Google made an announcement of an “experimental new feature – they will soon be allowing comments on Google News stories. Comments will only be accepted from a “special subset of readers,” which includes people and organizations who are part of the story. The blogosphere, which is of course all about conversation, seems to think the second coming of Jesus Christ himself is here. An example: normally reserved Tony Hung calls it “pivotal” and that it will “change online news as we know it.”
Here’s how it will work. If you are involved in a story, you send your comments in to Google along with statements supporting how you are connected to the story. Google won’t edit your comments but can have them removed for hate speech, etc. And they aren’t yet saying how connected to a story you have to be to get in. Whatever the rules, this is going to require a ton of manual labor on Google’s end. This stuff simply can’t be automated. Google is going to have to see a very, very large increase in page views to justify the expense.
Having direct participants chime in with their two cents is certainly a good idea. It adds to the debate around a story, which until now on Google and most mainstream media sites is a one sided affair as interpreted by a fair and impartial journalist who may or may not have personal bias, financial bias, or laziness bias screwing up the real facts of a story.
But wow is this going to be a lot of effort on Google’s part. And all just to exclude the opinions of non-participants? That doesn’t make any sense to me. I certainly value the comments of participants in our blog posts. But equally valuable are the insights of third party experts who know more about given subject areas than we do. And getting the opinions of the interested masses also provides deep insight. It’s always good to take the temperature of the readers on story – and that’s why we and most other blogs allow even anonymous comments/rants. The downside is trolling and lobbying, but the upside is one hell of a good conversation/street fight. Good conversation is also why I tend to go to Newsvine for big media news. They’ve always allowed comments, which are usually better than the stories themselves.
At least a few people have avoided the group orgasm and see some problems with Google’s idea. John Murrell says this will result in a huge PR hiring boom and to expect “spin, spin, spin” as every negative fact/opinion is countered. Danny Sullivan says Google doesn’t know what it’s getting itself into. Frank Shaw, who basically controls all Microsoft PR, says this is “stupid” and predicts it will never get out of beta. That’s a pretty clear statement from the king of spin. And I agree 100%.