Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Google News Adds Reader Comments! (well, kinda, but not really...)

Update: you can also find this article--slightly edited--at

This morning, I wake up to the headlines screaming how GoogleNews will now take "reader" comments. Well, not really. GoogleNews says it will now add "perspectives about the news from people in the news..."

This is a far cry from "reader" Google explains:
We'll be trying out a mechanism for publishing comments from a special subset of readers: those people or organizations who were actual participants in the story in question. Our long-term vision is that any participant will be able to send in their comments, and we'll show them next to the articles about the story. Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but marked as "comments" so readers know it's the individual's perspective, rather than part of a journalist's report.

Well now, isn't that playing it a bit safe??

Mashable raises the questions: who decides what comments get published? Are ill-informed rants acceptable? What about propaganda? Could be very tricky indeed. "Tricky" certainly is an understatement, Pete!

Google isn't talking just yet about how they're going to allow comments from their "special subset of readers" (which assumes those it writes about are its readers) but what they may have to do is allow for registration and verification before posting. Google may also need to employ some people (novel concept!) to do the editorial/moderation tasks that will be needed to ensure they're not spammed by ranty trolls or inundated with p/r flacks looking to "correct" misrepresentations (Steve Rubellooks at the p/r side of things.)

Yet when even big-time newspapers of record (WaPo, NYT, etc.) don't hire enough experienced moderators to do the tasks on their own comments sections, how can we expect a company that's famous for its stunning lack of customer service (see the Mobile Jones' Google writes a bad check) and its pride in automated everything, to hire actual humans to do some kind of editing/moderating? Jack Schofield @ GU wonders this too.)

But, you say, GoogleNews isn't really *known* for writing stories. True! Very true! Google's post continues:
As always, Google News will direct readers to the professionally-written articles and news sources our algorithms have determined are relevant for a topic. From bloggers to mainstream journalists, the journalists who help create the news we read every day occupy a critical place in the information age. But we're hoping that by adding this feature, we can help enhance the news experience for readers, testing the hypothesis that -- whether they're penguin researchers or presidential candidates-- a personal view can sometimes add a whole new dimension to the story. what it sounds like is that people who have, perhaps, been written up in an AP story that's aggregated by Google will now be able to, by some means (email, I think) contact Google to add a bit to the story. Ok. So those stories are out there already, probably on different portals (AP stories turn up everywhere from your local paper to FoxNews to Yahoo and back again.) And what exactly is the compelling reason for people to write in to Google to add/correct/append to an AP story? Perhaps a misquote, yes. But this also means that every person out there who is written up is searching through news stories about them (maybe this will mean an increase in employment in p.r. firms?) to correct or add to the stories. But how often does this happen to the types of stuff that Google's aggregating? And won't people want to go back to the source vs. contacting Google, which had nothing to do with the original reporting of the story in the first place?

Or is this really some sort of move on Google's part to have others create free original content for them?

I don't know...but the whole thing raises a boatload more questions than the enigmatic Google is willing to answer right bet's on the free original content thing (which seems to be pretty big nowadays...)

Further: Seth cracks me up with his remark about p.r. flacks! ha!

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