7,000 Sources… Or Just A Few Favorites?

from the questions,-questions,-questions... dept

For all the hype about how good Google News is for putting together an automated snapshot of the news of the day, an analysis of the front page of Google News found that they seem to rely on just a few sources for all of their main stories. Looking at the “top two” placement spots on Google news, Reuters accounts for 18% of their stories at the top of the list, with the NY Times in second place with 8% of top stories on Google News. Totaled up, the top 5 sources account for an astounding 48% of the top two stories on the front page. The top 10 sources are 66%. Top 25? 83% Top 100 sources covers 98% of the news you see. So, those other 6,900 sources don’t seem to get much play. If you go through the other (below the top two results), the situation only improves marginally. The top 100 sources account for 80% of the stories on the front page. There are, of course, many reasons why this would make sense. The top sources are (generally) more reliable and trustworthy. Besides, considering the number of “news” websites out there who only reprint press releases, Reuters, or Associated Press articles, there really aren’t that many traditional news sources out there any more. Still, it would be interesting to compare these results to other news aggregation sites. This weekend, for instance, Microsoft admitted that their new Newsbot offering has been designed to favor stories from partner MSNBC (and MSNBC does not appear to make the “top 20” list for Google News). Meanwhile, Topix has relaunched their own news aggregation service (also with 7,000 sources) and a quick glance over the front page there suggests a somewhat wider variety in news sources chosen. So, the question is whether or not this really matters? Does having a wider variety of sources highlighted increase, decrease or not impact the overall quality of the news aggregated?

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Comments on “7,000 Sources… Or Just A Few Favorites?”

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dorpus says:

News is a business

News is an enterprise driven half by the truth, and half by what the audience wants/expects to hear. US-based news sources reported the Last Samurai as being a mediocre and unpopular film here, while Japan-based news sources made it sound like the most popular movie of the year. Al Jazeera talked about Afghans who wished the Taliban would come back to restore law and order, and how Western reporters who talked to them would simply ignore their responses.

Dirtboy says:

Does not affect it

Almost all news is supplied by the same sources these days. Increasing the number of sources doesn’t increase the amount of news; they are all just reprinting the same stuff from AP and Reuters. Google probably just “targets” the largest investor at the top of the list for a story, instead of letting someone see the exact same story (word for word) on smaller website. I actually have friends who left journalism because their entire day consisted of cut and paste from AP.

Costas (user link) says:

Variety is important

Variety is important, but not in terms of sheer source count. I run memigo which predates Google News. What I’ve noticed is that much like everything else, a very limited number of sources cover a big chunk of the news selection around the Web: CNN, BBC, Reuters, NY Times, WP, Guardian, LA Times, and a few regional favorites and weeklies.
The problem here is that some very good and insightful analyses (not plain news articles off the wire) from low-volume sites such as The Economist, The Atlantic, etc, get lost in the noise. I’ve tuned memigo to highlight and bubble up such sources, but still it’s a an uphill battle.
Also, in the end, there is an exponential-growth positive-feedback loop going on in most algorithms around the Web. If you think Google News is bad, check out the frequency of BBC or National Review links on Technorati…

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