Back in June on Real Time With Bill Maher- on an episode with David Carr of the New York Times and documentary filmmaker Alexandra Pelosi- Maher lamented the model of coverage saturation when it comes to web news.
“The New York Times– and I have my problems with it, too- at least is organized mostly in the news section by what’s important, as opposed to the internet, which is organized by what’s popular.”
At the time, although I mostly agreed, it kind of sounded like an inevitability in the way news is allocated attention on the internet- that is to say, organically. While war or revolution may be far more noteworthy, such stories often captivate less than, say, a celebrity divorce or salacious true-crime story. The topic of whether news should be weighted by importance came up at this week’s Google Zeitgeist conference.
The New Yorker’s Nicholas Thompson asked veteran newsman Ted Koppel if Google should look at changing algorithms to ensure stories of note were more noticeable than gossip and the like, which Koppel opined was not a “bad idea.” In response to the point, Larry Page said:
“I see this as our responsibility to some extent, trying to improve media… If you ask anyone about how that information’s going to be propagated, what you’re going to focus on, I think it could work a lot better than it does now.”
“We as an Internet community, we have a responsibility to make those things work a lot better and get people focused on what are the real issues, what should you be thinking about… And I think we as a whole are not doing a good job of that at all.”
As the New York Times notes, it’s unlikely Google will affect any such changes to Google News, but it is interesting to consider how it affects reporting as a whole.