Google has updated its search algorithm to give more prominence to original reporting. The company’s vice president of news, Richard Gingras, wrote in a blog post that it should be easier for people to find the origins of a news story.
The move could be a boon for local news outlets (and others) who invest time, effort and resources to report stories before national publications or networks catch wind of them. Often when a larger organization follows up with their own report, that version can scoop up as much or even more traffic than the original story.
"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," Gingras 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."
To help fine-tune its algorithm, Google updated its guidelines for the 10,000 raters who assess the quality of search results. They’ll be asked to give the highest possible grade to news reporting which "provides information that would not otherwise have been known had the article not revealed it. […] Often very high-quality news content will include a description of primary sources and other original reporting referenced during the content creation process. Very high-quality news content must be accurate and should meet professional journalistic standards."
Google is also asking its raters to bear in mind a publisher’s overall reputation for original reporting. They might consider a publication’s history of "high-quality original reporting" or whether it’s won journalism prizes such as Pulitzers.
Gingras notes there’s no surefire definition of original reporting or to determine how much information in an article is original. As such, Google will refine its efforts under the new approach as it tracks the evolution of stories.