should suggest?

    Thank you.

  2. J says:

    I think you’re way off here, John.

    “No One” comments on Google News because Google News comments are meant to be from people only quoted/sourced in the appropriate Google News story. Not just any reader that reads it.

    That’s why no one goes there to “…engage in community.”

    Google News comments are not about community (of readers and general comments), like Digg Ars or Boing.

    J

  3. courtney benson says:

    John-

    Once again you’ve precisely hit the proverbial nail on the head, Google’s great at what it does but if it wants to capture more mindshare it needs to do a lot more work on the see and touch customer facing side.

  4. Deepak says:

    I am usually an active participant online, but I don’t want Google News to become a community site. It’s a news source and not designed around community (unlike say Newsvine).

    While I do think community is not Google’s forte, the error probably comes from trying to think of News as a community site. There is no need for that.

  5. rick deckard says:

    You’re wrong. Thos googlenews comments are not for everybody, just for those that are quoted in the news themselves.

    Take a look at the googlenews faq, please, and report later…

  6. Esteban says:

    I agree with your point of view. Google is good at many things… but not with its community
    http://www.spymac.com/details/?2315603

  7. pwb says:

    And Google News has 10s of millions of users while Digg has 10s of 1000s?

  8. Kamal Jain says:

    John, you may be right in saying that Google is good at certain things and not so in certain others — just like you. But IMHO, Google News is trying to get comment from the subjects in the news to distinguish itself from other news sources.

    Google idea is fantastic. Your analysis does not hold in the situation. If getting a big community is their goal then it is not difficult. Just open comments to everybody just like your blog has.

    Here is how you can test your hypothesis with your blog:

    For one month open commenting only to the subjects in your blog posts. For an example on this post, only Googlers related to Google News could comment. And see if you could get as much success as Google News. If not then you have something to learn from them instead of the other way around.

  9. Charbax says:

    They need to make it simple for people involved in Google News stories to authenticate their identity with their Google Account and then instantly be able to comment on stories that involve them or their companies.

    For example let Britney Spears have her Google account authenticated easilly through a micro credit card payment process (where Google employees can verify her identity since you hardly can fake a credit card payment identity) or some other ways for Google to verify the identity and validity of “representation of person or company” of a Google account. Cause once a Google account identity is verified, then that account can comment and do stuff instantly without going through any further verifications process.

  10. Charbax says:

    So for example, if Britney Spears doesn’t have the time to personally defend herself by commenting on all stories, she can through the Google Account news commenting interface assign her trusted representatives to comment on any story about her as “Reprensentative of Britney Spears”.

  11. Most news consists or crime, politics and business.

    Most political news makers and business VIPs are too busy and have support PR staff or counsel who allocate their official responses to news media outlets – including an occasional letter to the New York Times or Washington Post.

    Most defendants, Attorneys or Prosecutors are very careful what they statements release during a trial and might call a press conference during a high profile event to reach the maximum outlets – there is no need for them to further comment on Google news.

    Those that have commented in Google news are mostly Academics who are commenting for PR purposes.

    But what would be the motivation for the rest, when there are so many more productive options available for the really important news makers?

  12. JG says:

    John writes: “Many of you noted in comments that Google News Comments are only for those in the stories. This is true, and I should have mentioned it.

    Well, if I may be a bit abstract for a moment: Depending on the news story, you and I are actually mentioned in the news a lot more than we think. For example, think about the following stories/headlines: “President Bush lowers taxes for the American people” or “Oil near $97/barrel due to Bhutto Assassination: Citizens Saddened, Consumers Angry” or “Amazon to sell Warner music sans DRM”.

    Well, guess what? I am one of those American people. So I was mentioned in the tax story. Do I have the right to comment in that story? And I am also both a saddened citizen as well as a concerned consumer. So there I am, mentioned again in the second, Bhutto story. Ah, once again: I buy music. Thus if the Amazon story talks about “music purchasers” or “music consumers”, that story again mentions me. Not by name, but it does mention me. I am one of those vast faceless consumers discussed/affected/mentioned in the story.

    Can I then comment about it in Google news? It seems not. So this only supports your position further, John. Google isn’t building community. No community of taxpayers. No community of Bhutto grievers, no community of music listeners. And yet the stories mention all of us.

  13. Michael Lodispoto says:

    Since this is a weakness of Google perhaps more companies will come up to challenge them. Even in search I sat down with programmers months ago and came up with a community vote and comment system. A Meta-Community search engine that can take a stab where Google is most vulnerable. What do you guys think? Imagine Google and Yahoo and MSN results that are then commented on and voted on. Results tabulated in a new ranking system called CV ( Color Value) with toolbars for Firefox and IE. A possible new paradigm for search. A press release comes out tomorrow for beta release of EarthFrisk.Org. Would love to see some criticism on it so we get even better.

  14. CoolKoon says:

    Didn’t you mean asperger’s (instead of asberger’s)?

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