I’ve been known to spar with Jeff Jarvis about Google’s role in the present and future of journalism, but I readily admit I’m something of an amateur. Thus I’m delighted to see a thoughtful post from Josh Young, a more serious and informed media junkie, entitled “Not by Links Alone“. In it, he does a great job of explaining the main opposing positions in the debate over whether Google is good or bad for journalism.
Jarvis offers his own summary of the post:
He’s saying that Google is causing news to be reshaped so it can be found, now that it has been unbundled from the products we used to have no choice but to buy: our newspapers. He says that news is an “experience good” we can’t really know until we taste it. He says we need a new experience of news and it ain’t Google.
Jarvis further suggests that he adds value to the post by adding a “search-engine-and-browsing-friendly summary”, i.e., a lede to make the article SEO friendly. Without a doubt Jarvis does encourage readers to find the article, since citation (and a link) from a prominent blogger is a boon to traffic. I’m less persuaded that this has anything to do with SEO.
Regardless, I’d like to except what I see as the main point of the post, it’s summary of the perspective of news executives:
Google’s approach to the Web can’t reproduce the important connection the news once had with readers. Google just doesn’t fit layered, subtle, multi-dimensional products—experience goods—like articles of serious journalism. Because news is an experience good, we need really good recommendations about whether we’re going to enjoy it. And the Google-centered link economy just won’t do. It doesn’t add quite enough value.
What we need is a search experience that let’s us discover the news in ways that fit why we actually care about it. We need a search experience built around concretely identifiable sources and writers. We need a search experience built around our friends and, lest we dwell too snugly in our own comfort zones, other expert readers we trust.
It is that need that motivates much of my work at Endeca, particularly in working with media organizations like the Financial Times, the Guardian, and WebMD. Yes, we live in the present and can’t neglect the importance of SEO in a Google-dominated world, I’m much more excited about adding value through a user-centered search experience than about helping sites compete in a zero-sum game. Google’s good or evil notwithstanding, I don’t want Google to be the gatekeeper for the world’s information.