Italian Newspapers Get Gov't To Investigate Google For Not Sharing Ranking Secret Sauce

from the seriously-delusional dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in the news that Italian regulators have begun an investigation into Google, at the request of some Italian newspapers. The complaint is a typical one from newspapers who seem slightly clueless about how Google works. They say that Google News is unfair — even though they can opt-out, but don’t. The newspapers falsely claim that if they opt-out of Google News, they also have to opt-out of Google Search. That’s simply untrue. But even if it were true, I’m not sure what the point would be. Getting traffic is a good thing. It’s unclear why Italian newspapers (or any newspapers) don’t like it.

In fact, the whole idea that Google News is unfair for sending traffic is undermined by the other complaint from the newspapers: that Google doesn’t reveal how it ranks stories:

Because Google does not disclose the criteria for ranking news articles or search results, he said, newspapers are unable to hone their content to try to earn more revenue from online advertising.

Of course, that’s silly. First, plenty of people have figured out how to optimize for Google — there’s a whole industry called SEO that does that. That doesn’t mean that Google needs to reveal the secret sauce. But the best response to the demand for Google to reveal how it ranks stories comes from Danny Sullivan, who turns the story around, and wonders how newspaper would feel in the other direction:

No newspaper editor of any quality would allow an external interest to walk into their newsroom and demand to know exactly how to guarantee a front page article about whatever they want. But that’s what the Italian papers seem to desire. Google has an editorial process for producing rankings, one that’s done using automation — but the papers seem to want to bypass those editorial decisions.

Exactly. The newspapers are basically demanding that their stories get ranked higher, but how would newspaper editors feel about the subjects of stories in the paper demanding that their stories be on the front page. After all, being on the front page would get the subject of a story more attention, and the newspaper isn’t paying those subjects — so the newspaper is “getting all the value.” — at least according to newspaper logic.

Sullivan also does a good job highlighting how useless it would be if the newspapers did get the details on how Google ranks stuff, because then everyone would just start writing stories to get to the top of the list, and any “advantage” would be lost. Separate from that, shouldn’t we be just a bit troubled to find out that the newspapers are interested in figuring out how to write stories that top Google, rather than writing stories to better inform the populace?

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Comments on “Italian Newspapers Get Gov't To Investigate Google For Not Sharing Ranking Secret Sauce”

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Spyder says:

Re: Re:

This site is not a one-way publication like a newspaper. It is an ongoing conversation with several years of history to it. It would be impossible to post anything if each point had to be completely rebuilt each time it was posted, so links to other times we have discussed it are included to help new readers find support for the points that Mike and others state without support.

In this case, people that had not heard about the investigation and the reasons behind it could refer to the old discussion and those wishing to read the full referenced article could. I fail to see the problem.

RD says:

Well now...

Seems the obvious solution is to just not use Google for anything. There is no “fair” about it, Google provides a product. You can either take advantage of that product or F-off. They dont HAVE TO be “Fair” about it. Just because they built the most successful search engine doesnt mean they are the ONLY search engine, there are alternatives, use them, or dont, but dont whine about “fairness.”

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Sigh....

“C’mon Italian guys….do try to keep up with the rest of the world. Read the fine print! Try to stop being so third world…”

Okay, first of all, kudos for the four-dotted punctuation. I do that all the time as a silent tribute to the original Star Wars movies. Not sure if you’re doing the same, but whatever…

Secondly, I wonder how many people have been to Europe and Italy when expressing surprise at this story. I love that country, namely because of the food, the drink, and the fact that the Italian people are some of the most culturally passionate people on the planet.

But I sense that it’s that same passion that gets them into trouble at times. You get these odd, knee-jerk emotional reactions on a macro level that simply aren’t very well thought through. Perhaps it’s that same mentality that has led to some of the issues the country has had throughout history.

In any case, this egocentric attitude coming out of a few of the European states rivals even America’s which is saying something. Most don’t act that way, but a few of them have just as large of heads…

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