The News According To Google How Does Algorithmic Infomediation Frame the Work of French Journalists ?

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Presentation at the JSS-ECREA Conference, Thessaloniki, March 27-29 2014.

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The News According To Google How Does Algorithmic Infomediation Frame the Work of French Journalists ?

  1. 1. The News According To Google How Does Algorithmic Infomediation Frame the Work of French Journalists ? Nikos Smyrnaios, University of Toulouse Guillaume Sire, University of Paris 2 JSS-ECREA Conference, Thessaloniki, March 27-29 2014.
  2. 2. Research question & method What does Google do to journalism ? More than 50 interviews with French journalists, SEO specialists in news organizations & Google employees Analysis of 252 online news items of 6 news websites Study of patents related to Google News Longtime observation of of the relationship between French news websites publishers and Google (2003-2013)
  3. 3. News infomediation ? “Connecting information supply with information demand and helping both parties involved determine the value of that information” (Hagel III, Rayport, 1997, p. 9). Infomediaries operate a mix of aggregation & distribution of 3rd party content Based on algorithms and social interactions, financed by ads and/or commissions Google but also Facebook, Twitter, Apple, ISPs etc.
  4. 4. Coopetition = simultaneous cooperation & competition between publishers & infomediaries Mutual dependency: Google needs publishers for the content, publishers need Google for the traffic But the balance of power largely in favour of Google. Competition for online advertising revenue and symbolic antagonism: who’s rules follow the news ? In France: 2003-2008 conflicting period 2013 Google agrees to pay €60M over 3 years In the meantime publishers “enslave themselves to Google”
  5. 5. Newsworthiness for Google Ranking in Google news For news sites: productivity, reactivity, popularity, completeness For news topics: cluster size, novelty, sources For news items: novelty, originality, click-through rate, mentions in social media, sources 2 traffic sources: Google for archives Google News for hot news
  6. 6. Journalistic practices Proliferation of “Keyword:…” style headlines (Google loves them) e.g. 2 headlines (rarely used) : 1 for Google, 1 for readers Shovelware: re-writing of press agency and PR material (time consuming, low value for journalists) Use of Google Insights to know most searched subjects Use of analytics to appreciate audience performance These are mandatory practices that depend on the context. But they are on the rise
  7. 7. SEO for news Insourcing : SEO specialists inside all main French publishers’ online newsrooms Internal position: close to management, better paid than journalists, no hierarchical power over journalists but “technical” influence (through management) External position : represent publishers towards Google - use of Sitemaps, meta-tags, microdata - articles behind a paywall become free access via Google, - massive use of internal links, - influence on publishing timing - Keyword centered landing pages - Re-publishing with changing headlines
  8. 8. Business strategies Le Conjugueur : top news websites intensely use (hidden) links towards their own dictionaries Publishers can be tempted to sell outgoing links with high PageRank In France not yet In the US & the UK it is already a market
  9. 9. Business strategies Publishers’ business strategies towards Google as a compromise: revenue /dependency/deontology Does Google privilege his advertising partners ? G Market share on Google News’ Top Stories (February 2014) Google Ads
  10. 10. Organic reach on Facebook diminishes drastically Facebook pushes paid reach Launch of Public Content Solutions (PCS) dedicated to media partners Apple imposes draconian Terms & Conditions Gets 30% commission Newsstand dedicated to publishers
  11. 11. Conclusions Online media are highly dependent on infomediaries Google is still the most important one for publishers SEO specialists are mediators between journalists, marketers, managers & Google There is an important impact of SEO on journalism (practices, work routines, editorial choices) Nevertheless this impact depends on the context (journalists capacity of negotiation, business models, professional ethics)

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