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A twist in Google's algorithm: 'standout' stories

Sat, 09/24/2011 - 11:05am
ERIC CARVIN - Associated Press - Associated Press

Google News, which has long relied on automation to deliver news content from countless providers, has announced a twist in its algorithm: It will now recognize "featured" content among the tens of thousands of stories it delivers every day.

Google announced Saturday that news organizations can now add "standout" metadata tags to stories they're proudest of — like exclusives, scoops and investigative projects — and the U.S. edition of Google News will consider including a "featured" label with the story on its news homepage and in search results. There's no guarantee a story tagged this way will be featured, but Google's algorithm will factor the tag into its decisions, the company said.

There will be such a thing as too much self-promotion. If a news provider puts the standout tag on more than seven stories in a week, the algorithm won't factor it in as much, or may ignore it entirely, Google said.

And the company urged news organizations to share the love by using a different new tag — as many times as they want — to highlight strong work by other providers.

The plan to promote featured stories was announced at the Online News Association conference in Boston.

At Google News, where the algorithm is king, the notion of featured stories is the latest sign that the company is rethinking — though certainly not abandoning — its automated approach to distributing news. Earlier this year, the site introduced "Editors' Picks," a box on its U.S. homepage that features stories selected by the editors of a particular publication. What you see in the box depends on your news preferences, as detected by Google, or you can specify your preferences manually.

Over the past couple years, Google News has also introduced features to personalize news feeds and offer recommendations based on the stories readers have clicked on before.

Google News is touting its latest new feature as focusing on high-quality journalism and "giving credit where credit is due," as Google said in its blog. Of course, with the biggest stories, multiple news organizations will see their own version as the strongest and may find themselves vying for Google's "featured" recognition on the story of the day.

Let the competition begin.

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