Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Beat the Press: Google to Allow People Mentioned in News to Respond

An interesting development from Google today. Starting now, the search engine is going to allow people who are mentioned in a news story to respond to it and have their responses posted within Google News (h/t Brian Clark):

Here's how the new system will work: people or organizations that are mentioned in news stories can submit comments to the Google News team, which will then display those comments—unedited—alongside the Google News links to those stories.

The new system will at first be deployed only within the U.S., but Google is open to expanding it to other regions if the trial goes well.

This raises a number of questions that the announcement does not attempt to answer, such as how Google will vet the comments to ensure they come from the claimed source (watch this space for the first "Google News punked!" stories in the following weeks). Google is also a backer of algorithm-driven solutions as opposed to those which require human interaction and don't scale as well. Vetting comments and verifying identities doesn't sound like the sort of thing which lends itself to an algorithm, but we'll assume Google has thought this through and has some sort of plan. Let's turn instead to the most interesting implication.

Once the new system is in place, Google News will feature something it has never had before: original content. There's a certain amount of "originality" in aggregating news sources from around the world and organizing them into easy-to-click topics, of course, but the content has all been owned by others, and some of those others have been less than happy about their inclusion in Google News.

If the new comments feature takes off and Google News becomes a central clearinghouse for those who want to respond to pieces in which they appear, the site's popularity would no doubt skyrocket. News junkies would have to visit Google News—and not any particular newspaper—to find out if, say, Barry Bonds objected to a characterization of him on the USA Today sports page.