Google News shake-up will see original reporting ranked higher

13 Sep 2019

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Google News is about to undergo significant changes with human reviewers being set new priorities for ranking, focusing on original stories.

Google’s vice-president of news, Richard Gingras, has certainly caught the eye of news organisations with a blog post that promises big changes for its Google News service. The biggest priority, Gingras said, was for those doing original reporting to get the highest priority on the search engine versus those who do follow-up reports of a particular story.

This will now see Google’s 10,000-plus human reviewers receive new priorities for what news should be featured and how it will be ranked based on who wrote it first. Gingras argued that this will both reward those who engage in more investigative or deep-dive reporting and prevent issues where a hot topic drowns out the original report.

‘We’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting’

“While we typically show the latest and most comprehensive version of a story in news results, we’ve made changes to our products globally to highlight articles that we identify as significant original reporting,” he wrote.

“Such articles may stay in a highly visible position longer. This prominence allows users to view the original reporting while also looking at more recent articles alongside it.”

As with any drastic change to the Google News algorithm, media outlets may be weary that it could have a dramatic effect on the visibility of their stories. In response, Gingras admitted that trying to define what ‘original reporting’ is will be almost impossible, but hopes its human evaluators will prevent any major errors in its ranking algorithms.

However, an example of the new guidelines given to raters states that “very high quality” articles are considered those that provide “information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it”. Additionally, raters would be required to note if an article is tied to a media organisation that has received prestigious awards such as the Pulitzer Prize.

“[Original reporting] 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,” Gingras said.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic