Google wounds the New York Times

28 Jul

It has been said that Freedom of the Press is restricted to those who own one.

With presses being of small importance today, that dictum has lost its punch. Today, he who controls transmissions in the digital world decides who goes on stage to shout.

Case in point: The New York Times, which ironically owns a press or two, lost more than $143 million in the last quarter mainly because a digital powerhouse – Google – changed an algorithm.

Google algorithms decide what pops up when a search is done. About.com, owned by the New York Times, once had a clear channel through the Google transmission line. When it clogged, favoring others and not About, the website lost traffic and revenue and its parent, the great media giant of the past, was laid low.

Fortunes have been made and lost trying to game the all-powerful Google algorithms. The algorithms are raging rivers of commerce, with gold at the end for those who can safely and consistently navigate them.

While it is frightening to think how quickly Google can change the information landscape, it must be said that About was a low-quality content farm (yet another irony) that was trashing up Google searches. Google acted to protect itself and better serve its customers.

Free speech was at a premium when it took an expensive press to get out a message. Now this, a big change … but not a change at all.

 

 

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3 Responses to “Google wounds the New York Times”

  1. tony rogers July 28, 2012 at 11:34 am #

    actually, I write for about.com and am very proud of the work I’ve done for them. You should do a little more reporting before calling it a content farm.

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    • NotebookM by Lanny Morgnanesi July 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm #

      Sorry Tony. I believe I did use the past tense (“was” a content farm). The New York Times, since purchasing About, may be trying to change it. I’ve no doubt your work is of high quality, but About’s old business model was to just get anything up there as link bait, with sophisticated calculations of what key words would do it, like “headache,” as such things. It knew how to use Google, which is why Google made the change. Thanks very much for reading, and good luck with About.

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      • NotebookM by Lanny Morgnanesi July 28, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

        Also Tony, let me add that the pejorative “content farm” really is a subjective evaluation. Who is to say what is useful and what is not? Certainly not me. What Google thinks may not be what others think. So, my apologies.

        Like

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