Google says it will do more to prioritize original reporting in search

Google says it’s taking new steps to ensure that original reporting gets prioritized in its search results.

In other words, articles that kick off a major news cycle should have a prominent place in search results for a longer time, rather than getting buried under more recent coverage (some of which may just summarize the original story).

“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,” Google’s Vice President of News Richard Gingras wrote in a blog post. “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.”

But original reporting can be a tricky concept. On the one hand, you’ve got major scoops, and on the other, stories that do no reporting at all. In between, you’ve got stories with real reporting that don’t exactly break major ground. And there are publications (like TechCrunch!) and even individual articles that can combine original reporting with news broken elsewhere.

How can you teach an algorithm to understand all these distinctions? Gingras said Google is doing so through its Quality Raters, a global network of more than 10,000 individuals who offer feedback on Google’s search results, which in turn is used to improve the company’s search algorithms.

Specifically, Google has changed its guidelines so that articles providing “information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it” are rated as highly as possible. The guidelines also ask raters to take into account a publication’s general reputation (based on “prestigious awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize award, or a history of high quality original reporting”).

Gingras added that we can expect these efforts to “constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story.”

This is part of a broader effort at Google to find new ways to work with the news industry, most notably with a $300 million News Initiative announced last year.