Google on Friday said it plans to make original stories from news agencies easier to find using its Google News aggregation service, a move that could significantly change how Google News drives traffic to news publishers.
Having made peace with news agencies that have challenged it in court, such as Agence France-Presse, Google said it intends to start carrying articles from news agencies on the Google News site. Up until now, Google News only provided links to the sites of publishers presenting syndicated news agency content.
"Because the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, U.K. Press Association and the Canadian Press don't have a consumer Web site where they publish their content, they have not been able to benefit from the traffic that Google News drives to other publishers," Josh Cohen, business product manager for Google News, explained in a blog post. "As a result, we're hosting it on Google News."
Cohen said Google's goal has been to offer users as many different perspectives on a story as possible. Perversely, the volume of stories indexed by Google News usually includes duplicate stories from news agencies posted by different publishers. As Cohen notes, that can end up "burying those different perspectives."
Thus, Google News is gaining duplicate detection. "Instead of 20 'different' articles (which actually used the exact same content), we'll show the definitive original copy and give credit to the original journalist," said Cohen.
Cohen adds, "Of course, if you want to see all the duplicates on other publisher Web sites with additional analysis and context, they're only a click away."
The question is how many readers will prefer the duplicate over the original. If most people end up reading the source material on Google News, publishers who buy widely syndicated content may find that Associated Press articles, for example, are bringing in less traffic. As a consequence, they may become less willing to pay for AP articles. And that would end up making news agencies more dependent on Google for distribution and revenue.