Google to back ‘original reporting’ with algorithm change

Tech giant Google is throwing its weight behind original reporting with its latest global search algorithm change which will see it gather feedback to better rank and surface original content.

In a blog posted by Richard Gingras, Google’s vice president of news, the platform has said it wants to support original reporting which can be “critically important in the impact they have on our world”.

Google is attempting to support publishers with its latest algorithm change

Prior to the algorithm change, Google has focused on the latest and most comprehensive news stories, putting them at the top of search results for longer, but now, using the feedback of Google’s 10,000 ‘raters’ from around the world, the platform will change its algorithm to give the place of prominence to stories which it considers original.

This process will see human reviewers train the Google algorithm to better recognise stories which can be classified as ‘original’. The platform hasn’t given specific details on what this process will look like, or how the new search results will appear, and it’s unlikely it will provide them, lest it lead to gaming the system down the track.

Google has already updated its algorithm to show more comprehensive stories at the top, which usually puts big follow-up features above breaking news stories.

Some outlets have already raised concerns that publishers will respond to the change by publishing breaking news stories quickly, in a bid to be the first ‘original’ reporting on the platform, without dedicating as much time to fact-checking.

According to the platform, a highlight will be placed on the first stories which land, giving users an easy way to see the chain of events which began reporting.

“In today’s fast-paced world of news, the original reporting on a subject doesn’t always stay in the spotlight for long. Many news articles, investigations, exclusive interviews or other work can be so notable that they generate interest and follow-up coverage from other publications. And in other cases, many stories cover a single news development, with all of them published around the same time. This can make it difficult for users to find the story that kicked everything off,” reads Gingras’ blog post.

“While we typically show the latest and most comprehensive version of a story in news results, we’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting. Such articles may stay in a highly visible position longer. This prominence allows users to view the original reporting while also looking at more recent articles alongside it.

“There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is. 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.”

The blog post said raters have been instructed to use the highest rating – ‘very high quality’ – for original reporting which “provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort”.

Raters have also been asked to consider the publisher’s overall reputation with this update.

“Many other kinds of websites have reputations as well. For example, you might find that a newspaper (with an associated website) has won journalistic awards. Prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high quality original reporting are strong evidence of positive reputation.”

Google’s Nic Hopkins will be hosting a panel featuring Antony Catalano and Marina Go at Mumbrella’s Publish conference on Thursday in Sydney. The 11:00am panel ‘Making money and sense in regional news: The challenges and opportunities ahead’ is the last session to be announced for the jam-packed program, but you can still secure last-minute tickets here. 


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