Google News Strikes Blow Against Cynicism, Will Drive Pageviews to Quality Content

In a Saturday morning blog post the Google News team just announced a new HTML tag they will be scanning for in the headers of news articles: standout. Publishers can call out their own content when they publish particularly good stuff or they can highlight someone else’s content that inspired their own. You can call your own stuff “standout” up to 7 times in a week – any more and the tags will be ignored. But you can highlight other peoples’ content as much as you want. Google seems to imply in its announcement, though it doesn’t say it explicitly, that its algorithm will reward publishers who engage in the best practice of generously applauding great content on other sites with recognition.

People say that online news has grown cynical and pandering because that’s the only way to thrive under the rule of the angry god of pageviews. But what if the big traffic drivers put a premium on generosity, if not machine-recognized authenticity? That kind of strategy could be carried to quite an extreme – the Google algorithms could give extra rank to content with a better Flesch–Kincaid readability test score, or lower rank to any site that ever mentioned anyone’s name who’d appeared in headlines along with the phrase “sex tape.” That’s probably a little too paternalistic – but the Standout tag seems like a simple and smart way to reward content that publishers appreciate.

It’s interesting that simply linking elsewhere isn’t enough anymore. It will also be very interesting to see what kinds of content publishers think is their best, how often they do highlight the content of others with an outbound Standout tag, etc. That should all be available for independent analysis, too, as it’s not just Google that can see these HTML tags. What kind of relationship do you expect various sites to have with Standout? GigaOm vs BusinessInsider? Mashable vs. TechCrunch? How will ReadWriteWeb use them? You’ll just have to wait and see!

I think this is a great idea and I hope it helps flesh out a linked web of content that prioritizes serving the reader over short-term self-referential pageviews at all costs.

There’s a lot more to be said about this but I’ll defer to Ethan Klapper’s write-up at Mediabistro for more. Heck, I’d tell the bots it’s a standout article if my personal site here was indexed by Google News. As a one-person, low-key operation it won’t be – so I’ll have to just link the old fashioned way.

  • Marshall I like to call out other publisher’s content with a Flattr. I have an allotted amount of cash set for each month that gets distributed amongst those I Flattr. I’m hoping more publishers add the Flattr button, because as far as I can see it’s the only alternative to this whole eyeballs-page views-adsense BS that games the web. TechDirt was an early adopter. If you have any friends over there please ask them about their Flattr experience and consider adding it to RWW.

  • This is cool, but don’t you think it could be easily abused? What’s to stop the owner of multiple news sites at different domains from calling everything on one of the other sites they own “standout”? E.g., it would be easy for the New York Times and the Boston Globe from doing this? Or Slate and the Washington Post? Or two unrelated sites that simply have biz dev folks with collegial relations?