Google News: Friend or Frenemy?

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
13 August 2007

Google News: Friend or Frenemy?

When Banquo, whom we know Macbeth is about to have murded, walks about the ramparts after nightfall and hears a rustling behind him, he is worried enough about his safety to let out a ``Who goes there?'' Macbeth says simply: ``A friend''. Not ``Your friend, Macbeth,'' but the ominous anonymous ``Friend''.

Google News has been much in my thoughts lately. Firstly, as friend. Google News has added openDemocracy to their list of sources for their News service. This is a recognition that we fit the basic criteria that Google applies for a news provider, that we: (more...)

  • have original news content (rather than being purely news aggregators)
  • don't solely promote their own activities
  • are written and maintained by a clear organization, one that has multiple writers and editors

If you don't use Google News alerts, I can highly recommend you try them: get sent an email, or consult an RSS, every time a given search produces results in the publications that Google deems are news-makers.

Now for the Banquo moment.

Google News announced last week that they would be adding a comments feature to their news aggregation. In other words, Google is entering the deliberation / public commentary space--to some extent where openDemocracy is. Google is adding a characteristic twist to comments: they will be solicited from those who are participants in the story.

This sounds very similar to a theme I have been on to here at openDemocracy: to make good news analysis in new media you need to complement the skills of journalists with the virtues of engagement that ``doers'' bring to the table. I also think you need to counterbalance the narrow, interest-driven nature of activist participation with the awareness of interconnection of issues that academics bring ...and brining it full circle, the obscurantism that this encourages needs to be counterbalanced by the story-telling and desire to communicate clearly and accurately of journalists. Maybe Google will add the missing pieces of the circle sooner or later.

So, Banquo-like, should openDemocracy worry that ``our friend'' Google is on the rampart with us? I think we'll continue to cohabit as friends for a while. The final ingredient that you need to make good news is a sense of identification with the community of readers, writers, thinkers and doers who all together define themselves in a public space that is a publication. I still believe that the industrial scale on which Google will operate its commentary feature will preclude the aura of identity, the flame we nurture.

But Google surprises. A friend? Call it a frenemy.


tony curzon price 2007-08-13
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