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11/6/2009
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Google Computes News Quality

A recently filed patent application suggests that Google is taking steps to promote news produced by major media companies on Google News.

"Systems And Methods For Improving The Ranking Of News Articles" explains that Internet users rely on search engines to find news, but "the news sources associated with these hits, however, may not be of uniform quality. For example, CNN and BBC are widely regarded as high quality sources of accuracy of reporting, professionalism in writing, etc., while local news sources, such as hometown news sources, may be of lower quality."

The patent application describes a way to compute the quality of a news article.

Google recently launched a Google News section called Spotlight that attempts to emphasize "news and in-depth pieces of lasting value." The articles appearing in Spotlight could be, to some degree, the product of the technology described in Google's patent application.

This is what Google had to say about its patent claim: "We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications. As for Google News, stories are selected and ranked by computers based on more than a hundred factors, including the freshness, location, relevance and diversity of their content. We're always looking for ways to make the algorithm even better."

What does Google measure to determine whether the quality of an article? The patent application describes the following metrics:

* The number of articles produced by the news source during a given time period.

This may be counted in terms of the number of articles a news source produces in a set period or the number of original sentences.

* The average length of an article from the news source.

Article length matters, though it's not clear whether article length matters in all cases or only when article length exceeds a publication's average length.

* The importance of coverage from the news source.

A measurement of a story's significance based on the number of other news sources covering the story.

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