It was easy when you knew which writers were writing what in your favorite newspapers. Now, if you’re like the rest of us, you’re constantly combing the internet for fresh information and likely using Google to help you along the way. But how Google finds the information it considers relevant affects not only what you read but what journalists and bloggers write about in their never-ending quest for relevancy and search engine optimized content.
Yesterday I linked to the Columbian Journalism Review for castigating the Huffington Post for its fraudulent article: “Tiger Woods Sex (VIDEO)”. The title was tongue-in-cheek, displaying a video of actual tigers mating in the woods, but it goes to show that writers and news aggregators are changing what they would otherwise say to draw you, the reader, into their site. In a world where the number of hits a website receives determines its viability as a news organization because of its ability to draw funding from advertisers, the general reader represents a tool to be used for profit.
Google uses algorithms to filter search results and has recently “up-graded” to a live search system that indexes Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc. While the goal of opening up a wider internet conversation and encouraging participation in it may be achieved, one consequence is that a lot of amateur content and commentary—especially of the 140 character variety—will be included in any given search.
Not only might the reader go by the wayside in a Google-based business model, but the journalist too. Frank Schirrmacher, publisher of the second-largest German newspaper, recently told the Guardian that: “The advertising market today calculates the attention of potential clients in a new way using algorithms. This is ruining journalism. In addition, more and more journalists are writing their headlines not for humans any more, but for Google News.”