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Yesterday Google News announced a new feature called Editors’ Picks whereby editors of several top news groups hand pick their favourite stories to be placed on the US version of Google News.
Google’s announcement on their official blog indicated that Editors’ Picks was designed to move away from algorithmic search towards a way of encouraging publishers to get the stories they want visible. Whilst this is only a minor feature, it does raise the question whether this is bad for people who want to search for their stories on the basis of relevance or how recently it was published.
Editors’ Picks features a third of the way down on the right hand side of the main Google News Home Page. It displays the original content of a publication from an array of different news organisations, including national and local publishers as well as niche publications. The publications that you can see are actually based on a number of factors including your own news preferences.
As you can see form the image, The Wall Street Journal is amongst one of the publications to feature as well as The New York Times, the LA Times and The Guardian. What these publications do is set up a separate RSS feed which are regularly updated with what the editor chooses to show.
This is great news for both news organisations and people who want to select their stories from the favourite publications. It is humanising what Google does. As they say themselves, they want to give users the option for a human service rather than an algorithmic picked news story. But is this bad for the world of search?
It’s certainly one way of looking at it. Don’t get me wrong, this feature isn’t going to stop people from performing news searches the traditional way. But the fact that Google are interested in hand-picked stories rather than searchable ones is intriguing. Whilst we are still very much dependent on keyword searches [See: Just How Smart Should Search Be?], this latest move could severely impinge on other publications looking for visibility, despite Google saying this feature is open for niche publications.
Do Google have a level of responsibility to help publishers though? Well it certainly looks like they do and the balance, whilst still very much with the user, looks like its heading towards the publications, much to some users dissatisfaction. On Google News’ Help Forum the announcement was met with great disapproval, largely because the feature isn’t removable.
Have Google got the balance wrong and if so are they shooting themselves in the foot? Or is this an attempt to appease publications as they look at new ways to engage with users given the state of traditional print newspaper industry [Are We Reaching the End Game for Printed Newspapers?] Either way it’s not exactly great news for the world of search.
Google screen via BigStock