Google is tripling down on improving relationships with big and powerful mainstream publishers at the expense of its own users – by controversially curating content, now even more than before.
And that includes content as sensitive to manipulation as news.
This might sound like a harsh way to describe something like a redesign of Google’s desktop search News tab – but then again, given Google’s long history of manipulating its search results for monetary or other purposes – perhaps it is not.
A video on Google’s own YouTube channel announcing the change is accompanied by this problematic description: “The new Google News organizes what’s happening in the world to help you learn more about the stories that matter to you.”
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So whatever happened to learning about what’s actually happening in the world, as it’s happening – without the need for anyone to “organize it” for us?
Especially not a giant corporation with – as Terry Pratchett might have put it – “not enough trust to fill a very small cup” between itself and its users? Say, one like Google?
And while some sources, like Endgaget struggle to understand what the purpose of the change may be, they also seem to observe that the latest Google News “revamp” will cement the search giant’s decision to give priority ranking to news from “prominent” publishers.
It would seem that diversity of news sources, big and small, has taken a big hit with this “revamping” – at least as far as surfacing and discoverability on the world’s biggest and most influential search platform.
This also serves to remind us that it’s not just search algorithms that can manipulate ranking on Google’s search: this can also be accomplished through visual changes, such as this UI solution. Here, we have “cards” instead of “lists” presenting what news Google deems is relevant to us.
Google provides a GIF to demonstrate the changes – showing “prominent” publishers being given front-and-center attention on the new, revamped News tab – with the rest of the world’s information – described somewhat dismissively as “the staggered look” of those other links – largely gone from view.
Over the next couple weeks we’re rolling out a redesigned News tab in Search on desktop. The refreshed design makes publisher names more prominent and organizes articles more clearly to help you find the news you need. Check it out 👇 pic.twitter.com/xa2aZfO4Qd
— Google News Initiative (@GoogleNewsInit) July 11, 2019
The Verge reports that Google is “sacrificing information density for clarity.”
The article also frames this within the tech giant’s worries over (major) publishers’ dissatisfaction, and also, something as broad and hard to define as “experts” warning about “the proliferation of low-quality sources.”