For years, newspaper executives whined that parasitic bloggers thrived by merely linking to newspaper stories. But they're no longer linking enough: Newspapers now demand Google rig its link-counting system in their favor.
In closed-door meetings of the ominous-sounding "Google Publishers Advisory Council," executives from struggling old media like the New York Times, Time Inc., The Wall Street Journal and Hearst are pressing their case: They want their content to get higher sort rank in Google search results.
Those results are determined, at the most fundamental level, by Google's famed PageRank algorithm, which weighs Web pages based on how many other pages link to them, and based on the rank of those linking pages. So the newspapers and magazines are basically whining they don't get enough links, and/or don't know how to structure their content in in the simple and straightforward manner Google prefers.
In fact Martin Nisenholtz (pictured), despite an astonishing 14 years atop the Times website, still hasn't figured out how to get his articles to show up in many Google search results. This frustrates him to no end.
Why, just the other day, according to Ad Age, Nisenholtz Googled "Gaza" and got back "outdated" BBC stories, results from something called a "Wikipedia" and a YouTube video he says was anti-Semitic. Which is shocking, but only because Nisenholtz should realize after 10+ years that Google is not a breaking-news search engine. A search for "Gaza" shouldn't bring up the latest news on the Gaza Strip any more than a search for "New York" would bring up the latest front-page Gotham murder.
(Maybe he should fix nytimes.com's search engine before complaining about Google. It falsely claims to have published more than 10,000 articles on Gaza in the past month, and presents them in an unsortable mush riddled with duplicates.)
"It's the plaintive cry of people who have lost their monopoly trying to scrounge a little of it back," said Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair columnist and founder of Newser, which aggregates and links news from around the web. "Sometimes it's true that you'd rather get what The New York Times has to say about something rather than a host of bloggers. But more interestingly it's not always true. And it is in fact less and less true."
We just had a newspaper editor lobby in Washington to bend antitrust law; now we find out publishers are convening secret meetings with Google to twist search results. If the mass media are going to be so obvious in their self-serving flackery, people just might get the idea they're more interested in self preservation than in their supposed civic contribution: standing up for the little guy. Imagine that.