Google News: What Responsibility?

Sean Bonner of Metroblogging (an FM affiliated site) vents his frustration about how Google choses which sites to include in Google News. He even mentions Searchblog, which is not in the index. Another great example of their weird acceptance policy, if they even have one that is, is the…

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Sean Bonner of Metroblogging (an FM affiliated site) vents his frustration about how Google choses which sites to include in Google News. He even mentions Searchblog, which is not in the index.

Another great example of their weird acceptance policy, if they even have one that is, is the fact that the Search Engine Watch Blog is included, while John Battelle’s Searchblog isn’t – even though they cover a good deal of the same news.

We’ve seen this discrimination (don’t really know what else to call it) first hand with Metroblogging. Google News includes our Los Angeles art specific blog, but declined to include the main site They claimed it wasn’t original news, but rather covered news reported elsewhere. They specifically asked if we could create a section of the site which highlighted the original news which they could then include in their index. We created the section and then they turned it down again without reason.

I have in fact asked Google why Searchblog isn’t in the Google News index, and the answer is not specific, it’s general – along the lines of “we prefer sites that are run by institutions, not individuals.”

I think this points to a larger issue. Like the original Google index, Google News started pretty quietly, without a lot of concern about the impact it might have on sites it indexed. But as its grown and started to really matter as a source of traffic, the very same concerns which webmasters had about the Google index are surfacing. What do I need to do to be in the index? Why are my competitors there, but not me? How do you rank my stuff? Is Google singling me out?

It’s clear that there is not, as of yet, a well communicated set of policies with regard to how Google makes decisions about what is and isn’t news. And that’s Google’s prerogative. There is no question, however, that the company is making editorial decisions by including or excluding sites. If and when Google begins to make money from the site, however, those policies will have to be clarified. Given how long it’s been around without a business model, it’s fair to say that day may never come.

Update: A posting by Jon Udell of InfoWorld on this topic is worth reading.

10 thoughts on “Google News: What Responsibility?”

  1. Being the leader in the Search market is really great. Content disrimination either its individual or by instituion what does it matter. Its easier to not that even in institutions a content is written by mostly one or two members. If they are looking for certain kind of endorsement about the validity of content that makes more sense. I believe searchblog has every right to take the space. Afterall John is a proff and author of a leading book “The Search”.

  2. John,

    To add to that there are many reported examples of strongly left news sources being picked up by Google News, but similar types of news sources with a conservative bent being ignored with only vague reasons why its not being picked up.

    I understand that not very news-type website can or should be picked up by Google News, but any intentional or accidental slanting of the news is a cause of concern. Indeed, Google can and should be more open about its process.

    Hopefully with time, they’ll start turning around.

  3. Everything I see still seems to indicate that Google is chocking on all the dynamic content it’s taking in. I think its servers are filling up too quickly and it’s being really careful about repeating news feeds.

    Just look at the “Big Daddy” algo change. Half the websites have lost all their internal pages. The more dynamic content Google sucks in, the more they worry about running out of space. This article is just another indication of that.

  4. This issue has been around for a while–I remember the issue of Google News bias coming up in March 2005. Google has been especially inconsistent about its inclusion/exclusion policy for Google News. They definitely think of it differently than their core search, although they made editorial choices across all of their properties. The AFP v. Google lawsuit ultimately may put some legal pressure on Google’s editorial decisions regarding Google News. Eric.

  5. We have a client that randomly made it into Google News. I say random because the site was like 2 weeks old and run by one guy and SUDDENLY was included into the Google News spiders.

    It’s a legimate site that publishes its own news on a subject matter that is not well covered but it’s still one guy and it’s a random subject.

    And it certainly helped. The site gets a ton of traffic through Google News.

    On the other hand, we have other clients who are legimate local newspapers who have never been included despite us emailing them about entry.

    Back in the beginning, I could email one of the Google news people and could get some of our clients in.

    It’s a great search – but it’s indeed very random.

  6. Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Journal are often found in Google News as well as a few other search related blogs.
    Who knows why this relevant blog is not. What confuses me is how or why does Google include so many obscure news sources from India?
    More often now I find myself reading some re-hashed story from an online version of a newspaper in Punjab. In almost all cases it’s syndicated (?) from an American daily, nothing original.

  7. Google is a hypocrite. It gets all plagiarized websites on its news search results. I had complained earlier but nothing seems to work. Then I figured out it was because the plagiarized site runs Google adSense very heavily making money for both of them. Sux to be Google.

  8. Agree with you MikeM and Khabri,

    I know an Indian site called which is part of Google News – They just scrap content from other popular blogs and post them on their own websites without giving any credit or link to the original story.

    They don’t post any original content. I am really surprised how they managed to game Google.

  9. When did you last ask Google News about inclusion of Searchblog John? I asked once, and my request was declined, then I asked again a year later and it was accepted.

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