For as long as I can remember, there has been one constant in tech news: Google News sucks at it.
Now, that’s not entirely fair since Google News doesn’t actually provide any of their own content. Instead, they use the supposedly magical Google algorithms to curate others’ content from around the web. Still, there’s just no way around it — the product, at least for tech news, sucks.
Again, this is nothing new. I’ve been writing this article at least once a year for five years or so. But what’s amazing to me is how many updates Google does to the product and it still sucks. Even more remarkable is that a lot of people continue to go to it as a source of tech news. How do I know? When TechCrunch does appear on it, it sends a lot of traffic.
So is this just me complaining that we don’t appear on it enough? Well sure, partially. But to me, our sporadic appearances are also indicative of the big problem the service has.
How much tech news gets broken on TechCrunch? Even our rivals would admit “a lot”. Yet if that news appears on Google News at all (far from a given), it often does hours later and almost always under another source that has re-reported it after we have. That’s really Google News’ problem in a nutshell. It’s hit-or-miss, way too slow, and as a result, often credits the re-bloggers rather than actual sources.
Let’s look at the Google News Technology section right now (which, humorously, is still called the “Sci/Tech” section — Technology apparently isn’t yet big enough to have its own stand-alone section even though I think just about everyone in the media industry would disagree at this point — and impressively odd since Google is a company known for one thing: technology).
This goes on and on.
Now, let’s compare it to Techmeme.
Techmeme learned long ago that algorithms alone aren’t nearly enough to fully, quickly, and competently convey the news. Google has not yet learned this. For some categories, their algorithms probably work fine. For tech news, they suck.
And I’d argue they suck for both visitors and for publishers. Because it’s so obvious what Google’s algorithms are looking for, there’s a not-so-secret trick on how to game them. Instead of rushing to get a post out about a hot story, just wait a few hours. By then, the story will bubble towards the top of Google News’ tech section and if you time it correctly and you’re a site that Google News watches (some good, some bad), you can easily be the top headline for the entire section (which also means placement on the main site as well).
This works because Google News favors recent “takes” on a story instead of actual sources of information. You could argue that’s okay in some situations, but often these “takes” are just like the Today’s THV bullshit: republishing AP content late.
In other words, if you’re in the business of breaking news, you’ll almost never find your stories on Google News. Instead, you’ll find someone else re-purposing your story there hours later and reaping tens of thousands of pageviews as a result of the sloth and/or jackassery.
Why bring this all up now? Because Google announced yet more updates to Google News today. I tried reading over what’s new, but my eyes quickly glazed over. I’m certain it will be business as usual.
Actually, it might be worse.
As Danny Sullivan points out, Google now allows you to cut out the source of much of the fresh content — blogs — as an option. Brilliant. Now you can further hide the sources that Google was already burying for you.
At some point, I have to believe Google will start to care about the quality of this product. But years of experience tells me otherwise. And really, that’s fine by me. It’s just another service I can easily ignore.
Google News is a computer-generated news site that aggregates headlines from more than 4,500 English-language news sources worldwide, groups similar stories together and displays them according to each reader’s personalized interests. Traditionally, news readers first pick a publication and then look for headlines that interest them. We do things a little differently, with the goal of offering our readers more personalized options and a wider variety of perspectives from which to choose. Google News offers links to several articles on...
Techmeme, “the favorite news website of technology industry insiders” (Bloomberg) and “one of the first Web sites loaded on Silicon Valley’s laptops and iPhones each morning” (NYT), is the tech industry’s leading news aggregator. Introduced in 2005, the company added Mediagazer in 2010 to track media news. Other verticals include memeorandum (politics) and WeSmirch (celebrity news). Operating originally as Google News-style fully-automated news aggregators, the company blended in human editors to the curation process at Techmeme and Mediagazer beginning in...