a jesuit approach to digital stories

Leopold Stuebner SJ

What's wrong with Google News?

Google News trades news articles for traffic to publishers websites. But with doing so, they might damage the idea of journalism severely.

Google News started as a little side project by Google research scientist Krishna Bharat. Today the automated news aggregator has over 1 Billion weekly users. With being the most important referrer of website visitor for many news sites, a high ranking on Google News became business critical.

Website Traffic originating from Search Engines is critical for news sites

Google's business idea seems to be efficient and mutual beneficially. Publishers submit their news content to the algorithm for free and get free visitors in return. It's a simple equation: higher rank on Google News = website = higher ad revenue.

And since it is so important to get articels top ranked by Google's news service, the company decided to teach journalists how to optimize their articles for the search engine.

Key part of this process is analyzing how the target audience searches for news. With Google Trends you can get an insight on popular queries and trending topics.

But this is where the vicious circle starts. Google encourages journalists to write about something that is already popular. And even if you consider only the wording and popular phrases from trending searches you end up with and perverted situation: Google tells journalists how to please their product instead of building a product that actually finds important and trending news stories. 

The result is a filter bubble that not just afflicts individual users but our society as a whole.  And because news corporations are somewhat depended on traffic generated through Google News, it's a thread to the democratic quality of journalism. 

It is worth to look deeper into this issue and a true philosophical examination of this issue is might help to describe the problem in order to work on a solution.