We’ve seen it play out too many times. One news outlet puts significant resources into reporting a story. As soon as it goes online, it’s being reported by other media. The place that broke the story quickly cedes control as higher- rated websites rank higher in search. Often, cloned copies of the same wire service version top the first page of search engine rankings with just the bare bones of the story while the outlet that did the original reporting gets buried further down the list.
It happens to local news organizations all the time when the national networks pick up the story. The local reporting gets banished. Yet, this is where the story originated and often provides more depth and perspective.
Recognizing Original Reporting
Now, Google says they are making a change to recognize original reporting.
“We’ve made ranking updates and published changes to our search rater guidelines to help us better recognize original reporting, surface it more prominently in Search and ensure it stays there longer,” said Richard Gingras, VP/News in a Google blog post. “This means readers interested in the latest news can find the story that started it all, and publishers can benefit from having their original reporting more widely seen.”
This is a switch from the way it’s been done. In the past, higher authority websites would get better positioning even if the content was shallow or redundant.
The newest version of stories will still have prominence. Often, the newest reporting has details that have emerged since the original story was reported. New content will be highlighted alongside the original reporting.
In addition to algorithms, more than 10,000 raters are employed around the world to evaluate how things rank. They provide feedback to tweak the algorithm. Rater guidelines assess very high-quality rankings for original news reporting “that provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. Original, in-depth, and investigative reporting requires a high degree of skill, time, and effort.”
“There is no absolute definition of original reporting, nor is there an absolute standard for establishing how original a given article is,” Gingras wrote. “It can mean different things to different newsrooms and publishers at different times, so our efforts will constantly evolve as we work to understand the life cycle of a story.
The changes may also help with a nagging problem for search engines. The NY Times reported that in the immediate aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting incident in Parkland, Florida, the top trending on YouTube was not a news story about Marjory Stoneman Douglas HS, but rather a video espousing false narratives and claiming those involved were actors.